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Disqus Releases Its Second Advertising Product: Sponsored Comments

disqus copyWant to buy a comment?

Commenting platform Disqus released Monday a featured called Sponsored Comments, following a month-long beta testing period that included The New York Times, Yahoo and Xerox, among others.

This is not Disqus’ first foray into advertising products. Sponsored Comments arrives roughly one and a half years after it released its first ad feature, Promoted Discovery.

“Once we saw the Disqus audience was receptive to advertising, it set us off into advertising as how we will sustain ourselves as a company,” said David Fleck, Disqus' general manager of audience. (A blog post by company CEO and co-founder Daniel Ha detailed some results shortly after Promoted Discovery’s release in late 2012.)

Those not familiar with the Disqus name (it’s pronounced Discuss and originated in 2007) have likely seen or interacted with its software, as it powers the commenting features on publisher websites like CNN, National Public Radio and IGN. The system is on roughly 3 million websites and Disqus’ user base (made up of 1.3 billion uniques, according to Fleck) is linked to its broader community. Click on the name of a commenter and you’ll see a thread of her comments across other publishers using Disqus. (more…)

Netseer CEO Talks Contextual Ad Targeting Trends, New Viewability Tool

John-MracekAd-targeting company Netseer is one of the pioneers in contextual ad targeting, but as advertisers changed their focus from placements to audiences, the 8-year-old company knew it had to keep up with the times.

Netseer’s products include media-buying services and a contextual links ad network. And this week it launched a viewability solution called the Predictive Viewability Engine. AdExchanger spoke with CEO John Mracek.

AdExchanger: How has Netseer’s strategy changed since we spoke with you in 2011?

JOHN MRACEK: When we talked a few years ago, the media was focused on contextual placements. But in the environment of programmatic, there is a greater focus on pursuing cookies, retargeting, lookalikes and other types of audience-based models.

We used the same technology from our Concept Graphs [technology that analyzes search queries and Web page content to optimize placements] and applied the same intent engine to people as well as pages and so our offering has gotten much broader where we have a brand product focused more on content adjacency and a response product where the client wants to achieve a particular response goal.


MRC Gives Its Blessing To Viewability Vendors

ViewabilityThe Media Rating Council (MRC) on Monday lifted its advisory against buying and selling display ads based on viewability metrics.

“The state of viewability measurements is much better than it was 16 months ago and viewability vendors have greater insight into the range of ads that are served in campaigns,” said David Gunzerath, SVP and associate director of the MRC.

The MRC had cautioned advertisers and publishers against using viewability solutions due to discrepancies in the solutions’ abilities to determine whether people had seen an online ad.

Cross-domain iFrames, for example, inhibited marketers’ ability to measure display ad viewability. Ad tech firms have since developed add-on solutions or improved their technology to address these issues.


White Ops On A Mission To Root Out Ad Fraud

whiteops-tiffanyDigital ad fraud has lately gained mainstream awareness, and many marketers at leading brands now realize the threat that fraud poses to their ability to track online advertising.

A Wall Street Journal piece last week chronicled concerns at organizations like L'Oreal, General Motors and Verizon Communications. Fortunately for marketers, as the bad guys are shifting their sights to digital advertising, so too are the information security gurus.

Michael Tiffany and Dan Kaminsky are well-regarded in the IT security community and have long histories tracking online criminal behavior. The two took advanced fraud-detection technology they had designed for banks and trained it on the online advertising space.

Their technology forms the bedrock of White Ops, a company that Tiffany said is on a “messianic mission” to help the ad world understand that fraud is "not a passive problem at the edges" of the industry. According to the firm's estimates, last year criminals made off with $6 billion from online fraud in the United States alone.

Putting the brakes to that kind of criminal activity is a bold mission for two security geeks who started with no contacts in the advertising space. But with some early attention from the right people placed within the industry – including Jon Bond of Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners fame, who now serves on White Ops' board, and Erica Bartman, formerly of AdWeek, who works as the firm's chief revenue officer – has helped propel White Ops into the mix with a number of large brands, including GE.

AdExchanger talked with Tiffany, White Ops' CEO, to discuss the technology and why digital advertising fraud matters not just to everyone involved in the advertising world, but also to the long-term viability of the Internet.

AdExchanger: Why are criminals turning to ad fraud instead of attacking financial institutions?

MICHAEL TIFFANY: Because ad fraud is, in some ways, a better crime. No matter how stealthy your tech stack is, or how awesome your root kit is, once you steal the money, someone tends to notice that it’s missing. When you succeed at ad fraud, by its very nature, no one notices. If it succeeds, it completely flies under the radar. You just collect money. You don’t need money mules for sending anything via Western Union. The people who are developing these tools are the world’s best, and make an astonishing amount of money. They’re primarily going head to head with the best big data analytics that an ad company can buy. That’s just a huge mismatch.


Why Programmatic “In-House” Is Gaining Favor With Marketers

ProgioArtSelf-serve programmatic media buying is gaining favor with the in-house marketing set.

That was a key trend that emerged at AdExchanger’s Programmatic I/O conference in San Francisco Monday, where approximately 500 marketers and data-driven tech companies convened to share how programmatic media buying is changing advertising.

At the outset of the show, AdExchanger Director of Research Joanna O’Connell shared results from AdExchanger’s Q1 State of Programmatic Media Online Survey, which consisted of responses from 44 large-scale marketers in addition to agencies, publishers and vendors; one such data point hinted at the rise of the in-house programmatic marketer who is strongly in favor of working directly with a single platform.

Specifically, more than 40% of the marketer respondents used one general DSP such as MediaMath, DataXu or [x+1] to manage programmatic media across all channels as opposed to tapping multiple DSPs or vertical data management platforms (DMPs).

It's one thing for marketers to want more conversions, said Konrad Feldman, cofounder and CEO of audience measurement and real-time data processing platform Quantcast. However, "it’s another thing altogether to say we want a different 'type' of conversion. Marketers have that data."


Why Programmatic Is A Cyborg

meld2The term “programmatic” is contentious even among its faithful adherents. Not only does it inadequately describe a range of ad-buying activities, it also implies that everything is done automatically, as if robots are replacing a human sales staff.

But a panel during the Premium Programmatic 360 summit (presented by Sonobi and MediaMath) held Wednesday in New York City emphasized that the most effective programmatic implementations are inherently cybernetic: part human, part machine.

“The human element will always be fundamental,” said Rick Greenberg, CEO of Kepler Group, a digital agency that spun off from MediaMath. The machine elements of programmatic enable scalability of real-time buying activities. “You still have machines making decisions in the moment,” Greenberg said. “But humans can inform that decisioning.”

Added Chip Schenck, VP of programmatic sales and strategy at publisher Meredith Corporation: “There’s a place for human decisioning and machine decisioning – but it’s all tech-enabled.” (more…)

Report: Facebook Pulls Ahead Of Google In US Digital Display Ad Revenues

GoogleFBAlthough Google is the $4 billion darling of the US display ad space, players like AOL, Amazon and Facebook are closing in on that share.

Most noticeably, Facebook, which for the first time last quarter served more ad impressions on mobile devices than on the desktop, experienced a 50.5% increase in US digital display ad revenue last year to Google’s 33.3% growth rate, according to eMarketer.

If eMarketer’s estimations are accurate, Facebook has already pulled ahead of Google in US display ad spend. Although Facebook was nipping at Google’s heels in 2012, totaling $2.18 billion in display ad revenues to Google’s $2.26 billion, the social platform pulled ahead of the search giant last year totaling $3.28 billion in display ad revenue to Google’s $3 billion.

EMarketer includes mobile along with desktop in net digital display ad estimations, which makes the growth explainable.

Fast forward to the end of this year and Facebook is expected to reach some $4.8 billion in digital display revenues to Google’s $4 billion. This is a markedly higher estimation than one year ago, when eMarketer forecasted Facebook would generate $3.35 billion in digital display ad revenues by the end of 2014.

“Facebook and Google are still much larger than everyone else, and while Google is still much larger than Facebook in terms of total market share, Facebook’s growth is particularly impressive,” said Dan Marcec, a spokesman for eMarketer.


TripleLift Raises $4M For RTB-Based Native Ad Exchange

tripleliftNative advertising technology startup TripleLift has raised a $4 million Series A round led by True Ventures. The investment, made three months ago, has gone toward building out the company’s RTB-based native ad exchange.

New York-based TripleLift’s CEO, Eric Berry, said the money has supported hires in engineering, sales and business development. In addition to its NYC headquarters, TripleLift is expanding offices in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Berry said TripleLift’s growth is driven by demand on the publisher side, and the focus will be on building on its existing native ad exchange. In addition, the company plans to announce new products outside the exchange in “the coming months."

In terms of clients, “Our wheelhouse is brands that connect with consumers via content,” said Ari Lewine, TripleLift's chief strategy officer. “TripleLift has pioneered a new type of format in which the ad unit adapts to its surroundings in real time.”


ChoiceStream CEO Discusses Pivot Decision And Its Embrace Of Programmatic Ads

Eric-BoscoOne of the key strengths of a business is knowing when to pivot. For demand-side audience-targeting platform ChoiceStream, that involved switching from product recommendation software to programmatic advertising services in 2011.

Eric Bosco, formerly the company’s COO, took the reins as CEO last May. AdExchanger spoke with Bosco about the company’s transition.

AdExchanger: Where does ChoiceStream fit in the ad ecosystem?

ERIC BOSCO: We help advertisers find people who are most likely to convert through our optimization system that is designed to mine data to zero in on target audiences. That’s our machine-learning and results-oriented approach.

On top of that we have proprietary things like targeting that uses a survey-based methodology. We run a website called where we drive traffic to the site, which has multiple-choice-type questions about things advertisers would care about, like "Which is your favorite brand of hotel chains?"

How do you get people to answer those surveys and how many responses do you typically receive?

The current approach is a mix of surveys that grab people’s attention. What we tend to do is run a teaser headline that will grab a consumer’s attention and then expose them to other polls. One example was based on the government shutdown where we asked, “Who do you blame for the government shutdown?” People answered it and then they got another survey question, like "What cleaning products do you use?" (more…)

Google Acqui-hires, And Founder Douglas De Jager

de-jagerPositioning its latest purchase as another effort to clean up the fringes of the display ad ecosystem, Google's Neal Mohan announced today the acquisition of and its seven employees, led by founder Douglas de Jager. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In a post on the DoubleClick Advertiser blog, Mohan wrote:

"Today we’re announcing our latest investment: we’ve completed an acquisition of, a company that has spent the past 3 years building a world-class ad fraud fighting operation.

Our immediate priority is to include their fraud detection technology in our video and display ads products, where they will complement our existing efforts. Over the long term, our goal is to improve the metrics that advertisers and publishers use to determine the value of digital media and give all parties a clearer, cleaner picture of what campaigns and media are truly delivering strong results. Also, by including’s fraud fighting expertise in our products, we can scale our efforts to weed out bad actors and improve the entire digital ecosystem." made a splash in March 2013 with what it said was the discovery of the Chameleon botnet: " has observed 120,000 host machines on what it has dubbed the 'Chameleon' botnet. It says these machines are driving traffic to a cluster of at least 202 websites, resulting in a minimum of 9 billion monthly ad impressions served."