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Mozilla Looks To Fill Its Partner Dance Card At IAB ALM

herman-mozillaUpdate 4:00 ET: In a recently-released blog post, Mozilla VP of content services Darren Herman announced the kick-off of an experimental program called Directory Tiles. Normally, when Firefox users open a new tab, they see tiles featuring images from sites they'd visited in the past. New users with no Firefox surfing history will, upon opening the web browser for the first time, see tiles depicting sponsored sites (Herman indicated these sponsored sites will be clearly labeled).

"While we have not worked out the entire product roadmap," Herman wrote, "we are beginning to talk to content partners about the opportunity, and plan to start showing Directory Tiles to new Firefox users as soon as we have the user experience right."

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Firefox developer Mozilla is seeking to collaborate with advertising and publishing partners on several initiatives, a move that suggests the company often thought of as being averse to advertising has become more receptive to collaborating with marketers.

Mozilla’s prospective initiatives are focused on personalization features, transparency and its open-sourced mobile operating system, said Darren Herman, VP of content services at Mozilla.

Personalization represents an enormous opportunity for Mozilla to enhance its browser offerings, Herman said.

“The browser is going to play an evolved role in how the user consumes content online,” Herman told AdExchanger. “And if Mozilla’s going to be competitive as a technological product moving forward, we need to offer something that offers our users as much personalization as they want.”

Last year, Mozilla began working on a project code-named UP (user personalization), in which a team of developers worked with publishers to test ways to personalize the content on their sites using signals from Mozilla’s browser.

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IAB ALM Keynote: Ending Traffic Fraud, Building Better Mobile Experiences

vivek-shahThe Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) kicked off day one of the Annual Leadership Meeting (ALM) by rallying advertisers to raise the bar on marketing.

To do this, however, marketers and advertisers need to be more vigilant around traffic fraud. Additionally, they must also realize that consumer attention spans, especially in mobile, are short.

Holding Agencies Accountable

After IAB President and CEO Randall Rothenberg told the more than 1,000 attendees they are “defining the agenda for our industry,” newly appointed IAB Chairman and Ziff Davis Inc. CEO Vivek Shah admonished marketers for allowing traffic fraud to proliferate and urged them to end it.

Shah cited comScore’s finding that 36% of all traffic is nonhuman and noted that traffic fraud has reached “crisis proportions."

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Bots Set Their Sights On Targeted Ads

BotnetsTargeted advertising and programmatic buying changed the advertising landscape by enabling marketers to purchase and scale impressions from specific audiences.

But the growth in targeted ads has also caught the attention of fraudsters, who are increasingly using botnets to generate and sell impressions to advertisers, according to Michael Tiffany, co-founder and CEO of the online security firm White Ops.

“What we found running our bot-detection technology across the ads ecosystem is that on a network level and campaign level, some of the most sophisticated, targeted ad buys also had really high bot levels,” said Tiffany during a presentation at the Advertising+Data Science Congress (AdsCon) on Thursday.

Bots that control an individual’s PC can direct the Web browser to certain sites, including legitimate websites, and and sell those impressions on an exchange. An advertiser looking for a particular impression may bid on that impression without knowing that it is actually a bot.

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Can Google Become An Enterprise Software Marketing Company?

enterpriseAs Google continues to expand its efforts in search, display, video and mobile, and address consumers across digital marketing channels, the company has obvious aspirations to become a more holistic solution for marketers.

The seeds of Google's marketing – not just advertising – plans could be linked even to the name of its platform: the DoubleClick Digital Marketing (DDM) platform. But can it reach across the enterprise effectively on behalf of the marketer?

We polled several industry executives and analysts with the following question:

"What does Google need to do to become an enterprise software marketing company?"

Please click below or scroll down for more:

Rob Brosnan, SVP for Strategy, StrongView

It's hard to imagine a viable path for Google to being an enterprise marketing software company. To tempt Google into enterprise marketing tech, this technology category would have to drive at least one of Google's objectives: 1) increasing Google's store of individual consumer data that it can use for itself; and 2) driving up the number of interactions that Google can sell ads against.

Google Analytics did manage to accomplish both. Because Google freely gave away a "good enough" service that Omniture and Coremetrics charged large sums for, marketers freely shared data with Google. And that data helped Google both improve its search results and prove to marketers that its search and display ads generated meaningful revenue. We don't have insight into what Google invested to create Google Analytics, but the service likely paid for itself many times over.

So with Google Analytics as a precedent, why wouldn't Google jump into enterprise software? Even with the growth of software-as-a-service marketing tech providers, few enterprises are ready to or are even legally able to let Google use their vast customer databases for its own purposes. Even if firms did agree to allow Google to use that data, would it really drive Google's ad sales? Google already owns much of the online ad portion of marketers' digital budgets. The remainder is divided between direct media (email, direct mail, Web pages, etc.) and technologies used to support direct marketing (campaign management, analytics, databases, etc.). Neither would help advance Google's mission of organizing – and profiting from – the world's information.

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AOL Q4 Earnings: Video, Programmatic Investments 'Paying Off'

AOL-Armstrong-Q3_edited-1AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said 2013 delivered the "best results we've had in a decade."

Although the company reported 13% overall growth in revenue year-over-year in the fourth quarter, growing from $599 million to $679 million, AOL noted net and operating profitability was affected by a "pre-tax restructuring" that cost it $13.2 million. This was largely due to AOL's sale of a majority stake in local news platform Patch to Hale Global.

Additionally, cost of revenue climbed $70.5 million year-over-year, stemming from expenses associated with its $405 million acquisition of Adap.tv as well as traffic acquisition costs around third party network revenue and search marketing. Earnings per share were slightly lower than analyst estimations, coming in at $.43 a share.

However, quarterly global advertising revenue was strong, as Armstrong cited a 23% increase in revenue, growing from $410.6 million in Q4 of 2012 to $507 million in 2013. Global display revenue was up 7%, clocking $181.7 million for the quarter. However, search revenue was down 2% at $101.7 million due to fewer queries on the AOL client and subscriber decline.

Ultimately, Armstrong said AOL's advancements in automated video and programmatic advertising are "paying off." The company cited 63% growth in third party network revenues, primarily driven by the sale of premium programmatic formats along with Adap.tv, to $223.6 million. Armstrong cited a "surge" in last-minute deals in third party network display, owned-and-operated (O&O) and programmatic inventory at the turn of the year. This surge, however, was anomalous. Armstrong stated that AOL doesn't typically rely on last-minute deals, though he extrapolated such late activity shows "AOL Networks' full-suite for publishers and advertisers is gaining momentum."

AOL's CFO Karen Dykstra, also on the Q4 call, added: "We have a very full stack platform in AOL Networks and we are continuing to invest in that internationally with programmatic TV and AOL On."

Additionally, mobile and cross-platform planning are huge areas of concentration moving into 2014.

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Flashback: Why The News Corp. Deal Was A Turning Point For The Rubicon Project

hindsightThe Rubicon Project’s S-1 filing Tuesday revealed the exact nature of its relationship with News Corporation: The multinational mass-media conglomerate owns 21.3% of Rubicon shares.

This deal, which came about in 2010 when News Corp. folded its advertising platform, Fox Audience Network (FAN), into Rubicon Project and took an equity stake in the ad-tech company, was a turning point for Rubicon Project’s fortunes.

Integrating FAN, which sold inventory for News Corp. sites like MySpace (which News Corp. no longer owns) and had some real-time bidding (RTB) capabilities, gave Rubicon the momentum it needed to expand its RTB services.

In a 2011 interview, Rubicon Project CEO Frank Addante told AdExchanger that FAN was a huge win for the company for several reasons. The benefits included gaining nearly 100 employees and FAN’s ad technology. “FAN brought very mature thinking to us, which we certainly needed if we're going to double the size of the company,” said Addante, who also praised FAN’s products, like the self-service solution MyAds.

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MediaCrossing Assumes Inventory Risk For Ad Sales

Bill Lederer, CEO MediacrossingMediaCrossing launched last summer as the latest ad sales automator and data manager looking to apply investment banking tools and philosophies to online advertising.

But unlike its peers, the Stamford, Conn.-based startup says it also plans to offer to purchase publishers' unsold inventory and then sell it on its own.

"I would think exchanges will wind up loving what we are – and what we aren't,” said founder Bill Lederer (the former CEO of WPP Group analytics unit Kantar Video). “To put it simply, we are a liquidity provider for exchanges. If you start with the premise that roughly half of all digital ad inventory is unsold, there is a fundamental liquidity problem in the industry that doesn't get discussed very much."

Lederer sees marketplace inefficiencies in the way dollars get divvied up between advertisers and publishers among different buy-side, sell-side and marketplace services. David Prose, managing director of advertising barter and media planning company Ionic Trading – a MediaCrossing client – said MediaCrossing’s in-market intelligence and reporting has allowed Ionic to reduce headcount, better manage digital media budgets and deliver measurable results to its own clients.

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Google Touts Measurement Tools, Concedes Advertisers' Need For Third-Party Metrics

Nikesh Arora, GoogleGoogle turned in another reliably solid quarter at the end of 2013, as the only blemish on its Q4 performance was weaker-than-expected results for its Motorola unit.

But with that problem largely rectified by the previous day's news that Google was selling Motorola Mobility smartphone business to Lenovo for $2.91 billion, the earnings results were business as usual for the search giant. Read the release.

One of the key themes for online advertising that kept coming up during the earnings conference call was measurement in general and Google's November 2013 partnership with Nielsen on its Online Campaign Ratings (OCR) brand metrics tool. OCR is essentially the online equivalent of Nielsen's Gross Ratings Point, which is the standard metric for TV and something that brand advertisers favor and understand when extending their major media campaigns to digital.

"We are seeing measurement as table stakes for brand marketers using the Web," said Nikesh Arora, SVP and chief business officer. "Measurement online is vastly easier for performance marketing, since you can measure clicks or see how many people are walking into your store.

"Branding campaigns are different. Advertisers want a third party to endorse their media and help determine how effective their spending is across other sites. We're proud of our internal products, and we'll continue to develop what we have. Ultimately, we hope this market will evolve more sophisticated metrics to better understand the impact on the brand."

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Considering Native: What BuzzFeed, The NY Times And Content Shops Say About (True) Scale

JonahPerettiBuzzFeed, the ultrapopular purveyor of listicles and viral content, began with a question: “What does it take for something to spread on traditional media without the cost structure associated with traditional media?”

The publisher’s CEO and founder, Jonah Peretti, recalled onstage at AdExchanger’s Industry Preview last week the way the company originated as “almost a research lab.”

The “constraints” in traditional media’s migration online, as Peretti called it, have to do with “formats and boxes that are tied to the print world.” He cited The New York Times' and Washington Post's replacements of slideshows that mimic the print-derived nature of a “page turn” with long scrolls to match the native form and function of mobile devices.

For Peretti, “native” means taking a publisher’s platform and creating a version of sponsored content or advertising that mimics the look of the publisher. “Native meaning it fits into the consumer experience,” he said.

Michael Zimbalist, VP of research and development operations at The New York Times, was bullish at Industry Preview about the way native could reinvigorate the relationship between publishers and advertisers.

He noted the storied publisher’s pivot from only “selling subscriptions and access to audience” to thinking more broadly about brand metrics like social activation, influencer outreach and content engagement.

“The old metrics saw the Internet as a self-contained channel, a direct-response medium, as typified by the click,” Zimbalist said. “These are the metrics that built a vast labyrinth between brands and publishers. Marketing is about winning hearts and minds, shaping the social discourse.”

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Precision Health Turns Over A New Leaf, Becomes PageScience To Expand Vertical Reach

Bill Jennings, CEO, Page ScienceAlthough vertical ad network Precision Health Media has frequently altered itself during its six years of operation, its rebrand into PageScience to expand its contextual ad targeting categories (like consumer electronics, finance and home improvement) is its most significant pivot to date.

PageScience also hopes its new name better reflects the work the company has been doing over the last two years, said CEO Bill Jennings.

"We were forced to pursue a cookie-less solution for pharma and health care companies because of restrictions on behavioral targeting, so we created the notion of page-level targeting, where we would score pages according to the context of the content as opposed to following and retargeting users across the web," Jennings said. "Along the way, agencies started to ask us about other ad categories, where context is really key. We thought about it a lot last year and decided it made good sense to expand our focus."

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