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Automated Insights Wants To Personalize Native Advertising

automated-insightsEver since his company, Automated Insights, announced a partnership with the Associated Press (AP), CEO and founder Robbie Allen says it's been a bit of a whirlwind.

The idea that his Durham, N.C., firm’s technology could automate what reporters do with the appropriate data inputs clearly has larger implications. As The Washington Post and Poynter, among others, have previously reported, Automated Insights technology can produce a 150- to 350-word article without any human involvement.

For AP, this means the data deluge from public company earnings reports, for example, could be harnessed into a quick readable format.

Not only is the AP a client, but it’s also an investor and participated in Automated Insights' (AI) latest $6.5 million round of financing, along with Osage Capital, AOL founder Steve Case and Samsung Ventures. Not bad for a company with just 35 employees.

With both a computer science and writing background informed by his days at Cisco Systems and a degree from MIT, Allen looked to marry the two disciplines based on the notion that certain types of quantitative analysis could be automated and ascribe what's interesting about data sets.

Initially it was finance, real estate and sports data – even today, Automated Insights plays a role in delivering fantasy sports news through Yahoo. The latest data sets have to do with business such as the application with AP’s business reporting.

How about marketing and advertising? AdExchanger spoke to Allen.

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Yieldbot Hands Publishers A New Way to Leverage Their First-Party Data

Scott Portugal Yieldbot

Yieldbot, whose technology looks at a user’s clickstream and search data in order to determine likeliness to buy, is extending its business to give publishers a new way to monetize their first-party data.

To help with this push, it hired Scott Portugal as GM of publisher platforms to assist publishers as they add Yieldbot to their direct sales offerings.

“We are seeing strong interest from top-tier publishers that want to use it themselves,” instead of having Yieldbot bring in brands for them. “Advertisers should be able to buy performance elements of the campaign to complement their first-party sales,” Portugal said.

Yieldbot’s existing business works with a slice of publisher’s inventory that would probably end up on the open exchange and sells it at a better rate. In late September, Portugal will oversee the launch of a platform called ads.ai, a self-serve product that enables a publisher’s ad ops team to manage this process themselves. Ads.ai is designed for publishers that want to sell inventory directly and has two beta clients.

Portugal, who’s worked at IAC, AOL, Tacoda and Traffiq, has seen publishers facing down the same problems: “dealing with ad tags, flat CPMs and systems built for workflow, monetization or analytics, but not all three. A lot of the efficiencies in performance, yield and scale are in the platform, whether it’s the ad exchange, ad network or DSP, but they haven’t made it all the way to the publisher,” Portugal said. (more…)


Fraud-day With Integral Ad Science: 'The Way The Industry Measures Performance Online Is Fundamentally Flawed'

fraudThis is the second in a series of interviews with vendors combating the problem of ad fraud. Other companies participating in this series include White Ops, DoubleVerify, Forensiq, Moat, PubChecker and Telemetry. Read last week's interview with Videology.

When it comes to detecting and preventing ad fraud, Integral Ad Science is the middleman. That is, the company provides technologies and services to all constituents in the ad-buying ecosystem.

It has account management teams that help get its fraud-detection and prevention tools implemented and running. The team also acts as an intermediary between buyers and sellers.

“If we see a publisher violate certain things like serve a whole host of ads to out-of-geography requirements or violate certain keywords in the campaign or brand safety policy settings, our account team will reach out proactively and try to rectify the problem,” said David Hahn, the company’s SVP of product management.

On the buy side, Integral works with the major demand-side platforms (DSPs) like Turn, DoubleClick Bid Manager and AppNexus, as well as with “several hundred brand advertisers” that include, according to Hahn, more than half of the Fortune 100. “We cover a fairly large footprint in the digital ecosystem,” he said. “All in all, we’re doing across all our products north of 2.5 to 3 billion impressions per day.”

On the sell side, Integral integrates with major networks, premium publisher exchanges and supply-side platforms to help police policies and increase media yield.
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Let's Go SaaS: Parsing Rocket Fuel's Purchase Of [X+1]

merging x rocketfuelAgencies and marketers are forcing change on ad networks.

Rocket Fuel's $230 million acquisition of [x+1], announced Tuesday, was about more than one ad tech platform's attempts to add new capabilities.

While Rocket Fuel will benefit from [x+1]’s strong data management, demand-side platform, and site-side optimization features, Rocket Fuel CEO George John said on the company's earnings call that agencies and marketers have begun to spurn insertion order-based media buying and to reduce spend with intermediaries that add layers between buyers and sellers of media. This has been a well-documented trend, but the speed of the transition may have caught Rocket Fuel somewhat off guard.

And if that's true of Rocket Fuel, a well-established and public-traded company in the programmatic arena, how many others are scrambling too?

Below is a rundown of some key facts about this deal and how it fits into the larger shift to self-serve programmatic.

What does Rocket Fuel get by buying [x+1]?

[X+1] has two businesses. The first is its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) based suite consisting of data-management platform (DMP), demand-side platform (DSP) and website optimization. The second is a managed services-based media business similar to that of an ad network. The former represents the opportunity Rocket Fuel is going after.

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Rocket Fuel To Buy [X+1] For Estimated $230M

merging x rocketfuelProgrammatic ad network Rocket Fuel will acquire [x+1], an older ad tech company with a dual demand-side platform (DSP) and data-management platform (DMP) offering. The estimated value of the deal is $230 million.

The acquisition brings Rocket Fuel a strong direct-to-advertiser capability – an area where it is seen as lacking and where [x+1] has strength through client relationships with major marketers such as Volkswagen, Lionsgate and Intuit. [X+1] is also known for a first-party data-centric approach that leverages site optimization and audience targeting.

“The addition of [x+1] will allow Rocket Fuel to expand its portfolio of solutions to a larger addressable market,” Rocket Fuel CEO George John said in a statement. “Through this merger of talent, we will be able to offer our customers a comprehensive platform to more easily leverage their growing digital data assets. Our combined technologies will deliver exceptional results across the spectrum of online and offline channels.”

Under the deal's terms, Rocket Fuel will pay $100 million in cash and another approximately $130 million (5.4 million shares) of Rocket Fuel common stock. The transaction will close in Q4.

The acquisition was announced simultaneously with Rocket Fuel's second quarter earnings, in which it reported revenue less media costs of $54.7 million – 84% higher than Q2 2013. (Read the release.) However the company struck a downbeat note, lowering 2014 guidance owing to a confluence of negative trends: agencies directing more ad spend to trading desks or to direct partnerships with demand-side platforms, agencies avoiding exchange buying due to concerns over botnet traffic and advertisers and agencies managing programmatic spend directly using software.

Buying [x+1] will in part help the company to address the agency and marketer trends, according to John. "We're acquiring [x+1] as a way to inject enterprise software and SaaS DNA into Rocket Fuel," he said. "[X+1]'s know-how around enterprise software will be a powerful complement to our capabilities in achieving … results."

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Taboola Acquires Perfect Market, Enters Programmatic Ad Space with Taboola-X

Taboola and Perfect MarketContent recommendation engine Taboola has acquired Perfect Market, which develops a publisher-side solution designed to improve engagement, driving traffic, and monetization. Taboola CEO Adam Singolda wouldn’t disclose the deal’s terms, though he said it was a mix of cash and stock.

With the acquisition, Taboola will change from being a content discovery engine to being a content and product discovery engine. “We work with thousands of publishers, and the industry is looking for more innovation around monetization across the board,” said Singolda. Taboola will answer those publisher concerns by integrating Perfect Market’s monetization product, Perfect Ads, into the Taboola platform. The technology will power Taboola-X, Taboola’s first programmatic ad solution, which will serve both the buy and sell sides. Since Perfect Market and Taboola have shared publisher partners before, that has "allowed both companies to collaborate on the potential value that can be created by having both products integrated on a page," Singolda said, and give the company a head start in combining the two technologies.

The Perfect Ads platform decides what sort of ad content to serve based on user signals, like how the user arrived on the page or device type.

“If someone is on their mobile device, it might be better to serve them an article recommendation, but if they’re on the desktop and came in through search, it may be right to serve them a product ad,” Singolda said.

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Fraud-day With Videology: “In Video, Clicks Are An Indicator Of Fraud”

fraudThis is the first in a series of interviews with vendors combating the problem of ad fraud. Other companies participating in this series include White Ops, DoubleVerify, Forensiq, Moat, PubChecker, Telemetry and Integral Ad Science.

Videology might not be specialists in ad fraud like White Ops or Integral Ad Science, but preventing and detecting it remains a top concern. At its core, Videology’s ad tech is designed to serve ads on behalf of its advertiser clients in display, online video and TV.

The company also has a product called Viewpoint, which tackles issues around viewability, brand safety and fraud. The company applies Viewpoint as a free add-on to clients running Videology’s media. It can also apply the technology as an additional security measure for clients doing prenegotiated direct buys or private marketplace deals.

But because fraud prevention/detection is not – in Videology product management director Quinn Sanders’ words – the company's “bread and butter,” it's in the process of evaluating third-party anti-fraud vendors to partner with.

“We’re looking to bring one vendor into the technology stack where we can offer a third-party pre-bid fraud- and bot-prevention solution at no cost to our demand-side clients,” Sanders said. He spoke carefully and declined to name exactly which vendors Videology was vetting.

“We want a third-party partner with a very good name in the space, where we would ask them whether every ad request we get has the characteristics of a bot or not,” he said. “And then we would decide whether or not to serve the ad based on the results. The additional peace of mind [for clients] is it’s not just Videology saying this is a safe impression and not a suspicious impression.”

Sanders spoke with AdExchanger about why fraud prevention is so much more difficult than detection, and the additional complexities video inventory brings to the table.
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LeadiD, A Tag-Powered Lead Tracker, Overcomes Publisher Reticence

leadidThis is the second in a series on evolution in the lead gen space. Read our earlier story on social media lead generation.

What’s in a lead? Between aggregators reselling leads, marketers deciding where to focus their sales efforts, and the myriad of marketing platforms supporting both, it can be hard to judge the quality of a lead that lands on a salesperson’s desk. Working towards a more transparent lead marketplace has required twisting some publisher arms in the case of LeadiD, which positions itself as a grader and tracker of leads.

The company offers a “technological platform that resides at the point of origin where (lead) data is being entered,” said Ross Shanken, founder and CEO. "We issue an ID that is unique to that point in time, to that event, and track hundreds of variables about the origins of that event – the who, what, when, where, why and how that data got entered in the first place

A LeadiD-provided Javascript tag embedded into a publisher site’s HTML will collect information at the origin of a lead, and send it to the company’s servers with a unique identifier. Information on that lead can then be accessed later on in the sales process, whether it is put on the market by an aggregator or used directly by a brand’s sales team.

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Salesforce Integrates More Of ExactTarget, But Paid Media Still A Hobby

salesforce-exacttargetMemo to marketing industry observers waiting for ad tech to merge with marketing tech: It's probably safe to go make popcorn, as this could take a while.

It's been a year since Salesforce.com acquired ExactTarget. On Thursday, the company hosted a press event in San Francisco to commemorate the deal's anniversary, using the occasion to show off some new capabilities in the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud.

Specifically, users of the ExactTarget Journey Builder can more easily map interactions with customers via a drag-and-drop interface, and they can set up a greater variety of real-time triggers to respond to user actions. These triggers can include abandoned site visits, abandoned shopping carts, affinity changes and myriad other events tracked within the Salesforce system.

But all the new triggers presented were for direct-messaging channels, such as email, SMS and in-app push notifications.

Cookie-based retargeting? No. Upselling through CRM-matched display media buys? No. Paid media of any kind? Not so much.

Of course, the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud does have a paid media capability, acquired two years ago through Buddy Media and its Brighter Option subsidiary (rebranded as Social.com). But that tool set remains relegated to social channels, in particular Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Three big consumer platforms to be sure, but still representing a minority of desktop and mobile display ad space.

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ChoiceStream Raises $7.5 Million To Support Sales And Ad Tech Build-Out

Eric-Bosco ChoicestreamChoiceStream, which began as a product recommendation engine before three years ago shifting to programmatic ad tech, has raised $7.5 million in Series B financing from Fred Alger Management.

The financing will help ChoiceStream grow out its sales capabilities, with the remainder going toward the build-out of its demand-side platform (DSP)  technology.

CEO Eric Bosco said he believes ChoiceStream’s roots in recommendations, namely its “intellectual property inherited from the personalization business,” gives the company an edge in the crowded DSP space.

The DSP is also designed to serve dynamic creative in real-time, for instance letting weather forecasts influence which products show up in the ads.

Technologies from ChoiceStream’s other assets, like its survey site Pollshare.com, can also be applied to its DSP. For instance, Pollshare can be used to find hard-to-reach audiences. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts released coffee pods for Keurig machines and requested ChoiceStream  target Keurig owners – which is not typically captured through cookies.

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