State Of DoubleVerify: CEO Netzer On Ad Verification Today; Pre-Bid Integration And Momentum

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State of DoubleVerifyOren Netzer is CEO of DoubleVerify, an ad verification company.

As part of its "State of..." series of articles with industry executives, AdExchanger.com spoke with Netzer last month to discuss his company, his views on the space, and the state of DoubleVerify today.

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AdExchanger: Do you think of yourselves as an ad verification company today?

ON: We've been expanding in a lot of different directions and some things have moved into the market already. We see ourselves as much more than just ad verification and think we'll have an opportunity to play a prominent role on the buy side -and we’re evolving into more measurement. There's beginning to be a separation between the delivery layer, the ad server layer and the measurement layer [whereas] they used to be one thing.

Now that the IAB ad verification guidelines have been completed, companies, including ourselves, are in the process of getting accredited by the Media Ratings Council (MRC). What many in the industry are waiting for is that acceptance of verification - MRC accredited - as the new measurement standard for their campaigns. This will begin the evolution of verification to measurement. Already, verification numbers are becoming the standard for campaign billing and it is in a position to do more.

Regarding the measurement side, we've been beta testing with clients for the past few weeks on engagement and viewability. We have had some key clients running in beta for the last few weeks and it’s going to be rolled out soon - all through that one, same tag that we have.

The other interesting direction that's happening for us in measurement right now is we're starting to focus more on providing additional analytics and data to the advertiser or even the publisher. That's going to help them make smarter decisions about their campaigns. So not just "Was the ad delivered properly?" But also, "Where was the ad delivered? How was it delivered? How well did it do? And how can I get more of that?" It's starting to morph to more of a measurement solution for the advertiser.

Also, we think there's a significant value on the RTB side, as well. We announced recently that we now have an RTB solution that allows advertisers to use our data pre‑bid. It's integrated throughout AppNexus with a few more integrations that are going to be announced soon.

Basically, if you're buying inventory, you could start using DoubleVerify's decision criteria. An example would be if you're running a campaign for a certain brand and the brand is conscious of the type of content that it runs next to, there's an actual profile which is a DoubleVerify targeting criteria for that brand. You can go ahead and use that pre‑bid to make sure that you're only buying inventory that's safe for that type of brand. But there are other parameters that are going to be supported. Is the ad above or below the fold? What is the probability of the ad being seen? How many ads are going to be on the page? There's a slew of decision-making parameters that we're now enabling in the RTB environment.

Why is a separation with the measurement and serving happening?

Ad serving companies have now become primaries in the media. And it was driven by the DSPs of the world. Ad serving CPMs started hitting the floor as it became commoditized so people started bundling media into the CPM. So, you get a scenario where servers are now primaries in the media buying process. They're not third party. Therefore, there's inherent conflict and bias in measurement.

[MediaOcean’s] Bill Wise says this all the time, “Where is the true third party?” There is none.

Getting back to the AppNexus "pre-bid" integration, can you explain how you were doing it before?

When it comes to verification, there are two types. There's reporting and there's blocking. Let's talk about blocking for a minute.

The way blocking has been implemented to date is to block the app from showing up on the page versus reporting that it showed up. Actually block it. The way we've all been doing it, also our competitors have done this too, is use a redirect. It sits between the ad network or publisher tag and the advertiser tag and blocks the inner steps in the impression. It checks the page and blocks it in case the content is inappropriate. There is a lot of friction because it's another chain that you need to implement in the ad serving process. It creates discrepancies. If it blocks, it actually creates a larger discrepancy and inventory that you can't monetize so that's not a good solution. It's a solution, but it's not the best solution.

Therefore, our belief is the best solution is to preemptively have a server-to-server integration. Before you make the decision, you can actually know: "Is this page safe? Is this page the right page for the advertiser? Is it the right match for the advertiser?" You can do that preemptively and that becomes much more efficient because you can start optimizing based on it and make more money.

We've had a server-to-server solution for almost two years now. And there are several ad networks that have been working with our server-to-server solution, integrating it on the back end to their ad server and using our data for targeting criteria before they deliver the impression.

There is a pass back involved. But the reality is who executes on the pass back? Is the agency executing on the pass back? Does the publisher? There are lots of different scenarios but it’s usually a non-paying ad - a PSA.

Think of the ad network. Whatever business model they use, they pay for the impression if they are in real-time and now they can't sell in real time. It gets blocked. Think of the agency trading desk that just bids on the impression, paid for it and now it gets blocked because it was the wrong impression for this brand. So if you double it up, it's actually twice the cost for the agency trading desk since they paid for an impression and now to hit their impression goals, they have to go out and buy another impression and hope that's compliant. If you look at that point, that's a huge benefit in terms of cost savings and smarter bidding. But there's a whole other piece to it where we also do the reporting for the agency - there's now this combination of reporting and targeting, analysis and action that never had been in combination before.

How do you do that technically? Are you out spidering the web in order to find out if a page is actually good for a brand before it ever asks for that page?

This is done continuously. We see a ton of URLs passing through our system, our ad tags every second - 45 to 50 billion impressions every month. We see these URLs because we're sitting installed in the RTB environments and we're listening to everyone’s URL that passes under the impression bus. And then we have a huge crawling farm and it crawls URLs all day. When it crawls a URL, it classifies it, but it also looks at additional information: How many ads are on the page? Is the ad above the fold?

All this data is updated continuously in our database or in a real time caching layer that we keep. And then whenever there is a request for a URL, the data is already sitting there, and in most cases because the page was just crawled by us five minutes ago or five hours ago.

How does agency trading desk versus agency business play out now in your world as customers?

I'm seeing much more with the agency trading desk. There's a lot of talk about the agency trading desk and where it fits in the industry. I'm seeing it play an important and critical part of the agency now. It's not this thing that sits on the side. It's actually integrated into it. That's one point of view.

Two, there is the agency that manages multiple components, opportunities and will manage multiple partners. So are we seeing agency trading desks on many of the buys that happen? Absolutely. Are we seeing everything shifting towards agency trading desks? No, because the agency is still doing what they do which is figuring out what the best media mix is for the client and making the right choices for it.

In that relationship, we work with the trading desk and the agency in both situations. It works much like we'd be working with a network, a DSP or any other of the partners that are on it. Our relationship is with the agency and the agency has multiple partners on that buy, be it at a trading desk, a DSP, a network or a direct publisher. We would work with that whole group to ensure that the agency data is passed effectively to them, that the campaigns are running according to plan and that we're all working together.

Regarding DoubleVerify products, are you just in display these days? What other channels are you exploring?

Every company that wants to be a currency or measurement tool across the industry has to be across all formats. You have to be format agnostic, and that means you have to do display and video - we're both doing today, but it also means you have to do social, and you have to do mobile. You can throw search in there as well if you want to, but display and video mostly. We're actually working on social today. There are tons of advertising that goes on in games in the social environment. We've successfully tracked that, and we report on that on a regular basis.

We're constantly improving our display tracking systems, and understanding how we do contextualization and tracking - all of that information. So the game is never done. Display is changing. We have new ad units to track now today, too. So video, you start with page content because that's where to start. You move on to metadata within the video. That's the next stage, and then you move on to actual video content over time. Right now, we’re with the metadata stage. We also do pre‑bid, so we're talking a lot about AppNexus. But we also have a pre‑bid video integration with LiveRail. That's video integration and you're actually in the video player. But nobody's successfully reading the video yet.

What we see is that we get much more accuracy by reading the contents of the page than trying to read the video. Not just us, but when I look at other companies that have done it too. It's a tough problem to solve.

What can you say about revenues for the company right now?

I'd say that company grew fast last year and is continuing on a fast growth curve this year. We doubled last year, and we're doubling again this year.

Can you see partnering with an EVIDON or a TRUSTe to help you power the privacy icon going forward?

As a company, we become more engrained in the agencies' impressions as our impression growth has been spectacular and agencies have come to us and asked us across the board to solve more problems for them. We actually have a strong idea that we're going to be an open system in general, and partner with lots of different people to help them be successful in that environment.

There's this app-driven world that seems to be coming into the ad ecosystem. Do you see that continuing to propagate for you guys as well?

There are different ways to talk about the apps that are coming to the ecosystem. What does that mean to DoubleVerify? They didn't make up apps, but they're trying to move that terminology into the online ecosystem but Adzerk beat them and Flite beat them. To say to apps, I think about it more as there's a group of companies in this ecosystem that decided to take an open approach, which means they're going to open up their system for people to integrate in to make it easier for people to either access data, inlays and reporting. And there's this other subset of companies who believe that they’re going to build it all themselves ‑ you know, we're going to take on the world, right? So our take on the whole app world is we feel this is a positive aspect of the industry that we're opening up to each other and we're trying to work better together.

Do you see yourselves being an app on other people's platform, or are you the platform that people bring their apps to?

We're probably going to do both.

It's all about what you bring to the table that allows you to be either the platform or to be the app. So we look at AppNexus, and what do they bring to the platform? They bring a selling platform with access to Microsoft inventory, which helps them build a platform on top of it. In DoubleVerify's case, we've been fortunate to have spectacular agency relations and have what I consider industry‑leading penetration of the agency‑level tech. We're on so many campaigns and moving it forward.

And then the other side of it is, we are a data provider today on AppNexus and in other platforms. You could call that an “app.”

In terms of the next 12 to 18 months, what are some milestones you want the company to accomplish in that timeframe, from what you can share?

One is the management of our measurement platform. You're going to see a lot of that happening in the next year. The other is the expansion of our platform of integrations and our platform data. And the third is our international expansion.

We've had an office in London for a little over a year now. We now have a senior guy running all of our European operations, and we're expanding aggressively into Europe. We're getting a ton of demand there. And we've been getting a lot of demand from other countries, Asia specifically. So our next project is we'll start doing some more focus outside of Europe and the U.S. as well. Those are the three milestones that we're focused on right now.

Initially, we created products for the advertiser and the agency. Our next step was creating products for the networks. The third one would be products for the publishers that we have today in development. We're doing a bit of that right now, we're going to be doing a lot of that in the next six to 12 months - products that help the publisher deal with everything related to measurement and analytics.

By John Ebbert

Follow DoubleVerify (@DoubleVerify) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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