ValueClick Continuing To Focus On Regional Markets And Key Vertical Segments Says GM Todd

ValueClick MediaBill Todd is General Manager of ValueClick Media, an online marketing services provider and division of ValueClick. First, please provide a quick top line on ValueClick and the business ValueClick Media addresses.

BT: ValueClick Media is a division of ValueClick, Inc., a global online marketing services provider whose other divisions include Commission Junction (affiliate marketing), Mediaplex (comprehensive interactive advertising technology system) and ValueClick Brands (owned and operated web sites).

This year ValueClick Media is celebrating 12 years of helping thousands of advertisers achieve their performance goals. With 80 percent reach of the U.S. Internet audience, mature yet continually-evolving optimization technology, access to a wealth of proprietary and third party data for targeting and a long-standing commitment to quality, service and performance, ValueClick Media is more than a network; we have really become a full-service provider of performance media solutions.

What do you mean by a “full-service provider of performance media solutions?”

It all starts with our proprietary data and integration with the top third-party data providers. We manage more than 750 million proprietary, anonymous consumer profiles, culled from 2.5 million behavioral attributes we have access to from across our partners and ValueClick, Inc. comparison shopping properties, affiliate networks and search marketing campaigns.

Another way we’re a full-service performance provider is through our ability to manage a client’s performance objectives beyond the 8,000 sites where we have direct relationships and into exchanges, mobile platforms, affiliate networks and other inventory sources.

When you combine this turnkey access to incremental reach with our data and our robust optimization technology, access to creative services, sophisticated reporting insights and the service-oriented culture of our experienced team, you can see how what we’ve created is really a comprehensive performance platform.

From a public-facing, industry perspective, ValueClick Media has been under the radar lately. Why?  What can be expected going forward?

I don’t think our customers, including 83 percent of Advertising Age Leading National Advertisers and 95 percent of Top 50 Digital Agencies who buy display, would say we have been under the radar. Indeed, 2009 was a record year for ValueClick Media, and we hope that 2010 will be as well. We’ve always been conservative and laser-focused with our marketing efforts and I expect we will continue to spend a lot of energy in regional markets and key vertical segments.

What is ValueClick Media doing about the move toward audience buying?  Do you have a demand-side platform or will you build one?

As the industry has shifted toward a focus on audience targeting, it has validated the approach we’ve taken for many years. ValueClick Media was early in offering audience targeting solutions as a component of delivering online advertising performance and we have been investing heavily in our audience platform over the past 18 months. Today ValueClick Media boasts one of the largest proprietary data platforms in the industry, led by our unique access to anonymous consumer behavioral data from across the comparison shopping, content sites and the display and affiliate networks managed by ValueClick, Inc. worldwide.

We continue to embrace all of the sources where audiences or inventory are aggregated and leverage our access to proprietary data, optimization and advanced analytics. Real-time bidding is the latest tool at our disposal to help drive scale and performance for our customers.

ValueClick Media has no plans to launch a DSP, because when you boil it down to the basics, DSPs essentially provide access to audiences and ad serving, possibly with some additional data. We already have all of that, plus a level of service and a long-standing track record of performance that is unparalleled in the market today.

What’s your view on the verification space popularized by companies like DoubleVerify, AdSafe Media, AdXpose, Adometry and others? Is this a tax on ad networks?

We agree wholeheartedly that there is a need for brand protection online. So much so that we have invested heavily in our own technology and processes, and have used the services of Cyveillance on the ValueClick Media network to consistently provide the safety that brands demand and deserve. We take brand protection very seriously, which along with reach and performance are the key reasons we’ve survived and grown over these past 12 years.

In terms of third party providers, we believe some smaller networks or platforms without proven internal tools should explore these options. If we are asked to cover the costs for these fees then, yes, I would consider them an unnecessary surcharge. The key here is to understand what the advertiser is looking for – with ValueClick Media it’s likely that they have the confidence and comfort they want without an additional cost that reduces the amount of the budget going to actually getting their message in front of their audience.

How is your lead generation business? What are some of the keys to growing it?

As you know, we divested of our Web Clients lead generation business back in February. But we are still squarely in the lead generation business today – in fact, the majority of what we do comes down to generating leads and sales for our customers. We continue to leverage our data, and audience targeting platform to acquire leads for our customers, and in recent months we’ve been building a new platform to help advertisers build scalable databases for remarketing from quality post-registration, e-mail and vertical content publishers. This new platform has been designed from the ground up based on the feedback we’ve received from some of the largest buyers of leads in the industry. Lead gen as a pricing model within our company continues to grow and we are excited about the future of this business.

Why do vertical ad networks make sense these days for ValueClick Media?  Doesn’t the plentiful inventory available through exchanges make vertical networks obsolete?

Vertical networks are far from obsolete. Many advertisers and publishers want more than just a way to buy or monetize inventory and exchanges can’t guarantee placement or volume required by most brands. Our first two vertical networks, AdRx Media and Moms Media, deliver customized programs that fulfill brand objectives in ways that are only possible through direct publisher relationships. We are currently in a soft-launch period for our third vertical, a home and garden network called Modern Living Media.

When will you allow real-time bidding on your ad network’s publisher display inventory?

At this time, the ValueClick Media division has no plans to provide external access to our inventory via real-time bidding. Some of our strongest assets as a performance media company are our data, and by allowing DSPs and others to dynamically bid into our inventory, we run the risk of losing the visibility into the true the value of those impressions and impair our ability to drive the highest possible performance for our direct advertisers.

What’s your view on the recently announced legislation related to data, online advertising and consumer privacy?

As active members of the Network Advertising Initiative and the Interactive Advertising Bureau, we are strong proponents of industry self-regulation and we have put thousands of man-hours into helping shape current industry guidelines. That said, if legislation does pass, our aim is to do everything within our power to make sure it fairly serves the interests of both consumers and the industry.

We feel the current opt-out standard is an adequate method for consumers who choose not to have anonymous information about them collected for behavioral advertising purposes. We have been very active in helping educate Congress about the issues as they relate to ad networks and our publisher partners. Through the legislative process and our efforts, I think lawmakers and consumers are starting to see the benefits of how we use anonymous behavioral data to make advertising more relevant, in turn driving revenue for small to medium-sized American businesses and helping keep Internet content free and robust to consumers.

Where is the ad network model heading in the next three years?

In the not-so-distant future, unnecessary distinctions between “networks,” “exchanges,” “DSPs,” etc. will disappear. Buyers will simply be interested in finding their audience, en masse, as simply and cost-effectively as possible.

In this new environment, the largest and most sophisticated advertisers are likely to work with fewer media partners that can provide them with the experience, data, technology, analytical insight and a comprehensive set of services and solutions to drive performance.

This, in turn, will drive further consolidation and smaller networks without a sophisticated technology stack will simply be replaced by larger players who have invested heavily in robust audience targeting solutions.

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  1. AdOpsGuru

    Nice to hear about the new changes and improved ad serving technology…they just need to work on their reporting! Every time an agency comes to me with Atlas tags, I cringe at knowing that I’ll have to true up our end of campaign reporting with their numbers. Get it together guys! This is the kind of reporting I saw in the early days of ad serving!

  2. AdOpsGuru,

    Ad-Juster pulls (automatically) 3rd party tags from Atlas, DFA, Mediaplex, PointRoll, EyeBlaster and about 20 other servers then reconcile them daily in a flexible reporting system daily. No more 3 day affair to see if your campaigns are trued up!

    Mike (