Ad Ops Manager Turned Ad Tech Founder Solves Viewability For Publishers

Optimera increases site viewability solely from a publisher’s point of view.

The tech optimizes campaigns toward the most viewable placements in real time – key in an era where buyers demand highly viewable ads, but publishers lack the technology to meet these demands in a way that’s sustainable for their businesses.

“The market has failed the publisher,” said Optimera founder and CEO Keith Candiotti. “So much of innovation is focused on the buy side – ad tech and mar tech – [and] it’s left the publisher without a voice. We solely focus on the publisher standpoint and pub tech.”

Candiotti is an ad ops manager turned founder and CEO. Keeping campaign viewability high is a job that falls to publisher ad ops, and he built the viewability technology to make his own job at the New York Daily News easier. Optimera was sponsored by the Daily News Innovation Lab.

An early test of his tech increased viewability for a campaign he was managing from 40% to over 90%.

Now four years old, Optimera works with more than a dozen publishers, including the New York Daily News, McClatchy, Bustle and LoveToKnow Media. Last year it grew revenue by a factor of eight and clients by a factor of seven. It claims to be on track to finish this year with even stronger numbers.

Optimera only hired its second employee last year, and unlike some of its peers, it never took venture capital funding to chase unsustainable growth. It also charges a monthly fee that’s a fraction of what third-party measurement companies charge, Candiotti said.

When Candiotti worked at the New York Daily News in 2015, he saw firsthand the rise in RFPs demanding 80% or 100% viewability. At the time, the Daily News only averaged 30% to 40% viewability, typical for many publishers. The Daily News initially turned away those RFPs, worth tens of thousands of dollars in ad revenue each month, before realizing it had to adapt to the changing requirements.

When the Daily News spoke to third-party viewability companies, Candiotti realized their solutions were labor intensive for publisher ad ops and topped $10,000 a month for a user interface. Ad ops would have to merge those companies’ viewability data with their own ad server reports. Then ad ops would have to go back and change the targeting for all of its orders to improve viewability.

“I thought, ‘No way. I’ll be the one stuck doing this,’” he said.

Plus, the data wasn’t reliable. The same company might post different viewability percentages for the advertiser and publisher – “wild discrepancies” that bothered Candiotti.

“We were small and scrappy and couldn’t justify one more expense that wouldn’t make us smarter,” Candiotti said.

Managing viewability was so much extra work that the Daily News would have had to hire an analyst to manage the data.

“Then a couple of weeks went by, and I started thinking, ‘What would a perfect solution look like?’” he said.

He hatched the idea for the technology and was connected to the Daily News Innovation Lab, which funds companies that solve problems for media companies.

Candiotti worked on Optimera outside of his 9-to-5 job for the first two and a half years. It is the first employee-founded company sponsored by the Daily News Innovation Lab. The lab provides resources and support but no cash investment.

The solution adds a snippet of measurement code to the bottom of a publisher’s page. The script looks at ad positions and sends measurements to its backend. Optimera assesses viewability according to its own definition, identifying inputs that are likely to be used by all third-party viewability companies. The process elevates viewability rates  across all the third-party companies used by brands to measure viewability.

Optimera data isn’t accessed through a separate UI, which stumped investors that wanted to “see” something, but it plugs the data into Google Ad Manager or wherever the publisher wants to see the data – a nod to Candiotti’s experience monitoring dozens of vendor dashboards.

In 2018, Candiotti finally quit his day job and brought on employee No. 2. Carrie Molay, who served as an adviser, is now chief operating officer, tasked with signing new publishers and accelerating Optimera’s growth.

Sales increased. Optimera started 2018 with two publishers with 60 million page views a month. By the end of the year, it had 14 signed contracts with 1.5 billion page views a month.

Optimera has plans to grow its product suite over time and recently added video viewability.

“The conveyer belt we built to solve publishers’ viewability is a repeatable conveyer belt. We are asking publishers about the issues they are facing, dropping [it] onto that belt and building whatever that thing is,” Candiotti said.

But solving for viewability remains a priority.

“Viewability is the mother of all metrics,” he said. “It’s important to see ads.”

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