Brian O’Kelley is CEO of AppNexus, a real-time ad platform.
AdExchanger.com: Busy? What’s the hardest part of growing a successful start-up?
BOK: Yes, we’ve been extremely busy at AppNexus commercializing our ad platform with some of the most sophisticated online marketers, ad networks and DSPs in the business. Growing a successful start-up of course also means building up a team of the best and the brightest, and we’ve been able to recruit some serious talent over the past few months. We recently announced that Lauren Nemeth from Google joined us as Director of Sales and Timothy G. Smith from Vonage joined as our Vice President of Technical Operations. They are huge wins for us and we’re delighted to have them on board. We will be making more personnel announcements in the near future, but we also want the industry to know that we’re still hiring, and looking to bring on more superstars across the board, including sales, client services, engineering and marketing.
Is AppNexus solution for direct response marketers or brand?
Companies who care about performance, and leveraging data and intelligence in real-time are our main audience. We think that those goals transcend the traditional notions of direct response versus brand advertising. Our core constituents certainly include direct response oriented online marketers and ad networks but also extremely brand-conscious advertisers. We’ve invested a great deal in ensuring brand protection as a core value proposition at AppNexus. For example, we offer our clients a tiered guidebook of the available inventory on the web, from which they can pick and choose depending on their needs, so they can guarantee media quality. We’re really aggressive in the area of brand safety. Again, we don’t want to pigeon-hole the types of clients we work with, but they all fit a certain profile which is performance-driven, brand-aware, and data-driven.
We’re a real-time ad platform, and a number of our valued partners are DSPs. We prefer to get away from labels and talk about what’s unique with our model, which is that we’re the only player exclusively focused on being a true ad platform that can plug deeply into our clients online advertising businesses, allowing them to more efficiently optimize and execute what they’ve already been doing or aspire to do. The shift to real-time advertising is revolutionizing the way media is bought and sold, but it’s very expensive and difficult to manage. Think of the AppNexus ad platform as the on-ramp for companies like DSPs, direct marketers and ad networks to gain access to the real-time bidding (RTB) super-highway.
Do you think repeatable success using RTB strategies at scale is available today? If not, when do we get there and what are the obstacles?
It’s early days right now. Our belief at AppNexus is that the ecosystem will continue to grow and scale at a high rate for the foreseeable future. Having said that, we’re producing some of the earliest true successes in the industry, as evidenced by eBay which has sustained very high return on investment with real-time bidding (RTB) via the AppNexus platform for more than a year now.
March 12 was the first official announcement from AppNexus regarding its product line and direction in a long time. What took so long?
We’ve been heads down focusing on the product, our roll-out strategy, and building out our already deep relationships with the ad exchanges, ad networks and flagship clients like eBay. We recently had a marketing launch, an area we haven’t spent a lot of time on until now. We felt the time was now right to start talking publicly about our activities at AppNexus, based on our clients’ successes with our platform and our ability to produce tangible case studies. Basically, we preferred to wait until we could back up the hype that’s so prevalent in the industry with some solid performance.
Incidentally, we’re looking forward to being more public-facing at Ad:Tech San Francisco and are hosting a private client event at the Four Seasons San Francisco the morning after the conference concludes. The focus will be what is really working in the world of real-time advertising for ad networks, one of our core constituencies.
Does eBay represent the ideal client for AppNexus and the DSP model as in e-commerce-type companies?
The ideal clients for AppNexus are companies like eBay who care about performance and leveraging data and intelligence to capitalize on real-time advertising opportunities. Of course, eBay is well-known for being one of the savviest and most forward-thinking companies in the industry and we’re thrilled to be working with them. However, we’re serious about making companies successful who are serious about success themselves – we’re not a great solution for companies just looking to run a campaign or two.
How are you bridging the gap regarding services with your clients whether a direct advertiser or an agency? Do they need to have a skilled in-house team or can AppNexus help?
AppNexus is first and foremost a technology platform company, though that platform is supported by the best client services team in the industry. We have incredible in-house expertise across the board, and the executive team pioneered the original ad exchanges at Right Media and DoubleClick. Our objective is to help make our partners smarter so they can run independent businesses; we’re not trying to built a permanent service-based appendage to their businesses. Our goal is to help our clients adapt their businesses and capitalize on the opportunities presented by the shifts and trends in the market.
What do you say to marketers (or creatives for that matter) concerned about their creative messaging getting lost in the technological innovation represented by a company such as AppNexus?
Creative is one of the most important components of display advertising; we recognize that. Our goal at AppNexus is to facilitate those much-needed one-on-one conversations with consumers on the creative level. We help creative teams make decisions on the fly about how to optimize their campaigns, so we aim to play an integral role with those goals, which is to achieve relevance to the audience. The combination of precise targeting and dynamic creative is incredibly powerful.
A year from now, what milestones would you like to have seen AppNexus accomplish?
We exist to delight our clients with our offering. Our objective for the next year is to make sure that we help as many clients as possible capitalize on the amazing opportunities presented by the growth of real-time advertising. Those are the only milestones that matter to us.
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