John Carnahan recently discussed his transition from Fox Audience Network (FAN) to becoming CTO of Rubicon Project as well as his new company’s product roadmap.
AdExchanger.com: Where are you from a tech perspective in transitioning FAN tech to the Rubicon Project? Future product development aside, when will it be completed?
In many ways the core tech is already integrated by the existing relationship. For example pre-acquisition MyAds campaigns have been serving with publishers that also leverage the Rubicon Project’s REVV platform for some time. Of course FAN is not just MyAds. Over the past 4 years FAN has been a leader and a pioneer in building publisher tools focused on audience targeting and ad serving for a wide variety of publishers. We will be bringing the combined set of Rubicon and FAN features to bear with a series of initiatives. The first of these initiatives is to further bridge the gap between MyAds advertisers and publishers using the REVV platform, so publishers who weren’t previously leveraging MyAds and want the additional performance demand can gain that access. Longer term our initiatives will focus on building tools for publishers that provide more control and visibility into the demand sources that are available through the Rubicon Project’s REVV Marketplace, and products that give them a lot of flexibility in how they sell inventory through those demand sources.
It is definitely a larger group now but the vision and ability to focus remains constant. In order to be great you have to be different. Rubicon is the natural place for engineers that are working for a valuable and different model for online ad monetization. The biggest difference in my role at Rubicon is now being in the position to evangelize Rubicon’s mission to the tech community. Within NewsCorp FAN was the technical group but this fact wasn’t easily visible to the outside world. With new visibility I have the opportunity to champion not only Rubicon’s goals but also the products to both our customers and the rest of the tech community.
What do you see as the biggest challenge ahead in terms of integrating the former Fox Audience Network technology into the Rubicon Project?
I have worked with the core group for many years, building ad technology at FAN and previous companies (including GoTo/Overture, Yahoo, etc.). Fortunately the FAN and Rubicon teams share very similar backgrounds and philosophy toward innovation. In addition both the talents and other assets for FAN are complementary to the Rubicon team. I lean heavily on the ability of this fully combined team to continue to develop disruptive products in this space. It’s my job to make sure everyone in this group has a sense of ownership and responsibility in what they are building. This ownership must be without pigeonholing which is an issue in a group of this size. Everyone should have a primary responsibility and an opportunity to be effective in other areas. With clear, meaningful initiatives and revenue on the line everyone is hungry to be involved.
How do you envision the development of the MyAds self-serve advertising platform changing now that it is part of Rubicon Project?
The Rubicon team built REVV to help publishers to maximize yield. One of the critical goals of the platform is to help publishers gain maximum liquidity for their inventory – and MyAds provides an opportunity for publishers to easily increase that liquidity, via access to automated display buying and selling technology.
There are a number of channels that advertisers can use to access inventory in the REVV Marketplace – and very premium inventory, which is nice to be building to – including ad networks, DSPs, exchanges, and publishers’ direct sales teams. The objective is to build efficiency into the display ad market by delivering solutions that make transactions more productive for all participants in the value chain. As part of that effort, the MyAds solution will enable publishers to easily provide direct access to their inventory at scale for all sources of demand – as easily as those demand channels have been able to access search inventory for years, in turn drawing some of those search dollars directly into display.
What’s on the product roadmap ahead?
I’m a big believer in setting high-level but concrete and serial initiatives. One upcoming initiative will be focused on bringing access to advertiser search spend in display. Another initiative will give publishers more transparency and control over the value of all their inventory. The roadmap will be derived from these and other high-level initiatives that will allow the combined team to innovate quickly and push the envelope in what we can offer and deliver to premium web publishers.
In your mind, what is the biggest surprise about digital advertising technology in the past year?
Nothing really surprises me any more. If anything it is lack of monopolization in display ad markets (despite the best attempts of players not to be named here). This fact suggests that there is still much to do in this space to build new marketplaces and drive up revenue for everyone in the ecosystem.
There has been speculation that Rubicon will become its own ad network post the FAN acquisition. Is that true?
Rubicon remains focused on the publisher and building technology that helps the publishers compete in the online advertising ecosystem. the Rubicon Project isn’t, still doesn’t want to be, and won’t be, an ad network. It’s the world’s leading yield optimization platform – and I believe that with the new combined team and tech assets that the FAN acquisition brings to the equation, we’ll be able to do more and greater things for publishers than ever before.
By John Ebbert