Curt Viebranz is CEO of ad summos, an online advertising technology company.
AdExchanger.com: A bit of background, first. Once you left Aol, which acquired Tacoda where you were CEO, did you know you would get back into the start-up "game"?
CV: Absolutely. First, I re-charged and hung out with my son. After that, it just took time figuring out where to re-enter. Building TACODA was a lot of fun and we thought we could do it again. If you've done it once, it's exciting to imagine doing it again. You mitigate a lot of the risk by bringing the team back together and we've done that at ad summos. We have four members of the TACODA senior management team.
Ad summos - what does the name mean?
Ad summos is Latin for "to the heights." Our resident Harvard guy, Dan Jaye who is ad summos’ president, coined the name. (He's the one with the degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics & Physics.) Our name is our aspiration and conveys several aspects of our mission. We are serving premium publishers in helping to maximize inventory at the “top of the waterfall.” We are focusing on the top of the funnel of the purchase cycle in building definitive models of intent to purchase. And we also strive to adhere to the highest standards of transparency and privacy in our dealings with consumers, publishers and advertisers.
What problem is ad summos solving?
There are a couple of key problems that our technology solves. One is that premium publishers don't benefit anywhere near as much as we think they should from the behavioral technologies and the data ecosystem as it exists today. We wake up in the morning and go to bed at night thinking about how we can help publishers leverage the value of their hard-earned brands for their advertiser partners.
All too many technologies in our space today extract that value and commoditize these great publisher brands. Our objective is to fill a space in the market close to the publisher. They can maximize value without relying on exchanges or networks and they can do it inside their own ad server. It’s a breakthrough piece of technology that no one else has.
Also, at TACODA, we played an important role in fostering the idea of buying audiences. While the marketplace has evolved significantly since we proved the benefits of behavioral advertising, we have seen proliferation of data collection and use with little improvement in the sophistication and refinement of that data. More data does not mean better data. We believe that our technology can improve the accuracy and effectiveness of online targeting and our early tests indicate we’re well on way.
Finally, there has been very little done to close the loop between ads served online and actions taken offline. With more than ninety per cent of transactions occurring offline, linking the two is critical. We are moving beyond site engagement metrics or click-throughs to show actual results, based on a census not a sample and done with the utmost respect for consumer privacy.
What does your company's competitive set look like? And in what category do you want Ad Summos identified?
When we raised money we were seeking to build a product that looks like nothing else that exists today. It has elements of a premium ad network, and an SSP (sell-side platform), and even an analytics provider. But, unlike each of these, we will focus entirely on serving premium publishers on a neutral, non-exclusive basis. Our technology allows the publisher to control the monetization within its own ad server. The deployment is simple, the tag is lightweight and there is no pass back required.
There appear to be some similarities to a traditional online ad network. Isn’t there still the potential for channel conflict? How will you manage this?
With so many third parties at work in digital media today, there is always potential for channel conflict. We believe we can raise publisher CPMs by better monetizing inventory that is being passed today to networks or exchanges. We intend to add accretive, persistent value for premium publishers after a very short integration - hours, not days or weeks. We recognize that this will only happen if our technology adds similarly persistent value for advertisers, and it is demonstrating that it will.
Please discuss your clients today as well as your company's target market? How do you see this evolving over time?
Our initial target was the comScore 25 to 250 publisher. We did not anticipate the sort of reception we have gotten from larger publishers and we are quite pleased by that. We already have tags deployed on a number of sites and we anticipate the number growing nicely in the next few months.
Can you drill down on the datasets that are used by the demand-side to target? Is there, as some have said, any "data leakage" for the publisher?
At TACODA, we relied on browsing behaviors collected from our affiliate sites to target ads. The ad summos solution aggregates and refines the best syndicated data available to the demand side and integrates with publisher data in an actionable manner for the benefit of publishers. We don't collect any data from the publisher for OBA but instead leverage the publisher’s data solely for the benefit of the publisher and its inventory yield, so we won't be commoditizing audience the way that most networks and data-gatherers do today.
How will pricing work? Rev share with the publisher? Will you roll out a data payment like you did at Tacoda?
Ours is a revenue share model as it's the only one that unambiguously aligns our interests with the publisher. Since we are not collecting data from the publisher, there will be no data payment. If at some time in the future we can create sufficient value for the publisher from its proprietary audience data, we will compensate them for the data just as we did at TACODA. Any other use of its data for third party benefit without compensation would be unfair.
Any funding plans for the company? How many employees today and where do you see this going?
We will likely make an announcement about our investors and some more specific plans in the next month or so. Today, we have eleven employees. We are headquartered in New York and our Development and Operations Center is in Orlando. We also have a development team in India. We see ourselves growing very quickly from here.
A year from now, what milestones would like Ad Summos to have accomplished?
We expect to be working with at least 20 or so of the top 50 publishers online, delivering campaigns from at least as many premium brands. We're well on our way to that.