Ken Barbieri is Vice-President of Business Development at LucidMedia Networks, Inc. and is responsible for developing and growing strategic partnerships with online publishers, advertising networks and advertising exchanges at LucidMedia.
AdExchanger.com: How's business for LucidMedia? Any momentum you can report?
KB: At LucidMedia we are having a record year for revenue growth and client acquisition. And our momentum has been increasing rapidly this quarter. Much of this is due to the launch of our Verified Inventory Platform (VIP) that provides deep data insights to performance and brand safety online through our agency partners. Advertiser response has been incredible especially after initial tests proved the returns are there. We also recently won an OnMedia Technology Innovator award.
What trends are you seeing in online display advertising?
Trend #1 is performance. All the trends we are seeing are towards performance-based advertising and increasing return to “do more with less”. Advertisers are looking for new ways to increase their return with a flat budget but all the same growth pressure. They are turning more and more to direct response, CPC, and CPA solutions to move the media risks as far away as possible and guarantee the backend performance. Apparently our fully transparent platform with multiple optimization facets really resonates with clients in this tough new economy.
Trend #2 is exchanges. We are seeing a dramatic shift from networks to exchanges. The exchange model has matured at the same time the network model has had its reputation tarnished. The real-time bidding and open, transparent nature of the free market exchange model has finally distilled to the top as the solution of choice when efficiency and return become as important as reach and scale.
Is it fair to say that LucidMedia is the contextual solution for Right Media Exchange?
Yes and no. Yes, we are a contextual engine on Yahoo’s Right Media Exchange but that is not our core business, it’s just one of the many irons we have in the fire these days. And our work on RMX is a two way street. We provide contextualization services to publishers and advertisers there but we can also purchase media there. We have many of these types of media arrangements because it is how we provide the scale, efficiency and performance that are so appealing to our advertisers. It took years to do but we are now able to pass those benefits on to our advertisers and our agency partners. That is a key to the current rapid growth and momentum I mentioned in the first question.
Any plans to work with Yahoo!'s APT Platform?
We are watching APT closely, as many are, because it holds a great deal of potential scale. Obviously we’d like to continue our close and positive relationship with Yahoo and Right Media and integrate with APT when it is fully operational.
Can you take us through the process of how LucidMedia's deal with Right Media works from a technological perspective? For example, tell us how it all works for a single ad impression on a publisher's site.
Right Media has established 63 standard categories that correspond to a 4 digit contextual flag. RMX publishers have to deploy new ad tags and then advertisers can target their inventory more effectively. LucidMedia's ad tags are distributed to RMX publishers instead of YieldManager tags. Then, during ad call, the LucidMedia tag analyzes the context of the page in real-time to determine the most appropriate categories. We a YieldManager tag with additional Query String Codes that represent the most appropriate Right Media Exchange categories. All advertisers have to do is use Right Media’s Query String Targeting capability when they setup a campaign in YieldManager and they can access the highly targeted contextual inventory right away. Your readers can go online to find out more about it too.
Can Lucid Media's ClickSense technology contextualize social media other than, say, the "social media" category?
Sure. Our technology does not care about self-declared categories. Rather we deal with exactly what the content is about and categorize it accordingly. Our solution scrapes the page in real-time to determine precisely what each inventory page is all about. What we find is that the majority of content is improperly categorized at a high level. We find social media can be all over the map category-wise. Technology, Arts and Entertainment, Automotive, Sports, Pets, Family and Parenting, Health, and so on. So we tag media at the page level for what it is about and not what it is supposed to be about. And our performance proves out the approach. We’ve worked with advertisers who have studied this and their findings are always the same: that context is a true predictor of intent.
How is the contextual engine for LucidMedia different than the competitors such as AdSense, Contextweb, Kontera and others?
Although we all have a contextual solution in common, our focus is on providing a broad platform that encompasses a range of advertiser and agency services beyond just running media. In fact, clients can actually utilize our platform as a compliment to some of the other contextual providers. In terms of technology, our approach is a bit different as well. At the core of our platform is a patented semantic solution that includes advertising industry-focused taxonomies which let us target content at a very granular level.
In the future, can you see a network providing the essential services that an advertiser requires and, thereby, disintermediating media agencies?
I think that is unlikely to happen. For example, our focus is on providing a media management platform to agencies that allows them to outperform their competitors and pass on new levels of efficiency, transparency, and safety to their advertising clients. So we are not trying to act like an agency, we’re trying to put tools in their hands that make us a crucial part of the value chain. We feel our position between the agencies (and the advertisers) and the networks (and publishers) is the best place to do business. This allows us to act as a media buying platform for the exchanges—and even the other networks out there—and provide our data as the new currency of performance. It’s a very exciting place to be right now!
How is LucidMedia ensuring brand safety? And, how does LucidMedia provide access to the Long Tail?
Brand safety is rising in importance these days. Our Verified Inventory Platform (VIP) leverages our deep contextual technology to find the right content to meet the ever-tightening advertiser performance goals. But we can also block content in the same way when they indicate something is inappropriate for their brand. Because we evaluate the true meaning of each page for categorization, we get the by-product of knowing exactly what topics are on each page. We have compiled an extensive list inappropriate topics that we call our Objectionable Content Filters. With these filters enabled we can make sure that their brand won’t appear on pages about hate or pornography or even things like natural disasters or war. And these are all customizable by the advertiser because what is inappropriate to one may be desirable content to another.
As for accessing the Long Tail for our advertisers, we deployed the concept of Media Classes within our platform to take advantage of the Long Tail. We not only categorize the page content accurately, we also categorize the type of source it is found on like news sites, social networks, blogs, enthusiast forums, gaming sites, wikis and webmail portals. We also categorize the sometimes undesirable media classes like peer-to-peer file sharing sites so advertisers can not only target specific media classes, they can also filter against certain classes of media if they want. This opens all kinds of doors for our advertisers.
In your opinion, what will be some of the key drivers which will allow ad exchanges to progress from a remnant-only to a premium and remnant model?
The key drivers will be their openness, a clear value proposition to the publishers, and their ability to support real-time bidding. The exchange platforms have to be easily extensible so everyone can play. And we’ll need the publisher side optimizers to keep advancing as well. They play a key roll that the exchanges are not filling today and they exert a great deal of pull on the publishers drawing them to the exchange model. I expect to see a lot of interesting changes in the next few years and LucidMedia plans to be right in the middle of it all adding value to the agencies and advertisers.