Andy Lerner is CEO of Trust Metrics, an online advertising analytics and tools company. He discussed with AdExchanger where his company fits in the online ad ecosystem as advertisers and publishers look to understand more about the context of ad placements and the opportunities they can afford.
Can you talk a little bit about the company’s background?
AL: My partner (Bob Davidovitz), who was a longtime magazine publisher and worked at Rodeo and Bauer Publishing, and I have had a long-time consulting business which worked with magazine media companies and universities to help them build websites and create strategies. We worked with everyone in order to help them be publisher‑centric and figure out how to be “in the business.”
And what problem is it that Trust Metrics is solving?
Getting those brand advertisers to spend. Sure, there is some [spending in] video and it's kind of interesting, because brand advertisers can reuse their commercials and think it's a more engaging, creative environment. But, even still, brands are spending $500 million on Upfronts and $5 million on display advertising.
Do you think of yourselves as a competitor to DoubleVerify, AdSafe and AdXpose?
Definitely, we compete for those dollars. The other competitive world is that of the contextual companies.
We compete against the three you mentioned in that they were there first. There are budgets where somebody is saying to us, "Well, I'm already spending with these guys. How do you help me even more? What do you do differently?" Or, "My client feels comfortable with this. How do I explain to them that this is better?"
So we compete with them for budget. But, I don't think we compete with them on product per se. Again, their view is focused, generally speaking, on brand safety and viewable impressions and things like that -but not on, "Is this the right place for my brand across many different dimensions?"
Brand safety is “baby steps” from our perspective.
What would you say is a typical use case for a client of Trust Metrics today?
There are two different types of use cases.
There are publishers. And, by publishers I mean networks that want to be able to understand their inventory and then sell on that inventory. Somebody that we work with a lot is Undertone. We work with them to help them verify the “premium” quality of their publishers in order to sell the inventory.
Then, the second thing we do is on the buy side, which we are starting to do more of. On the buy side, what happens is a brand, particularly a big brand will say, "You know what? There is real reach and frequency value in buying at-scale in ‘exchange land.’”
Now, they may get a list of say 50,000 domains but it’s very difficult to determine if there’s any interest in their brand appearing on those sites given the sheer number to review.
We are able to help them identify those sites they may want to buy, whether it's on a network by network or through ‘exchange land’ for a particular day, week or month.
And we look at about 20,000 measurements for each domain so they are more understandable.
It's not “This article on this page is good,” “not brand safe” or whatever it is. It's just that “here's everything that you care about.”
We do look at context and we are starting to look at viewable impressions, but it’s about taking all of those things into consideration instead of trying to “over‑techify.”
Do you consider yourself an analytics company or data company?
An analytics company and a planning tool.
What's your take on the “viewable impression” momentum today?
I'm really confused about it. This is a good example of the difference between a measurement and intelligence. A viewable impression is a measurement - and maybe it's a valuable measurement, but it's just a measurement. Viewable impressions are important. But, I'm not really sure what that's telling you all the time. For example, sometimes, there are six, eight or ten impressions viewable and above-the-fold.
If there's a viewable impression below, way down on a page, that's probably interesting. That's probably showing you that there's valuable content on this page that people are engaged with.
But, viewable impressions in and of itself, I'm not sure what it's worth. I'm not sure how most people actually deal with iframes in a viewable impression situation except for guessing at it - maybe educated guesses, but they're guessing at it.
“This site had 30 percent viewable impressions, that site had 70 percent viewable impressions.” OK, now what are you going to do about that, Advertiser?
Are you going to go make the network provide you makegoods? And the net result will be CPMs going up?
From an intelligence perspective, I’m not sure what that's worth. It's a good idea, conceptually, but it's kind of like CTR (clickthrough rate). Interesting I guess, but what's it really worth? I'm not sure all that much.
Can you shed some light on what the buyer is thinking right now in terms of the success metrics for a brand online, brand awareness online?
The things that I see the most are the Vizu reports and Dynamic Logic reports. Those are interesting to the brands. I don't know if they're always worth a lot, but they seem to me, from a pure brand perspective, the only measurements.
What is the target market for Trust Metrics?
The most important market for us is the brands and their agencies, the people who represent those dollars. It's getting those types of people to understand what we do and to use it to act and to buy.
Secondarily, it is the sellers who are able to use our information and push the same message to marketers and their agencies, and help bring more of those dollars to the industry.
What about funding to-date and plans you have there?
We closed around in March of around a million dollars. That was through a VC firm that has been helping us for quite some time called Progress Ventures. We’ve also had some friends and family money.
We're thrilled with the financing, but at the same time, we're excited about the large number of options that we have, and that's a great thing for us.
What about profitability?
We are budgeted to be cash flow positive this year.
In the next 12 to 18 months, what milestones would you like to accomplish?
From a product perspective, we believe that there are to many vendors. We want to offer everything an advertiser or seller needs all in one spot, one client services team, one API - a series of APIs, but one API at the end of the day - and make it easy. It's just too hard today.
Also, we will continue to build out and improve reporting. Again, different things are important to different people - that's from the product perspective.
From a market perspective, obviously, I'm impressed with the AdSafe financing and where they've gone, what Double Verify has achieved, but I think that there's a next generation of what verification... I think of it more as like a DMP around the media itself - so not around the data, but around the media itself.
That's where the industry's going and we believe that there's nothing stopping us from being the leader. We could be the guys to do it and we think we have a real opportunity.
By John Ebbert