The Truth Behind Display Advertising: Adomic's Quest For Transparency

Story by Benjamin F. Kuo


What really, is happening when you place that online advertisement, and where does it go, who looks at it, and what's really happening? All too often, those ads disappear into a maze of middlemen, and advertisers don't really know who is seeing their ads, and why. Adomic ( recently renamed itself from YieldMetrics, is on a quest to change that muddled Internet display ad transaction into something far more understandable. We caught up with CEO Gabe Gottlieb recently to understand better why the company thinks transparency is important--and to try to understand better the tangled web of online ads.

What is Adomic?

Gabe Gottlieb: We provide transparency in the display advertising space. What I mean by that, is right now, display ads are super complicated. There are ad networks, ad exchanges, direct buys with publishers, and tons of other ways to buy ads. However, it's not clear what the best way to do that is, how the market is actually operating, how publishers are seelling inventory, and how top advertisers are buying. What we do, is we provide interesting deal intelligence around what is actually happening in the market. That includes, what big brands are doing, how they are advertising, what creative they are using, and how they are buying advertisements. Similar, we also provide information on what publishers are doing. Big publishers are using that to arm their sales forces, and figuring out what advertisers to go after and what to pitch. The big brands and agencies are using us to figure out the best way to buy advertising, and to reach their key audience.

Why did you decide to focus on this area?

Gabe Gottlieb: This wasn't our first focus. We had been building technology around a publisher interface, and starting seeing the same things from customers, who wanted to understand what was happening on their site, what their competition was doing, and what advertisers were doing. But, there are no big tools out there to see what is going on. Most of the popular tools people use were written ten years ago, when the advertising space was completely different. We decided to build technology to specifically address this problem. We discovered the area of transparency, began diving deeper and deeper into it, and we got a good reaction to what we were doing.

You recently renamed the company from YieldMetrics, why did you do that?

Gabe Gottlieb: The name YieldMetrics is near and dear to my heart, but it didn't do a good job of describing what we do. We provide data around yield, but we don't work in the yield space. Adomic really conveys energy and excitement, and shows how we want to bring transparency to the display space. The new name helps describe the company better, and doesn't give the wrong preconceptions.

What's your background, and how did you get into online advertising?

Gabe Gottlieb: I'm an Angeleno. I grew up here, but then I moved up to Redmond after college. I moved to Microsoft and was there for six and a half years. I met my co-founder and CTO, Tom, there, and worked on a bunch of projects together. We worked on Microsoft Windows, and Microsoft TV. Tom eventually left to work on a startup, and I started traveling, reconnected with some former mentors, and really started diving into the space. We're now putting all the engineering stuff we did at Microsoft into good use at our own company.

There are lots of online ad companies, how are you different?

Gabe Gottlieb. We're interesting, because we're actually a true data provider, and true analytics provider, not an ad network, and not an ad exchange. We're not buying and selling media, we're helping people to understand what's going on. The big difference, is the deep transparency we provide on how people are buying and selling advertising. It's super complex, and if you ask people, they're really craving this. Display advertising has a lot of historical baggage around shady ad networks, and brands are still hesitant to fully embrace that advertising. I think, to get over the hump, you need transparency so you can build a bigger ecosystem.

What's the biggest thing you've learned so far about the market?

Gabe Gottlieb: What really surprises me, is the inefficiency in the market. We'll see that ads will touch fifteen to twenty different providers before actually showing an ad. You'll pull up a website, and literally, fifteen to twenty companies interact before you see an ad from an advertisers. That blew me away. Going through the data, we thought that must be wrong, and that we had messed something up, but that wasn't the case. There's just an incredible chain of people involved in showing ads to users. That was super surprisingly to me, personally.

What's your focus right now?

Gabe Gottlieb: We've got a ton of new features coming out, and we're really focused on executing and evolving the product. We'll also be releasing our data in a more general form, around what is happening in the market. I spoke last week at the OMMA RTB conference, and described some of the data we have on how RTB is being used, and that was very well received. We'll be giving out more of our data for general consumption, in addition to focusing on our product and features people are asking for.