Andy Ellenthal is the CEO of Peer39, the company that provides data about web pages to buyers and sellers. We spoke to Andy recently about his background in the digital media business as well as his company.
The Makegood: Andy, you have a strong background in digital advertising, having held management and sales roles at QuadrantOne, PointRoll and DoubleClick. What attracts you to the space and more specifically what attracted you to your current role as CEO of Peer39?
From my perspective, the pace of change in ad technology in the past two years has outstripped the prior 10. A few years ago we were beginning to hear more about RTB and the required amount of data to make it work, but the existing data sources were falling short. I’m not a data hater by any means, and many of my best customers have built businesses off of data tied to cookies. However, I genuinely felt the emphasis on audience alone wouldn’t allow RTB to scale. In Peer39, I saw a company that had built technology that focused on a critical component that was being ignored: the web page where the ad appears. Today, we deliver insights about the content, safety, and quality of a page. The technology is sophisticated, but the outcome is simple; it all comes back to the environment and relevancy of the placement.
The Makegood: What problems does Peer39 solve for buyers and sellers?
Peer39 solves two main problems. First, with so many billions of impressions in the exchanges at any given time, it is impossible to evaluate impressions across all inventory sources. There is no standard or benchmark to understand what kinds of pages are in the mix. At Peer39, we divided the universe of impressions into 3 channels: Quality, Safety, and Content Category. The types of data represented in these channels are persistent on every page, giving both buyers and sellers a consistent means to accurately measure the value of the inventory.
The second problem we solve is connected to the first, and that’s scale. Ad exchanges are growing exponentially and there is no way any system can decipher that amount of traffic without using the proprietary techniques Peer39 invented. Sure, there are lots of data sources out there, so much that it’s possible for buyers and sellers to get overwhelmed. But when you look a bit closer, not all data is created equal. Only page level intelligence provides our clients with the data needed for every ad buy.
The Makegood: Last month, Peer39 launched Ad Stats, a new set of data that expands the company’s offering to include ad placement attributes. Can you tell us about the progress on this initiative?
Ad Stats closes the gap between RTB and buying direct from the publisher. In RTB, information about ad position and clutter was only available when self-reported by a publisher. But we found, time after time, that these experienced media buyers and sellers viewed these data points as great indicators of the true page environment. We’re not saying that Below the Fold ads don’t work; rather, when armed with bid and performance information, buyers can make better decisions on what they are willing to pay for a given impression.
We’ve seen an incredible rate of adoption and continued usage of Ad Stats among our clients since launch. Some partners have reported a 250% increase in CTR on pages with a low ad count. Regarding Above The Fold, partners have reported 97% conversion rate increase for an 11% increase in cost for higher visibility ads. In all my years in the business, I can’t recall a targeting capability that delivers so much for so little.
The Makegood: You recently talked about the risks associated with Real Time Bidding (RTB). Would you say that this is an issue that media planners recognize and are taking caution of?
At the time, I suggested that we as an industry should develop a warning label for RTB. Of course it was tongue-in-cheek. RTB represents one of the biggest changes seen in media buying and selling. The point I made was while there is a ton of great inventory available, there is questionable inventory out there as well. Still, the difference between great and questionable inventory is in in the eye of the buyer, and what works for one CPG advertiser could be dramatically different from a direct response advertiser. I don’t think media planners have anything to worry about as long as they have access to the right tools and insights.
The Makegood: What are some recent successful campaigns that show off what Peer39 can do?
That’s difficult to answer, because much of what we see is brand specific. One recent surprise that we saw across a number of campaigns is how well Negative News works for clicks and conversions. Negative News is comprised of sub categories such as Crime, Police, Accidents, Terror, etc. Some of these more granular topics perform particularly well, but advertisers will still want to avoid them to protect their brand.
In addition, we’re seeing that Quality attributes are becoming increasingly more important. One easy area for a quick performance boost is related to blind ad calls. We see them show up in a number of campaigns. It’s not that they don’t work. They just don’t work as well as transparent pages, leading buyers to recognize that the price of these blind ad calls becomes the key to their overall performance success.
The Makegood: Thanks, Andy.