If you’ve found your way here, odds are you want to make a difference. Maybe you’re obsessed with the internet: You’re one of those people who sleeps with your phone next to you and has a waterproof case for the shower. Maybe you’re drawn to being a part of the future of advertising or as someone who loves tech you’re drawn to a company with “the biggest reach on the open web after Google.”
Well, you’re in the right place. But, here are two more things you should know about working at AppNexus.
1. It’s Collaborative
Has an interviewer ever asked you whether you prefer to “work independently or as part of team?” To me, that’s like asking if you’d rather have breakfast or dinner. Putting the pancakes for dinner and pizza for breakfast arguments aside, day in and day out, I’d like the option to have each one at the time it makes sense.
Along those lines, working at AppNexus is collaborative in the best way. You have the freedom to suggest innovations and work on your own projects (see the tech blog), but engineers aren’t relegated to a closet where they execute what the C-Suite orders.
As VP of Engineering Ersin Yilmaz says, “We believe that writing software is a people skill.” The flow of information goes in all directions, with team members at all levels encouraged to participate and make a difference. Engineers are open and willing to take time out of their day to help. Daily “Learn & Teach” sessions allow for junior employees to develop their skills and take part in new opportunities. Additionally, AppNexus relies heavily on open source. Everyone in the company is encouraged to contribute back.
This collaboration is reinforced in a warm, fun company culture. People of all backgrounds and experience levels are welcome and encouraged to contribute their unique talents and perspectives.
2. It’s Impactful
Joining a team of people who are committed to supporting each other as they achieve a common goal is only the beginning. Because that goal is to create a better internet.
At AppNexus, impact is multi-dimensional. First, there is personal impact: Individuals have the chance to innovate, and to grow AppNexus’ technology. Engineers at all experience levels are given the freedom disrupt the entire space.
Second, there is systemic, technological impact. Engineers have the opportunity to work on some of the most complex and wide-reaching technology platforms on the internet today. Consider the scale: In a short time AppNexus has grown to “serv[ing] almost six ads for every person in the world.”
The impact on the industry isn’t measured by the vast progress to date alone. Engineers have the opportunity to make an impact on the long-term future and monetization of the internet. Advertising is here to stay, and AppNexus is poised to be an independent, neutral force for good, creating a fair exchange. AppNexus code is running on almost every computer in the world, so changes you make as part of the AppNexus team can dramatically change the user experience.
Whether you’re interested in tech, advertising, the internet, or all of the above, AppNexus is a place where you can join a team with vision and a plan to make a difference. Learn more here.
On Tuesday June 9th, we held our first-ever developer conference called AppNexus Optimize. This inaugural event brought together over 100 of the brightest minds in advertising technology to learn, teach, and discuss the biggest challenges and opportunities facing not only our industry, but the internet at large. More than 20 CTOs, 10 company founders, and dozens more engineers, data scientists, and product managers descended on King’s Place in London where the AppNexus team led main stage presentations and closed-door workshops focused on the latest innovations taking ad tech into the future.
The importance of real-time insights for successful ad bidding
Consumers see a smooth rotation of ads on their favorite websites, but what happens in order for those ads to be displayed takes a huge amount of infrastructure. In the time it takes for a page to load, an ad request is made, the ad auction is created, responses are taken, and the winning bid logged. This information is provided to AppNexus clients as a log-level feed. Up till now, it has taken on average two hours for the stats on a particular transaction to be available, making real-time decisions on changing ad spend impossible to do with limited — and delayed — transparency into key decisioning data. Enter streaming log-level data, an AppNexus innovation made possible with a set of new solutions including Ratsoda, our homegrown complex event processor that deals with log-level data with a latency of 10-30 seconds. This real-time information on impressions and clicks makes real-time optimization possible, allowing publishers to divert spending after a certain level of conversions when additional spend loses effect, or changing spend to improve an impressions/clicks ratio.
A totally customizable bidding platform
One of the ongoing challenges in ad tech is automated campaign optimization. While streaming log-level data helps determine real-time insights, the issue is how to capitalize on them in a timely, visible fashion. What’s more, every company brings different needs and targets to the table – so a truly effective bidding platform needs to be customized in order to make smart automated decisions on ad spend. But, with 4.3 million ads served and 1.4 million active campaigns stored across 1500 servers, supported by 16,500 cores to execute real-time bids, it’s neither safe nor computationally feasible to allow developers to write their own code, when a single piece of bad logic could crash the entire AppNexus exchange. So, how did the AppNexus team set out to solve this problem? We created the AppNexus Programmable Bidder, a platform that accepts our customers’ own algorithms and executes their custom logic in real-time on every ad. The AppNexus Programmable Bidder is based on a new, domain-specific language called Bonsai that any publisher or agent can use to write their own decision trees for varying bidding based on features such as region, time or how many ads a particular user has seen over the lifetime of the advertiser, all in a drive to push performance and drop CPAs for advertisers. Let’s see how this works in action: Say you’re an advertiser who’s determined through A/B testing that people in California are more likely to respond to ads in the wee hours; while over in New York, buying impressions cheaply results in conversions. Bonsai lets you write a tree that varies how much you spend per bid based on a series of true/false branches. With real-time trafficking, changes go live within 5-10 minutes. At the same time, this language avoids the messiness of native code that’s too slow to analyze or validate for errors, protecting our clients from other people’s rogue code. Bonsai is ready to use now, with over 20 features available to set as yes/no nodes, including browser type, day of the week and OS, with many more to launch soon.
Closed door workshops
Along with the main stage announcements, our engineers and data scientists ran four workshops on engineering challenges with the new technologies, including building large-scale real-time systems, as well as how to use data science for writing algorithms to solve real-world problems, identify bot patterns, and tamp down fraudulent ads and sites.
The first of many
The inaugural AppNexus Optimize event closed with a evening of cocktails, sushi, and mingling. Since our launch as a scrappy but ambitious start-up eight years ago, we have always worked closely with clients and partners to empower them through developing the tools they need to get more out of our ad tech infrastructure. Today, as our company approaches 1,000 employees, we are providing a real-time bidding platform which any developer can customize to reach a better targeted audience and make savvier ad spend decisions. We can’t wait to see how our community leverages it to invent, improve and of course,optimize.
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On June 10th, over 500 executives and influencers spanning the advertising, technology and media industries came together for the third annual AppNexus Summit Europe. For those unfamiliar with the twice-yearly event, Summit is an invitation-only event that features best practices from industry leaders, exciting product innovations, and the opportunity to network with some of the industry’s leading makers, builders, thinkers, and doers.
If you missed the event or just need a refresher on the morning’s discussions, you can replay the event through Livestream, watch session videos on our YouTube channel, and read below to learn more.
Against invalid traffic, for transparency
The ad tech market is in a constant state of flux. After all, the ad exchange didn’t even exist until 10 years ago. But, with staggering industry growth comes the attempts of bad actors to capitalize on opportunities to make a quick — and questionable — buck. During her presentation alongside AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley on how AppNexus differentiates between human and bot traffic patterns, Data Scientist Rebecca Conneely provided Summit attendees a glimpse into AppNexus’ methods of combating fraud across its platform. Inventory Quality (IQ) is our suite of policies for ensuring the quality of online inventory. Pre-bid Policy Enforcement uses manual and automated systems to screen all ads for sale before they hit the marketplace. If an ad presents a known bot behavior signature, it’s booted. In our alpha testing period, two out of three buyers got better response rates and most campaigns saw a spike in CPA, while sellers’ RPMs increased between 29% and 47%.
For advertisers, IQ also introduces stricter standards that disallow domain masking so that when advertisers pay for an ad, they know it’s brand-safe. Included is Spend Protection, our financial guarantee that their ads will display on a human-run site.
In essence, IQ means we’re putting our seal of approval on any website with an ad purchased through the AppNexus platform.
Better business: Integrating the ad stack
Today’s consumers are spread across desktop and mobile, viewing ads in static and video display that are served from several platforms. As Tom Shields, SVP of Strategy for our Publishers business unit, explained, this fragmentation is a headache for publishers who want a holistic view on ad visibility; it’s equally problematic for advertisers planning campaigns across silos of channels.
Over the past year, AppNexus has acquired several companies that, combined with the powerful AppNexus Console and Yield Management Platform, give us the opportunity to realize a fullstack vision that benefits both supply-and demand-side partners.
Alenty’s visibility solutions measure whether the ads we broker are seen and for how long, ensuring that buyers spend more on high-return ads. Open AdStream technology serves ads across display, mobile, and video, giving us full control over insight across all platforms. Mediaglu is providing the groundwork for developing reliable cross-device attribution that connects users across all the devices they’re using to access content. This opened the door for the last piece of the puzzle – Yieldex, which joined the AppNexus portfolio in March of this year, integrating industry-leading forecasting technology that analyzes ad inventory to determine the maximum value of each ad slot, allowing for more effective programmatic buying.
If you don’t differentiate, you don’t matter
As we gain access to more complex behavioral data through advancing analytics, the challenge lies in using these insights to optimize ad spend – bidding for the right audience at the right time.
On the AppNexus Summit Europe stage, CEO Brian O’Kelley announced the launch of a feature called the AppNexus Programmable Bidder, which allows our clients to load their own algorithms into our bidding platform – no easy feat. After all, how do you isolate each client’s code to prevent bad logic from crashing the whole system? Or execute custom code on 1.2 billion impressions per day without crippling your servers?
It turned out the answer was creating a new language for building algorithms that can plug straight into our bidder. It’s completely customizable, so buyers can use insights from analytics – like the fact that Chrome users in New York City usually engage with Android ads – to build decision trees that optimize ad spend in real-time. Tests on the alpha build have produced timeout rates well below 1%. This allows our clients to bid on more impressions, make savvier spending decisions, and take full advantage of cookie matching.
Same thing, different country: The innovation in marketing
Our Chief Data Scientist Catherine Williams sat down for a main stage one-on-one with Arthur Gerigk, the global CMO of Rocket Internet, a sprawling platform whose 75 companies take the proven business models of internet behemoths like Amazon and scale them to new and emerging markets. Examples include Lazada, an online shopping site for Southeast Asia; Jovago, a hotel booking site for Africa that recently expanded to Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh; and EasyTaxi, the Uber of Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. (Arthur’s deadline: 100 days from concept to live.)
When describing how he approaches these challenges, he stated that the innovation is in the execution and marketing of these new spins on old ideas – and the trick is leveraging analytics data to spend effectively on customized marketing. In other words, keep an eye on this new breed of data-driven marketeer.
The potential of video
According to Eric Hoffert, AppNexus’ newly-hired SVP of Video Technology, two-thirds of evening traffic is spent on video streaming sites such as Netflix and YouTube. Of the 1.2 billion impressions we see a day, 250 million are video, a number that has increased 100% quarter over quarter. With home broadband speeds 10 times what they were five years ago, we’re in a golden age of video – so it’s imperative that video ads live up to the expectations of an increasingly savvy audience. With internet users, publishers, and advertisers & agencies all clamoring for a better video internet, AppNexus was thrilled to announce that our video buying offering will launch in open beta this August.
Andrew Eifler, Sr. Director of Product Management at AppNexus, walked the audiencethrough the new video targeting UI, where clients will be able to customize playback method, player size, and linear video position. In addition, demand-side partners will be dive into detailed performance analytics such as video completes as well as fractional completes, the cost per complete, skips and more. This video offering remains part of our three-screen integrated platform and clients will still pay only one (low) fee to access data and tools for creating, targeting, and optimizing ads across display, mobile, and video.
The future with programmatic
With billions of dollars spent on display ads, the industry is booming. Branding represents the largest proportion of display advertisement, but there’s a big gap to be filled when it comes to targeting ads through programmatic buying.
Our VP of Strategic Development in Europe, Nigel Gilbert, led a discussion of the different scenarios where programmatic buying can help brands engage consumers with relevant and compelling stories.
For Paul Silver, Chief Strategy Officer of MEDIA iQ, the key is building the technology to understand which real-world moments in news, weather, or social media prep an audience for engaging with a campaign.
Philippe Besnard, the Co-Founder and CEO of Quantum Advertising, said programmatic buying is one of the next pillars of digital advertising, thanks to its ability to scale for different needs and audiences. Brands also have the tools and metrics to activate, measure, and attribute every ad, said Tim Geenen, Director of Innovation at Bannerconnect. Data is now a service that advertisers can use to build their own currency, keeping their story going post-impression.
Creating a better internet
In the immortal words of Rocket Internet’s Arthur Gerigk, marketing has become so complex you need a mathematician to tell you if you’re focusing on the right thing. The line between data performance and branding attribution is blurring, and our ad tech infrastructure must offer a holistic way to manage it all. Today, that means streaming log-level data for real-time campaign optimization, increasing trust in online inventory, investing in video, and building new ways for advertisers and publishers to turn insight into returns.
By providing an infrastructure that’s robust and open to new technologies for forecasting, analyzing and optimizing, we can create better internet advertising – and a better internet.
In addition to AppNexus’ own initiatives to build trust in online advertising, we’re partnering with industry leaders like comScore to further uncover quality in programmatic. Today we are excited to share that we are joining the comScore Industry Trust initiative, a multiphase initiative designed to enable trusted programmatic transactions of quality advertising between buyers and sellers. comScore Industry Trust focuses on providing an independent rating of ad inventory quality, thereby activating quality inventory across programmatic trading and creating a trusted marketplace that better serves the ecosystem.
As of today, comScore Trust Profiles – the first phase of the company’s Industry Trust initiative that allows buyers to use key comScore advertising metrics directly in select programmatic trading platforms – are available to AppNexus customers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico with additional market rollout coming soon. Trust Profiles, which include comScore Media Metrix and Video Metrix rankings, can be accessed in AppNexus alongside the brand safety, page quality, and categorization metrics from Proximic, whom comScore acquired last month.
At its core, the AppNexus platform is a liquid marketplace for sellers and buyers of digital inventory. Marketplaces don’t function efficiently where one party is less transparent than the other. Likewise, where buyers can’t be sure of the quality of goods sold, the market behaves inefficiently.
To maintain an efficient marketplace, we think it’s very important that everyone take a trust-and-verify approach. So while we’ve taken major steps to create greater quality controls and transparency in our marketplace, we expect that buyers will want to use third-party tools to measure and ensure that they’re buying what they expect to buy. It’s important that AppNexus work very closely with those third parties to help our buyers get the verification they need.
By enforcing our own strong controls and protections on inventory quality and partnering with others who bring quality and transparency to the ecosystem, AppNexus is committed to growing a marketplace that benefits buyers and sellers alike.
Programmatic advertising is often a double-edged sword.
At its best, it offers audience reach, targeting, access to inventory, analytics and reporting. All of these attributes help digital advertisers fashion and execute winning campaigns.
But for the most sophisticated advertisers, the process can be limiting. They’ve built their own algorithms that specify the inputs that they want to use, the kind of inventory they want to access, and the audience they want to target, and they’ve learned how to optimize key parameters to make their buys ever more effective, nearly in real time.
Why, they ask, should they have to adjust those parameters and requirements to shoehorn them into the interface and controls of a third-party platform and its dashboard, or even submit them for the platform’s staff to input and manage?
At AppNexus, we believe advertisers should be able to control their campaigns using their own algorithms and get the ad placements they believe will be most effective, with minimum hassle.
Advertisers should be able to use their own decision trees — their own algorithms — and change them at their discretion.
That’s where AppNexus Programmable Bidder (APB) Comes in.
Via a standard, secure API endpoint, advertisers can automatically interface with the AppNexus platform, tell it what to do, and — when their priorities or parameters change — be able simply to change their data and immediately have the platform react and change its behavior to match.
Perhaps the most groundbreaking part of our new offering is a language we’ve termed “Bonsai” (like the tree) that allows advertisers to decide the values of distinct impression parameters and prioritize them via a tree logic and structure they create, then share it securely and privately through the API.
Coders will be interested to know Bonsai’s simple grammar is similar to Python. It creates a JSON feed which is then encoded to a secure key. The less technically inclined will be glad to know the feed’s instructions appear in an easy-to-read format via our usual interface, where it can be checked or changed.
Build or Buy?
One of the classic business decisions is whether to “build or buy.” Few, if any, advertisers can devote the substantial financial, human and intellectual resources it takes to build their own bidding platforms from scratch, with forecasting, analytics, payment clearance and data optimization.
This imbalance places most advertisers at a relative disadvantage. They have no recourse but to entrust their data to a black-box bidder, an opaque process that compromises the integrity of their data.
We don’t like black boxes. As the only open, independent, end-to-end platform for online advertising, we believe that customers should be empowered to devise their own campaign strategies and execute them across our platform.
Our underlying thesis is that open beats closed, and independent trumps a walled garden. We don’t just allow, we invite the most innovative companies to build their technologies on top of ours.
With APB, there is now a third way.
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Event Will Highlight the Company’s Rapid Global Expansion
AppNexus, the world’s leading independent ad tech company, will host its third annual EMEA Summit Week in London this week, where it will announce and demonstrate key products and introduce some of the company’s lead engineers, data scientists and programmers to a broad audience of 400 industry experts and customers. As part of the week’s events, the company will stage its inaugural “Optimize” event, an elite gathering of developers and engineers from the world’s most innovative technology companies.
“We made a conscious decision to launch a series of important product announcements from a European stage,” said Michael Rubenstein, President of AppNexus. “As we continue our rapid expansion in markets around the world, AppNexus believes that it has a mandate to think and act globally. We’re the world’s independent technology partner for everyone engaged in digital advertising.”
In order to meet the increasing global demand for programmatic advertising solutions, over the past year the company has nearly doubled its staff in Europe, opened offices in Sydney and Singapore, and established a first-in-class R&D center in France. Later this month, the company will debut new flagship offices in London and Paris. These state-of-the-art headquarters will be located in the heart of the technology and media districts in each city.
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Nigel Gilbert, VP of Strategic Development, EMEA, said, “It is critical to clients in every market that they partner with specialists who focus purely on technology rather than those with adjacent media businesses. AppNexus is the leading independent ad tech company built specifically to meet the needs of clients around the world with an open, customizable and scaled platform. Customer needs vary from market to market, and as a global platform, we are uniquely equipped to meet those needs.”
Europe is home to two of the “Big Four” holding companies as well as many of the world’s most important publishers and publisher coalitions, and AppNexus counts many of these distinguished European companies among its client-base. Global partners and customers include the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), Audience Square’s coalition of publishers; Omnicom Media Group Europe; United Internet Media, and WPP. In Australia, leading media companies Fairfax Media and Xaxis Australia rely on AppNexus technology to drive their programmatic businesses.
Added Rubenstein, “AppNexus is committed to helping publishers, agencies and programmatic media companies unlock their differentiators and build sustainable businesses for years to come. Our sole purpose is to empower strong, independent companies around the world.”
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We’re only days away from our third annual #AppNexusSummit Europe. Join us and your fellow ad tech luminaries as we tackle topics such as how to win as an underdog, the future of video advertising, a holistic solution for publishers, creative differentiation in a programmatic world, and exciting AppNexus product announcements. No matter if you’re an agency, advertiser, publisher, or ad tech company, we’ve got the content and networking opportunities you need to innovate, differentiate, and stay ahead in this ever-moving landscape.
Get a sneak peek of our agenda and speakers joining us on stage next Wednesday:
For those that won’t be able to join us at the AppNexus Summit in-person, you can still be part of the action by registering for the Livestream and by following the social conversation with @AppNexus on twitter.
We’re only one week out from AppNexus Optimize, our first-ever developer event focused on addressing the core technical challenges and opportunities that exist in ad tech, and that influence the Internet as a whole.
In addition to learning and teaching in sessions that address real-time data, ad fraud, and how to build a scalable and agile platform, attendees will be the first in the industry to hear about an exciting new way that our customers can leverage their data on the AppNexus platform.
Learn more about the jam-packed afternoon of programming we have in store:
For those unable to attend, you’ll still have an opportunity to be part of the action as we’ll be broadcasting our two main stage events.
Stay tuned for updates on Optimize.AppNexus.com or by following @AppNexus to join the virtual event.
Hurry – you only have until Friday to request your invite to AppNexus’ inaugural developer conference… don’t miss out!
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Pablo Picasso famously dismissed calculators and computers as “useless – they only give you answers.” Questions are the source of true insight, and nowhere is Picasso’s point more resonant than in the ongoing debates over the Internet. Too often, policy makers and commentators belt out answers to specific political and regulatory issues without first identifying the overarching question. Beginning with a single, powerful question – do the decisions we make today advance or limit the ability of individuals to create, share and consume information online? – may yield surprising answers.
We’re only halfway through 2015 and already seeing some of our initial ad tech predictions come to life. With AppNexus Summit Europe 2015 right around the corner, this is a great opportunity to reflect on the industry activity fueling the Ad Tech Power Game and gain insights on what’s to come.
It’s said in ancient philosophy that cycles of life occur every seven years. And it’s a theory that has frequently been upheld by cyclical economic activity, stock market crashes and political upheaval.
In the ad tech world, the renaissance that followed the dot.com bust culminated in the Great Consolidation of 2007. In a six-month period that year Google bought DoubleClick, Microsoft bought aQuantive, Yahoo bought Right Media and WPP bought 24/7 Media.
Fast forward seven years and seismic shifts in the ad tech space are again starting to fundamentally change the way the industry operates. The internet goliaths are making significant strategic bets at an accelerated pace, through consolidation, acquisitions and, often, unexpected partnerships, all with the goal of monopolising consumer eyeballs and the ensuing ad dollars.
Facebook went full-throttle into ad tech in 2014 with the relaunch of Atlas ad server in September and a number of other acquisitions. In its Q4 earnings call COO Sheryl Sandberg emphasised its commitment to “large” and “strategic” investments in areas they had previously neglected.
Meanwhile, Apple’s belated announcement that it is working with programmatic partners came just a week after Yahoo announced plans to buy programmatic video platform BrightRoll. This followed Twitter’s acquisition of MoPub, TapCommerce and Namo Media; Millennial Media’s acquisition of Nexage and Jumptap; alongside AppNexus’ acquisition of OAS earlier in 2014 – to name just a few.
Furthermore, AOL has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to establish itself as an ad tech company, and Google has continued to push for industry and world domination.
So the ad tech power game that kicked off in 2014 looks only set to intensify in 2015, and here’s why…
Firstly, the past few years have nurtured unprecedented levels of ad tech innovation, starting to solve the problems that have long challenged digital marketing and its role in building brands. There is now a thriving and, some might say, overcrowded industry with cutting-edge technology across social, mobile and video.
Meanwhile, the internet giants that had been focused elsewhere, often fixing or monetising their core business as it struggles to adapt to the real-time world, have realised the risk of being late to the game.
Coupled with the recognition that programmatic is here to stay, big firms with free cash flows are now looking to acquire, or partner, their way into businesses that are reshaping digital advertising. They understand that doing nothing is simply no longer an option.
This process has also been accelerated by the fact that the convergence of paid, owned and earned media is remaking the social media pioneers into pure audience advertising businesses.
So Facebook and Google find themselves in an arms race with each other; not just to build their media capabilities in order to capitalise on social, mobile and programmatic, but also to define the currency, platforms and measurement, and to safeguard their profits.
Facebook’s recent Atlas activity is almost certainly a move designed to protect itself from a world in which Google controls advertising and advertising technology. Not to be left out, global agency businesses are investing more aggressively in digital and programmatic at the same time as the content publishers ratchet up their efforts. Both buyers and sellers see the risk in a future where a small oligopoly of internet companies turns the web into series of walled gardens.
So what of the future; how will the ad tech power game play out in 2015?
Last time around the driving force for consolidation was knitting together disparate technologies to ensure ad tech could scale to deliver on its promise. This time, with programmatic already on track to account for as much as 70% of digital media, it’s not about scale. Instead it’s a clash of two competing philosophies.
On the one hand, that the internet works best as an open system where advertising drives value for the content creators, the internet users and the brands that finance the whole thing. And on the other, that enormous amounts of money can be made by annexing large parts of the web through controlling the platforms on which they operate.
The latter may offer some initial hope to participants that the challenge and complexity of digital advertising can be managed more easily inside a walled garden, but over the longer term it’s easy to see where that might lead.
No matter how 2015 plays out, the long-term future of the internet and thereby its value to consumers, publishers and brands depends on it remaining an open and vibrant place of competition and collaboration. At times this will be messy, as the current industry challenges with quality and attribution attest, but it will ultimately deliver more value than the route that at first looks easier.
(Originally published in Mediatel Newsline on 05 May 2015)
AppNexus technology powers the most innovative trading solutions and marketplaces for Internet advertising. We power the ads that power the Internet. Founded in 2007, and growing rapidly since, we are consistently ranked as a top technology company in New York.