How to Survive Black Friday – A Primer for Programmatic

Download the complimentary Black Friday whitepaper here and check out some of the highlights below.

Shoppers aren’t the only post-recession savvy spenders during the holiday season. In recent years, advertisers have increasingly used programmatic media to buy advertising that efficiently engages and incentivizes consumers during the biggest shopping period of the year – Black Friday and Thanksgiving Week.

AppNexus has valuable insight into this online shopping period – and year-round activity – because we transact 40 billion ad impressions a day, and will manage close to $2 billion in ad spend in 2014.  And because a majority of programmatic buying is used for direct response campaigns, the data we capture yields immediate granular information related to pricing, targeting, creative units, day parts and much more.

Armed with this valuable information, we’re excited to publish the first of a series of holiday whitepapers to help you get the best out of programmatic advertising during Thanksgiving/Black Friday week, and beyond. Some top findings are below.

Pace. Pace. Pace.

Ensuring sufficient delivery during Thanksgiving week is no small task. Based on historical trends on the AppNexus platform spend, we recommend that traders and media strategists take a proactive approach to late November campaigns. What’s the easiest way to do that? Begin campaigns as early as possible and ensure delivery in late November by increasing bid prices by the historical average – 56%. Alternatively, to avoid price spikes, minimize buying during Thanksgiving week for an always-on campaign or performance-based campaign that is not Thanksgiving specific.

Average-CPM_Nov. 2011-2013

Capitalize on Extended Peak Web Traffic

Web traffic typically follows the work schedule, but during holiday vacations people spend more time plugged in during the evening. Advertisers should view the Thanksgiving vacation period as an opportunity to engage potential consumers between 10pm and 4am ET, or the friendlier West Coast hours of 7pm to 1am PT.

Percent-Change-in-Hourly-Impressions

Deals Drive a Guaranteed Price to Advertise Thanksgiving-related Promotions or Campaigns

Programmatic deals can provide advertisers with a way to lock in better prices and keep their ads highly visible during peak spending periods. Additionally, Deals can be a powerful tool to better manage incremental budgets. Want to take advantage of programmatic deals? Learn more about AppNexus Deals or check out our recent product announcement around Packages.

Arming yourself with the right data and programmatic strategies can transform this holiday season from stressful to successful. AppNexus is here to help you #WinInProgrammatic, so take the first step by downloading the full whitepaper here

 

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AppNexus 2014 Summit NYC: Certified Supply, #ATPG, and Talib Kweli

It’s been a decade since I sat in a conference room at Right Media in New York watching then CTO Brian O’Kelley whiteboard the structure of what would become the first ad exchange and subsequently triggering a massive wave of change in online advertising. While we were filled with both fear and excitement wondering if the idea would work, we were confident that the online advertising industry needed more innovation to truly meet its promise.

As the end to another year rapidly approaches, it is amazing to think about how much the ad tech industry has grown since those days. However, we have a similar feeling today at AppNexus, that more change is necessary to fulfill the industry’s potential as well as to meet our mission of creating a better Internet through advertising.

Last week, AppNexus was proud to host our 2014 Summit NYC at The Times Center in New York City – our 11th Summit in four years (including those on the West Coast and in Europe). Alongside our colleagues, partners, and clients from across the industry, we took a look back at the milestones and developments that have brought us to where we are today, and what is on the horizon. This year, for the first time, our CEO and Co-founder Brian O’Kelley led the Summit in a talk show format as he welcomed guest speakers such as Russ Glass from Bizo/LinkedIn, new AppNexus board member and TheStreet.com Chairman, CEO and President Elisabeth DeMarse,  special musical guest rap artist Talib Kweli, President & COO of MediaLink Wenda Harris Millard, and many more.

Wenda addressed an important issue facing the entire ad tech ecosystem – inventory fraud. She spoke about the proactive programs her company is working on with others in the industry, including an in-depth study along with the IAB that AppNexus is sponsoring, that are aimed at addressing this problem and invoking widespread change throughout the industry.

On that topic, Brian is once again taking on a major industry problem. He introduced a groundbreaking initiative launched by AppNexus, along with key partners including DoubleVerify, Integral Ad Science, Microsoft, PubMatic, Xaxis, and other major partners to combat this important issue of fraud, and specifically invalid traffic, as well.

Here’s how it works: the Certified Supply Program will classify online advertising inventory, identifying the safest and most trusted supply available. All the partners involved will, for the first time, provide buyers with financial guarantees that the inventory they are purchasing is valid, starting in Q2. It’s a monumental step toward eventually discouraging invalid supply altogether and eradicating an industry problem once and for all. You can read more about it in our press release and on AdExchanger.com.

At AppNexus, we’re deeply committed to making sure all of our clients have access to the best and most sophisticated technology available, including our publishers, who form a core segment of our client base. At Summit, Ryan Christensen, SVP & GM of our Publisher business, unveiled the first mobile app, AppNexus Insight, which allows publishers to monitor in-app ad quality, in real-time, directly from their mobile devices. Overall, our mobile business has seen explosive growth in the last year, and today, more than 15 percent of all ad spend on the AppNexus platform is mobile. You can read more here about the new app, and other significant company milestones in mobile.

In another exciting development for publishers and mobile, a new premium mobile exchange was launched in Australia in the days leading up to Summit. We were joined at the event by Tom Armstrong, Commercial Director, Fairfax Media, and Marc Barnett, COO, Mi9, who spoke with Brian from the audience about APEX Advertising, powered by AppNexus. The APEX Exchange is Australia’s first brand-safe, content-driven source of mobile advertising inventory from over 80 well known locally created mobile sites and apps.

AppNexus CFO and COO Jon Hsu also presented at the event, recapping the major chapters in the ad tech space with his presentation “A Brief History of (Ad Tech) Time,” and President Michael Rubenstein, talked about the Ad Tech Power Game (#ATPG) as well. And what Summit would be complete without an ad tech rap from Talib Kweli?

Finally, we were thrilled to announce the close of our acquisition of OAS®, a premium ad-serving technology, which was part of a major strategic transaction with WPP and Xaxis. Following this announcement, the finale of our Summit featured Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, who spoke about our companies’ shared vision of providing our clients with world-class advertising technology that is an open, independent alternative to the walled gardens that exist in our space.

AppNexus’ NYC Summit marked the end of our 2014 Summit series, and we’re grateful to our sponsors Adgorithms, adomik, Aerospike, AlephD, Civolution, Equinix, FlxOne, Grapeshot, Microsoft, Millennial Media, Pixalate, Peer 39 by Sizmek, and wywy, and who were critical in helping to make it all happen. AppNexus is committed to working together with our peers to discuss ideas and progress, and to forge a collaborative technology community that can work together to create a better Internet. We’re looking forward to seeing how all of our exciting prospects help further this mission as we head into 2015!

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AppNexus Packages Makes Deals Even Easier

When AppNexus set out to build a better way to transact deals in RTB, our main goal was to reduce the time it took for buyers and sellers to go from deal negotiation to delivery. So far, we’ve been pretty successful: since our Deals Beta release in early May, over half of AppNexus clients using deals have been able to agree to terms and serve ads in under an hour. Compare that to a typical Deal ID transaction elsewhere, where a deal can take days or even weeks to go live.

We’ve accomplished these dramatic efficiency gains by significantly reducing the number of steps in the deal negotiation, execution, and monitoring processes.

Prior to AppNexus Deals, getting a deal to go live required about 16 steps involving individuals representing the buyer, seller, and DSP and SSP support teams:

deal workflow steps - 1

By centralizing deal management onto a single platform, AppNexus Deals cuts five steps from this process for buyers and sellers:

deal workflow steps - 2

Today, we’re excited to announce the wide release of AppNexus Packages, which streamlines deal-making even further by giving the buyer control over discovery and execution:

deal workflow steps - 3

It can’t get much easier!

AppNexus Packages allows a seller to set up a catalog of standardized deals in order to offer their most valuable assets to buyers. Flexible merchandising tools empower a seller to define and customize packages and rates to meet an individual buyer’s needs. Permalinks enable a seller to point any buyer directly to their listings, regardless of what platform the buyer uses to execute deals.

For a buyer, the toolset is just as easy to use. A buyer can browse sellers’ listings to find premium inventory that is aligned to their needs; select the items they want; check out; and have their new deals show up for targeting with a just few clicks. This streamlined process eliminates a lot of the opportunity for human error and gets deals live in moments.

packages_oneclick

With AppNexus Packages, we’re excited to further empower our customers to grow their business relationships in the programmatic space.

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AppNexus Completes Acquisition of Open AdStream

Today we’re happy to announce our acquisition of Open AdStream® (OAS) has officially closed along with the completion of our $110M investment round. We are embarking on an exciting path to transform the ad server and are also marking an important step in the evolution of programmatic direct.

Over the past seven years, AppNexus has defined innovation in the ad technology industry. We were the first to serve an RTB impression in 2008; offered the first real-time data integration platform in 2009; and launched the first app marketplace in 2011. We continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in programmatic with new products like Twixt and the acquisition of industry viewability leader Alenty.

Most of the innovation over the past decade has been around building and growing indirect sales channels. As amazing a transformation as this has been, half of display advertising is still sold directly. Direct sales account for a majority of the revenue for premium content, but the technology underneath it is substantially the same as it was a decade ago.

We believe there’s enormous potential to be unlocked for publishers if we can apply the same level of innovation to the direct channel that we have for indirect.

We have spent the past decade working with the world’s largest publishers and portals to help them implement exchange technologies, and we have seen first-hand the daily limitations they live with due to the lack of investment and innovation in underlying systems. At AppNexus, we have big ideas about how a next-generation publisher ad server can help publishers maximize revenue across emerging formats, channels, and devices while protecting their proprietary data and respecting their audiences.

OAS will be an extremely valuable asset to us in this journey. While we could have built a new ad server from scratch, there were many reasons that made the decision to buy easy:

  • OAS was founded in 1995 and has been in the publisher business for 19 years
  • 174 personnel in 10 countries that have joined AppNexus
  • OAS is the #2 sell-side ad server by market share
  • It serves 2 trillion premium ads annually
  • Approximately 400 global clients use OAS today
  • Those clients include Bankrate, Comcast, Dominion, Eurosport, Sears, Monster.com, ToysRUs and Weatherbug, to name just a few.

We are well aware that the publisher ad serving space is a competitive one. At the same time, it is imperative that content producers have an ad serving partner that puts their data, audience, and revenue potential as the first and only priority. Publishers need an open platform that enables seamless integration with best-of-breed tools and monetization options.

In combination with the power and reliability of OAS, our open platform and vibrant ecosystem will create a better alternative to the products on the market today. This will put more dollars in the pockets of publishers to help them create amazing content and services for years to come.

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Elisabeth DeMarse, Chairman & CEO of TheStreet, Joins the AppNexus Board

Today I am thrilled to welcome Elisabeth DeMarse, Chairman and CEO, TheStreet, Inc., to the AppNexus board of directors where she will serve as chair of our compensation committee.

This appointment is another key milestone, along with our acquisition of Open AdStream, as we further evolve our commitment to the publisher segment. Elisabeth is a passionate advocate for digital publishing and how advertising helps monetize free content on the Internet, and she has developed a great deal of experience with programmatic as more and more of TheStreet’s clients engage in automated buying.

I’m very excited to add Elisabeth’s extensive experience as a corporate leader, board member, and media executive to our team. She served as CMO of Bloomberg.com under Michael Bloomberg for 10 years, and as CEO at numerous other digital publishers including Newser and Bankrate where she turned the company around from near bankruptcy to a positive income company. You can read the press release to get some more flavor on her background, as well as her Q&A about joining the board that appeared in MediaPost today.

Welcome to AppNexus, Elisabeth!

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Alchemy of Org Building: Career Development from the Inside Out, Part 2

Part one of this blog series proposed that career development is a process of aligning with our Purpose, rather than defining and achieving extrinsic life goals like salary and position. This approach clarifies what intrinsically matters most to us and sets in motion a process of co-creation where opportunity seemingly unfolds before us. It allows our work to become an expression of our passions, values, and capabilities.But how do we align with our Purpose, especially if we aren’t clear what our passions, values, and capabilities are? And what does this have to do with org building – the topic of my blog? We align with our Purpose through a process of intention setting, non-judgmental observation, and ongoing dialog. Let’s unpack that:

Intention Setting: Aligning with our Purpose starts with setting the intention to be our authentic best self. This is harder than it may sound. We naturally want to please and be admired by others. This can cause us to wear masks pretending to be someone we are not, or react with fear or anger when we feel judged by others. We also tend to look away when we sense we are not being our authentic best self; the mirror can be a scary place.

So maintaining the intention to be our authentic best self is in fact a true act of courage as well as a necessary step in aligning with our Purpose.

Non-Judgmental Observation: Self-observation amplifies the signals we receive that indicate what our passions, values, and capabilities are. It helps us better understand and change what is holding us back; it clears out the noise so we can tune into what we really love doing; it allows us to identify our best self and bring that to everything we do.

What are we observing? We are observing the starting place of our actions; the emotional impulse in which our actions are rooted. For example:

  • Action: I helped a new employee with a problem they had.
  • Root: A place of service and secureness.
  • Action: A colleague told me I made a mistake. I said thanks for sharing and asked for help improving.
  • Root: A place of openness and acceptance.
  • Action: A colleague was promoted. I told my manager I should be promoted because I am stronger than that employee.
  • Root: A place of envy and bitterness.
  • Action: My boss said my project wasn’t successful. I responded with the five things beyond my control that blocked me.
  • Root: A place of fear and avoidance.

Our actions are borne from two places – our lower self and our higher self. When our intentions are laced with anger, fear, pride, or envy we are acting from our lower self. When our intentions are pure of those emotions, we can act from a place of joy, safety, openness, or service – from our higher self. From this place, we can bring our very best to what we do. Our vision is the clearest. Our creativity is boundless. Our capacity for growth is limitless. It becomes possible to accept responsibly for what’s difficult in our lives.

Acting from our lower self (anger, fear, pride, or envy) is distracting and energy depleting. Plus, it’s contagious. It comes back to us multifold, creating a swell of negativity in our lives. Acting from our higher self (joy, safety, openness, service) has the opposite effect. When we give the world our best, it returns the favor. So by identifying what we are doing when we are acting from our higher self, we can inspect it, elaborate on it, fill our lives with more activities like it. We begin to express our unique passions, values, and capabilities in powerful ways. We start to achieve more with greater ease. Without even looking for it, we will naturally connect with our Purpose.

Observation is most effective when it’s a regular habit and it’s non-judgmental.

Why a regular habit? Our default emotional responses can’t be altered through force of will. The only path is a gradual one. We set the genuine intention to be our very best, revisit our days like an unbiased spectator, observe our reactions, consider how we can improve, and then let go. Observe, release. Observe, release. If our intention remains strong over time, we will naturally bring less of our lower self, and more of our higher self.

Why non-judgmental? When we judge ourselves, we reinforce a false identity – I screwed up, I suck. That’s the invisible lens through which we view ourselves. Judgment becomes the distraction we focus on. It reinforces shame, which blocks self-acceptance. It instills fear, which prevents us from embracing our mistakes as opportunities to learn and change.

Ongoing Dialog: I once read, “We only know of ourselves what we are willing to tell others.” There is something powerful and clarifying about saying our thoughts out loud to people we trust. At that point it either rings true and clear in our ears, or doesn’t. So we all need sounding boards. We all need to voice what we believe our passions, values, and capabilities are in order to continually clarify our thinking. Friends, mentors, and managers are all helpful.

What does all of this have to do with org building – the subject of my blog?

As I did when I was in Poland, employees (particularly young high performers) tend to overly focus on extrinsic life goals – position, salary, etc. This is a framework to shift the focus to what matters most in career development – connecting with our Purpose by aligning with our passions, values, and capabilities through a process of intention setting, non-judgmental observation, and ongoing dialog.

In Global Services at AppNexus, we’ve launched a program called “Empowering You to be the CEO of Your Career: Aligning with Your Purpose.” Its premise is that a virtuous cycle is ignited when employees align with their Purpose. Individuals bringing their best create vibrant and strong organizations, which create new opportunities for individuals to continue to bring their best.

Many organizations think of career development as an “outside in” process. Employers define career ladders for employees to climb and provide skills training to help employees scale each rung of the ladder. It’s a process that starts outside of the individual.

Our approach is from the “inside out.” Individuals define what matters most to them. Managers offer thought partnership and facilitation. The organization provides Career Maps to help employees explore options. So our approach to career development starts with personal development. From there, amazing careers and incredible organizations naturally follow.

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See all postings from Brandon’s “Alchemy of Org Building” blog here.

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The Alchemy of Org Building: Career Development from the Inside Out, Part 1

In 2009, I was living in Poland having a great experience working for Hewlett-Packard.  HP had acquired Opsware, the start-up I worked for, two years prior. As much as I enjoyed the HP experience, I wanted to get back to a start-up.  The problem was – doing what?  I was in sales at HP, I’d previously been in engineering, and I was in services and operations before that.  What did I want to be when I grew up?  The question was haunting me.  Then I read a book that reminded me – the best way to develop one’s career is to not attach to specific goals, but rather to connect with our Purpose.  Taking that to heart, I changed my focus, and quickly found the perfect job – where I am now, at AppNexus.

We connect with our Purpose when our life’s work is an expression of our passions, values, and capabilities.  We know we are connecting with our Purpose when:

  • We are intrinsically motivated by what we do for work; it’s work, but it’s also fun (Passions)
  • The characteristics of how we work (e.g. collaborative v. solitary, with authority v. given direction) are what we prefer (Values)
  • Our work requires our strongest talents; we get to do what we are naturally great at (Capabilities)

Our objective is to find work with elements of all three.  The more our passions, values, and capabilities are included in our work, the more powerfully we are connecting with our Purpose and the more successful we will be in our careers.

So aligning with our Purpose is about focusing our energy where our passions, values, and capabilities conjoin.  Alternatively, life goals are the tangible outcomes we plan to achieve – our salary, our job, our house, our spouse, etc.  Goals tend to have a time element. We want to achieve them by a certain date.  Our Purpose has no relation to time.  We connect with it in the moment.  Life goals are frequently set in relative terms – I make more money than you, my house is bigger than yours, etc.  Our Purpose is about internal alignment; it’s intrinsically motivating and rewarding.

Connecting with our Purpose isn’t something we are taught to do.  Instead, we are often conditioned to focus on extrinsic life goals.  We define and measure our progress towards them.  Or we feel lost and anxious because we don’t have them.  Or we simply adopt the goals of those around us.  We often attach our sense of self to our goals and judge our success based on progress towards them. We can focus so intently on these extrinsic motivations that we lose track of our intrinsic motivations, which are satisfied when connecting with our Purpose.  They are the path to sustainable happiness.

Connecting with our Purpose is our life’s calling.  It’s a personal journey we’re all meant to take.  It’s through our Purpose that we create our unique and most powerful impact on the world.

How did this change of perspective help me find AppNexus?  Once I stopped concentrating on an extrinsic life goal (what type of role I wanted), space was created to focus on what I was passionate about, what I valued, what my natural capabilities were.  It was like a weight was lifted, a fog had cleared; I was no longer reaching for something.  When we are aligning with our Purpose, through a process of co-creation, the right things just seem to happen. In my case, two things happened …

First, what mattered most became clear to me: I was passionate about building lasting organizations and making the world a better place.  I valued working collaboratively with people who inspired me and being given responsibility to drive change.  My core capabilities were around creating scalable organizations and coaching employees.  The function (sales, services, engineering) didn’t really matter.  The industry didn’t really matter.  They were just context for how I’d go about doing what matters most – aligning with my Purpose.

Secondly, once I stopped trying to find “the right job”, the perfect job appeared.  Instead of searching, I started exploring. I was introduced to David Rosenblatt, former CEO of DoubleClick.  We had a wonderful conversation, which ended with him graciously suggesting that I reach out to him if opportunities came my way that I wanted his opinion of.

Three days later, I ran across the job of Director of Marketing at AppNexus (yes … marketing … I was exploring!).  I asked David what he thought of the company and if I was a fit for the role.  He said the company was great, but no – I was not a fit for the role.  However, he had already sent them my resume for another role, running the services team.

I dug in to learn more about AppNexus.  Turned out that both my old boss and the CEO from Opsware were angel investors.  Co-creation was underway!  The world and I were creating my future together. Shortly thereafter, I was offered my current position.

Here’s the take away … career development isn’t about setting goals for where we want to be 12, 18, 36 months from now.  Career development is about aligning with our Purpose by continually clarifying our passions, values, and capabilities, and then filling our work life with as much of those as we can.

But how do we connect with our Purpose?  It can sound daunting.  Many of us aren’t totally clear what our passions, values, and capabilities are.  And what does this have to do with org building – the topic of my blog?

Let’s take that on in my next post, part 2 of Career Development from the Inside Out …

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See all postings from Brandon’s “Alchemy of Org Building” blog here.

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Ad-Viewability for Branding Campaigns

Is ad-viewability only for branding campaigns? No, but as it is easier to explain, let’s start with branding campaigns, and keep direct response campaigns for another blog post.

First, what is a branding campaign?

You cannot find a definition on Wikipedia, and most people have a different definition.

In such cases, I like to use the negative definition: a branding campaign is a campaign that does not expect immediate and measurable impact.

For the Online media, branding campaigns are campaigns whose objective is NOT to get clicks or online conversions.

What about an online campaign that aims to drive sales to a brick and mortar shop thanks to a one-day discount? From the advertiser’s point of view, it is a direct response campaign. But as its performance cannot be measured automatically, it can fall into the category of branding campaigns.

Measuring the performance of branding campaigns from clicks or conversions is a mistake

Many studies has proved this point, but let me tell you a real story to exemplify this.

A shampoo maker made a campaign for a new product. The agency told them to add a call for action at the end of the message, so that they could measure the performance of the campaign (by counting clicks).

We did some market research around this campaign. The results were very interesting: people remembered more the prize (win a trip to Bali) than the product!

Real performance indicators for branding campaigns are hard to measure

The goals of branding campaigns are varied:

  • Recall
  • Favorability
  • Offline sales

Unlike clicks and conversions, these goals cannot be measured in real-time for the entire population.

They require samples (panels) who are surveyed or who measure their purchases.

In all cases, only a small percentage of exposed users is measured, and often the results are provided too late: long after the campaign is over.

Other media have successfully worked this way for decades

Links between TV advertising and, say, yogurts consumption, have been analyzed so precisely that manufacturers can forecast production from their advertising budgets.

This is all the more remarkable as the TV measurement also relies on panels. So, even with two limited sets of data (media panel and consumer panel), it is possible to optimize campaigns and predict production.

The Internet media is, at least, measurable

Thanks to the research made by our parents (people who worked in advertising decades ago), the correlations between media and branding key performance indicators are now known.

So, everything we have to do is:

  • Check that the models apply to online advertising
  • Use the (potentially revised) models

One way to measure the Online media similarly to the other media is to use ad-viewability.

Unsurprisingly, a very strong correlation has been proven between ad-viewability (under some duration conditions) and branding performance indicators like recall.

The good news about ad-viewability is that it is exhaustive. So, the models are even more reliable than on the other media.

Let’s take recall for instance. Since 2010, Alenty has worked with a publisher (CanalPlus.fr), and a neuroscience company (MediaMento) on the link between recall and ad-viewability.*

Thanks to this scientific approach, it is proven that recall is maximized when you see the full duration of the message. The following chart shows a simplified version of the results:

recall score uplift

The level of recall depends on the quality of the message itself. But for a given message, the performance of a branding campaign is maximized when the message is fully seen.

A bad message fully viewed will still have no effect.

Impressions that maximize their potential effect are called “efficient impressions.” But today, even good messages are not displayed efficiently to the audience. There is a huge waste of advertising dollars for online branding campaigns.

In another blog post, I may develop the concept of “efficient frequency,” and you will see how much improvement can be made.

Ad-viewability is not a performance indicator per se for branding campaigns.

But it is such a strong proxy that increasing the ad-viewability means increasing the effectiveness of a branding campaign.

Just like how direct response campaigns are monitored and optimized in real-time with clicks and conversions, branding campaigns can be monitored and optimized in real-time with ad-viewability.

* The full study (in French) can be downloaded here

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Life@AppNexus: Caring About Developing vs. Being a Developer

Jack Lenehan is a software engineer based in our AppNexus Portland office. When he’s not busy crafting a seamless UI, he’s bouldering, playing ultimate frisbee, or lost somewhere in the Gorge. This blog post comes in response to a request from Silicon Florist’s Rick Turoczy on Switchboard for engineers to describe the culture at their companies. You can learn more about Jack by visiting him on LinkedIn.

As I entered the start-up world, I quickly learned that “culture” was a euphemism for “stuff.” When someone asked, “what’s your culture like?” they really meant, “What kinds of beer do you stock?” or “Do you guys have ping-pong or cornhole?” or “They buy you Nerf guns, right?” Over time, I became more and more embarrassed about this aspect of my chosen field; compared to the vast majority of working men and women around the world, developers have it so good, in so many ways, that bragging about how much time you spend shooting each other with foam darts seemed like the height of arrogance.

That’s not to say that I was immune to the allure of free booze and oversized versions of my childhood toys. Even as my misgivings about start-up “culture” grew, I came to expect those perks whenever I considered a position at a new company. “If my peers have it, why shouldn’t I? It’s only fair.” It was so easy to evaluate companies on what trinkets they could give me rather than what I would actually accomplish. And while I’m obviously not blameless for that, neither were they: when the face you present the world is “keg’s right next to the Xbox!” that’s the scale they’ll judge you on.

When I first interviewed at AppNexus, the difference in tone was hard to pin down at first. There were the usual mentions of beer, family lunch, team laser tag outings, and weekly gaming nights (and I’ve enjoyed all of those in my year-and-a-half here). But the main thing people wanted to talk about was the project that would make their customers’ lives easier, or the old, crusty parts of the codebase they were working to clean up, or a new design pattern that someone had convinced the whole team to adopt. I’ve come to realize that this is no accident; we tend to attract, hire, and retain developers who care more about actually developing than the trappings of “being a developer.” Almost everyone I’ve met here has three values in common:

1. Pride in our craft and serving our customers > hype, recognition, and TechCrunch

Let’s face it: AppNexus exists in a fairly non-sexy part of the startup ecosystem. We’re B2B, not consumer-facing, which means that working here won’t make you a hit at cocktail parties. Your hip artist friend probably hasn’t heard of us. You won’t find TechCrunch columnists breathlessly describing us as the Uber of anything. And it gets worse: we’re an advertising technology company. Advertising! That’s literally the worst thing ever, right? Well… sometimes. We think we can make it better. But more important, thousands of other companies need advertising in order to succeed, in one way or another. Whether it’s a newspaper that’s trying to stay alive via digital ad revenue, or a new coffee shop that’s trying to spread the word, or a marketing firm that knows the rock–climbing community really well, we provide tools that enable people to do their jobs better and help their companies thrive.

We work hard, we ship frequently, we talk to our customers constantly. We build things that people need, and we build them well. To me, that’s way more invigorating than being the Uber of cupcakes or the Airbnb of dog-sitting.

2. Learning and teaching, without ego

I’m one of the more junior developers on my team. What I have yet to learn about JavaScript and application development could literally fill a book. By contrast, many of my coworkers have been doing this for years; they have a grasp on this stuff that, for now, I can only aspire to. At another company, that disparity would be a source of frustration for them and embarrassment for me, but I’ve yet to ask one question that was met with anything but enthusiasm and thoughtfulness.

3. Flexibility and healthy restlessness

We’re a big company (and growing – see below!), but we’ve managed to avoid the bureaucracy and siloing that plagues so many tech firms once they hit a certain size. That means that working on a different part of the codebase, tackling new business problems, and meeting and working with new people is easy and even encouraged. I’m a perfect example: I worked on a team focused on direct ad-buy deals for a year, and when I felt like I was ready for a new challenge, I switched to a team dedicated to helping publishers get the most money out of their inventory. Controlling your own destiny within a large, successful company is a wonderful feeling.

Our culture isn’t for everyone, but if you value the same things we do, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better place to work. And here comes the shameless recruiting plug: we’re hiring like crazy, across all kinds of positions and experience levels! Visit http://careers.appnexus.com/open-positions/ and take your pick.

Jack Lenehan

UI Software Engineer, Portland

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What can context do for traders?

Visual Success

Introducing Visual Success Story

Have you ever walked in on someone telling a joke and only heard the punchline? Without context, important content can become meaningless. At AppNexus, we share a sense for the importance of context, and it’s a constant goal of ours to provide context for Console users. That’s why we’ve built Visual Success, a tool to help traders manage their line items, better.

A trader starts their day with a laundry list of line items that need monitoring. It’s rarely a short list, and it’s not where a trader wants to get bogged down. Is your CPA hitting goal? How’s your pacing? How about your margin? Seeing the raw numbers is a start, but in order to move quickly through the list, traders need a way see those numbers in the context of both history and their advertiser’s goals. Only then can they know which line items need the most attention.

Visual Success helps traders quickly visualize delivery, performance, and margin throughout a line item’s flight to give them the context they need. From that visual narrative, traders can quickly assess line item health and infer what to do next.

Knowing how to fix a line item can be tricky. However, seeing key metrics like delivery, performance, and margin evolve over time helps traders know when and how to intervene.

For example, Visual Success makes it easier to know if the changes you made yesterday brought you closer to your goal today. Take the case of under-delivery. One way to help a campaign deliver more impressions might be to raise the bid. Traders who do so, however, run the risk of simply paying more for the same impressions they were already winning. With Visual Success, it’s easy to see if an increased bid yesterday is leading to more delivery today or just a lower margin.

Armed with additional context, traders will be able to identify and invest in the biggest opportunities for improvement and ultimately manage the overall campaign to greater success.

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