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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What does the MRC certification mean?

The Media Rating Council (MRC) is an American independent industry organization whose mission is to ensure valid, reliable and effective audience measurement services. MRC accreditation certifies that a company’s procedures adhere to the MRC’s Minimum Standards for Ratings Research and to applicable measurement guidelines issued by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

The certification process is made in two steps:

  • A pre-audit ensures that the applicant company has developed a certain level of features to indicate there is a good chance of passing the full audit.
  • An independent audit that verifies all the information that the company has provided during the pre-audit.

The precise content of the audit is confidential, but includes a comprehensive review of various dimensions of the business, including:

  •  Client-facing and internal documentation
  • Internal procedures for client onboarding, issue tracking, etc.
  • Compliance with the IAB standards
  • Technical implementation details
  • Live tests and data extractions
  • Platform availability

The MRC delivers a certification and publishes the list of certified technologies on its website. The June 2014 version is available here and updated versions are regularly posted here.

Being accredited by the MRC does not mean that a company perfectly measures all ad-impressions. It means the company has developed a minimum level of features to a certain standard of quality.

The policy of the MRC is to remain neutral. So very little information is provided on their website, and certified companies cannot publicly provide many details of the results of the audit without the MRC’s consent.

So, you must read between the lines of the MRC certification document.

The most interesting line is the “technology approach.” Two main sets of technologies are used by the different ad-viewability vendors: page geometry and browser optimization.

Both have their benefits and limitations, but, unless you are an expert in ad-viewability measurement, you need to following matrix to decode them.

You also need to know that iFrames are HTML pages within pages that block any attempt to reach the top page’s information. They oblige vendors to develop browser-specific technologies to work with iFrames. Between 30% and 50% of ad-impressions are served in an iFrame.

With variations per country, roughly 50% of impressions are served to Chrome and Safari browsers.

So iFrames on Chrome and Safari represent between 15% and 25% of the total inventory.

The following graph shows the maximum success rate that can be expected from vendors, based on the MRC public information and a share of inventory that is a rough estimation made by Alenty in 2013.

This represents the maximum possible success rate; the real success rate is very likely to be below this number. For instance, it may not always be possible to actually detect the banner object that needs to be measured. In this case, the impression must be considered not measurable.

The Alenty technology that AppNexus has acquired in June achieves a real success rate of 98%.

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The White Whale

At a company meeting in late 2008, an employee asked me what my goal was for AppNexus. With a cheeky grin, I said “to be a billion dollar company!” After the meeting, Mike Nolet, my co-founder, said I had missed the point on two levels. First, our real goal was making online advertising better. Second, a billion dollars wasn’t nearly ambitious enough! Given that we only had 18 employees at the time and had just served the first RTB impression ever, I wasn’t sure about the second point, but he was definitely right about the first. I went home and wrote the following:

Our purpose is quite simple: to be the transactional platform for the online advertising industry.

I believe I was reading Moby-Dick at the time, so I titled the document “The White Whale” – the single purpose to which we would point all of our efforts. I knew that Ishmael was lucky to survive the journey, which reflects the daunting task of achieving this mission in such a competitive industry.

Today, I will publicly admit that Mike was right on both counts. We are a billion dollar company, and we do have much greater ambitions: to make a lasting impression on the Internet by making advertising better for content producers, marketers, and consumers. With the capital we’ve raised we have the resources to achieve three major goals:

  1. Eliminate fraud and malware from online advertising;
  2. Make mobile advertising work for marketers, publishers, and consumers; and
  3. Hire and engage the best minds in New York and around the world.

We hear a lot of Silicon Valley talk about billion dollar companies being “unicorns,” but New Yorkers pride themselves on being more pragmatic. I’m much more interested in pursuing our White Whale: making the Internet better by making advertising better.

I still feel daunted by the huge task in front of us. I want to thank everyone who has supported us in our journey as we never could have made it here without the hard work, dedication, and willingness to make greatness happen from our employees, Board, investors, advisors, and our amazing customers who use our platform to power their advertising businesses.

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Codecademy’s Zach Sims on how to build a thriving global community online

Zach Sims, CEO & Co-Founder of Codecademy, spoke to AppNexus CEO & Co-Founder Brian O’Kelley about the global Codecademy community and the importance of learning, teaching, and empowering those around us. This talk was part of the Leaders@AppNexus speaker series. For more information, full access to our video archive, and a calendar of upcoming events, visit appnexus.com/razzledazzle.

Brian O’Kelley: Talk for a moment about this community you’ve built across the 25 million people on the site. How do you connect those people back to Codecademy on a regular basis?

Zach Sims: We want to create a global community of people that have the right kind of ethos in how they think about using the skills they have accrued at the site. What that means is imbuing a vibe of community, of responsibility, of those skills really being transformative and then providing the setting that people need in order to apply them.

We have discussion forums where people can help each other and hundreds of open source projects that have been started by someone who has an idea, and a forum then says “we should work on this together” and people pile on and work on it together.

One of my favorite stories is a woman named Martha, who is eighteen, and learned how to program on Codecademy. She lives in Nairobi and got three of her friends, put them through Codecademy and they started the first developer school for girls in Nairobi called the Nairobi Dev School.

We have seen this happen again and again where someone will take the knowledge they’ve built, become obsessed with the same concept of teaching & learning that we try to imbue everything on Codecademy with and bring it to their own communities. They’ll start teaching, they’ll start TA’ing or helping their fellow students and really trying to empower the people around them. That’s when we feel successful: not only when we have an impact on the person who takes the course on Codecademy but also on the people that those people help.

To watch the full video and see photos from the event, visit our Razzle Dazzle website.  Go to www.codecademy.com to learn more about Codecademy.

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What Is Viewability?

Ad-viewability is an old advertising concept that still applies to new digital media today.

The Internet, as a media, cumulates the strengths and weaknesses of print and television: just like the press, the Internet allows simultaneous consumption of content and advertising. This allows advertising messages to remain displayed for quite a long time while the user is reading textual or watching video content. So it is not surprising to notice that the market uses the word “impressions” to talk about online banners.

But with this strength, comes the constraint that there is no guarantee that the ad is actually viewed. With print, it is difficult to know what pages a magazine or newspaper was actually opened at. On the web, difficulty comes from the size of screens that do not allow the full page to be totally viewed.

As such, for the first time in the advertising industry, a banner can be only partially viewed on the web. For instance, the bottom of the banner may be out of view on the screen of some users.

Using “impressions” for online ads may be misleading; most online ads are not static images, like in print. They are usually animated images, flash animations, or videos. These formats share an important characteristic: their message has a duration.

So, just like on television, the duration of the message and the duration of the exposure to this message matter.

For every media, in every market, some data is necessary to plan, measure and optimize advertising campaigns. TV uses panels and data from set-top boxes while print relies on circulation, surveys, and other metrics.

This is where the Internet shows its biggest strength: technology makes it the most measurable media.

It is possible to measure if an individual ad-impression is actually in view.

In 2012, the US IAB came to a definition that addresses two dimensions: geometrical and chronological.

An impression is viewable when at least 50% of its area is in-view during at least one second.

This definition sets a minimum threshold that both the buy and sell-side agree on. It does not deal with the concept of ad-efficiency.

This definition looks simple at first glance. So why did the Media Rating Council wait until late March 2014 to allow the market to trade on viewable impressions?

Such a definition is actually too simplistic, so many other questions have emerged:

  • What is the area of a banner that can expand?
  • Can the same definition apply when the dimension of the ad is larger than the screen itself?
  • What if the banner object (image of flash) is not loaded? Is it ok if the placement where the ad is supposed to be is in-view?
  • What happens when the banner is contained in an iFrame that blocks information from the page?
  • Are two views of 0.5 seconds equivalent to 1 second?
  • What if the banner is viewable on the computer’s screen, but nobody is actually viewing the screen? What about auto-refresh pages?
  • What if the banner is loaded by a robot on a farm of servers?
  • What if the banner is viewed by someone who is paid to view pages and click on links?

In other words, ad-viewability is a simple concept that solves a big problem, but constantly raises some new questions.

Some questions have already been answered by the IAB:

  • The one second must be consecutive.
  • The banner object must be loaded in the page.
  • Big banners may need to have only 30% of their area in-view.
  • Robots must be excluded from viewable impressions.

At AppNexus, we benefit from the years of experience of the Alenty team. Alenty was the first company to actually measure ad-viewability, back in 2007.

All these questions have been raised years ago. Instead of waiting for the market to answer them, AppNexus will propose answers and solutions with some ideas in mind:

  • Ad-viewability must go further than defining a potential exposure. All possible efforts must be made to ensure that a human is actually exposed to the ad.
  • All new formats and devices must be measured in a consistent way.

The goal of these general rules is to ensure that ad-buyers will get the best quality of inventory for their campaigns, and that publishers with quality inventory will get better prices than publishers with poor quality or fraudulent inventory.

With our experience and our forward-thinking ideas, AppNexus will lead the market to evolve to an era where only viewable impressions matter.

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Why I chose AppNexus

In 2007, Alenty was the first company in the world that succeeded in actually measuring whether or not online ads are viewable. I knew from first sight that this was a very important concept for the advertising industry.

Summit_Alenty
(Photo: AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley welcomes Laurent to the team by presenting an AppNexus employee backpack.)

In 2008 and 2009, we found our first clients—agencies and publishers—and reached our break even point.

Very quickly, however, I discovered that ad-viewability was more difficult to sell than I first thought. When 50% of billions of dollars is wasted, it should be a no-brainer. But because of the size of this market, many players were reluctant to embrace such a radical change. I knew that for ad-viewability to ultimately succeed, the market would need to not only measure, but also optimize to it.

In 2010, we started to hear about programmatic media buying. I quickly thought: if people are reluctant to change, machines and algorithms will not have such constraints.

So, we saw ad exchanges as a great opportunity for Alenty. We invested heavily in R&D to make our ad-viewability measurement work for RTB. For instance, we had to finally solve the iframes measurement challenge.

Building our own RTB platform was not an option. But AppNexus’ open APIs gave us the opportunity to enter this market with a level of investment that was sustainable for a small, unfunded company like Alenty.

To my knowledge, Alenty developed the first creative app on AppNexus in early 2012.

We are compatible with the other platforms, of course. But the Alenty app on AppNexus makes our technology so easy to use that we saw our client base on AppNexus grow faster than on the other platforms.

With the ad exchanges, we moved from ad-viewability reporting to optimization. We found that more and more clients were not simply looking at our data but they were actually using it to feed their algorithms.

As it became more operational, ad-viewability started to get its real value.

At the same time, the IAB started to promote viewable impressions. With its MRC accreditation, and a 98% success rate, Alenty clearly became the worldwide leader.

Some challenges remained, though. Fraud became a buzzword, and Alenty’s response to this question has always been the same: bot detection is included into ad-viewability measurement. A viewable impression must actually be viewed by a human.

Another challenge is the link between ad-viewability and direct response performance indicators like conversions. Many studies have proved this link: a non-viewable impression cannot influence Internet users to convert. But using ad-viewability to improve performance requires a deeper integration.

In 2012, I had a short but productive 30 second conversation with Brian O’Kelly, CEO of AppNexus. We both immediately understood the synergies between our two companies.

With a growing base of common clients and deeper integration of our tools in AppNexus’ platform, it became obvious that we needed to go one step further.

Finally, meetings with many people from AppNexus convinced us that there was a perfect fit: our technologies and people are 100% compatible. Even though we speak French and AppNexians speak English, we speak the same language!

A lot of great projects are ahead of us. We at Alenty are very proud and excited to join the AppNexus team. Our common ambition is to continue to revolutionize the advertising market.

And believe me, we will!

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