The State of Our Unified Platform Is Strong

I’ve worked in digital media long enough to recognize when I’m face to face with the opportunity of a lifetime. In this case I found myself face to face with my friend and former boss, Jon Hsu, who was now playing a leading role at AppNexus. AppNexus was making initial overtures to WPP about acquiring Open AdStream and Jon’s role that day was to give me a glimpse into what a deal might look like, as well as provide “over the wall” insight into how OAS would fit into the AppNexus platform if a deal was ever struck.

During our meeting, one moment stands out. Jon suddenly turned aside from his whiteboard and gave me a look I might describe as someone who’d just realized a missing string in M-Theory. He said with quiet certainty: “Ellen, you realize everything we’ve ever wanted to do… we now actually have the opportunity to make happen.”

I fully realized how integrating OAS into AppNexus was a bold move. It had been a slow build to the top but our work clearly demonstrated world-class results: Open AdStream was the second-largest publisher ad server in the world attracting blue-chip clients like Comcast, Dell, and ToysRUs. Meanwhile, at the tender age of seven, the AppNexus platform was generating nearly $2B in media spend on its platform, and already fielded best-in-class RTB technology. With our combined capabilities, we’d be well on our way to achieve AppNexus’ goal of building a complete suite of solutions for all members of the Internet economy. If integrating OAS into AppNexus came about as smoothly as Jon was drawing on his whiteboard, the marriage of technologies would be a game changer for all parties involved; an achievement greater than the sum of our platforms.

The acquisition and consolidation went through just as Jon had whiteboarded – but it’s one thing to whiteboard “crossing the Alps” – and another thing entirely to bring it to completion! I remember the moment I sat down with AppNexus Publisher Product Manager Mike McNeeley. Between conversations of cross-product training, sales scripts, and service levels, a growing set of questions started to weigh on my mind. While OAS ad serving was state of the art, the fact was this: our company had been founded the same year the first online banner ad was created. Having been through all the storms of “starting up,” we’d arrived at a space where we did our jobs well and managed our clients seamlessly and efficiently. Meanwhile, the culture of AppNexus had all the spitfire of a young, ambitious company ready to take on the globe. How would these very different cultures make sure that “greatness” truly “happened?” I remember during those early months how each organization — both OAS and AppNexus — took it upon itself not only to help its counterpart learn new technologies, but also to learn better practices. On our own end, we showed AppNexians the core processes we’d developed over our years in business; core processes that gave us our formidable reputation in the industry for exceptional client service. And in turn, AppNexians galvanized us with their collective level of far-reaching vision, off-the-charts energy, and can-do spirit – no matter what the odds.

But any growing pains I may have felt ceased to matter the moment I heard Tom Shields speak during a Publishers strategy planning session (a speech similar to the one he went on to deliver during AppNexus’s European Summit). Like OAS, AppNexus had recently acquired Shields’ highly successful company, Yieldex. By incorporating Yieldex technology into its stack, AppNexus could now take the multiple terabytes of data coursing through its platform and apply that data to develop better forecasting models for publishers. Put it this way: AppNexus and OAS were already providing publishers with the optimal services they needed to manage their inventory today. But with the consolidation of Yieldex’s Yield Management Analytics capabilities into the AppNexus platform, publishers could now accurately forecast the level of inventory available to sell to tomorrow’s buyers as well – and apply the appropriate price range.

It was a “Eureka” moment I’ll never forget; AppNexus Console, OAS, and YieldEx Analytics… I suddenly glimpsed how when put together they formed a perfect trifecta of integrated technologies. I knew then and there that not only was AppNexus able to go head to head with the tech giants of Silicon Valley, it was capable of winning. After all, we had everything we needed.

John Hsu’s prediction from months before had come true. Today, my own sense is that a year after being “integrated” into AppNexus, our OAS team seems more integral than ever to the overall mission of completing a full-stack platform that bridges buy side and sell side. Furthermore, it’s a pleasure to watch firsthand how publishers can do things on our new unified platform they weren’t able to do only a year ago: They can open up their inventory to programmatic demand within AppNexus. They can sell and pace campaigns based on video completions. Trafficking has been simplified by allowing ad operations to quickly query the platform to answer very detailed questions. And AppNexus’ data centers enable OAS to complete its overnight processing by 30%. In short, we’re faster on our feet than when we started 19 years ago!

While I count myself fortunate in helping to manage our current client roster, I’m excited to recognize that we’re just getting started. From the POV of my own whiteboard, I see greatness ahead.


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AppNexus at Advertising Week XII

Join AppNexus at one of our sessions during Advertising Week XII in New York City:

Tuesday, 9/29: Programmatic Without the BS
Request your pass to attend here

Join Marcus Startzel, CRO, Advertiser Technology Group, as he moderates a discussion on how technology is changing advertising, however, the talk of algorithms and machine learning leaves many wondering what is real and how can they capitalize on it. Join the only programmatic session at Ad Week guaranteed to be 100% BS free and learn how to survive and thrive in 2016. Hosted by ad tech veteran, Marcus Startzel, this session unveils new global market insights from WARC and AppNexus before discussing the high-stakes decisions being made by agencies and advertisers as programmatic goes mainstream.


Wednesday, 9/30: The Future of Programmatic Native
Register here

Join AppNexus President Michael Rubenstein for a panel on the future of programmatic native. It’s clear we have arrived at a turning point for advertising on the modern Internet. A moment where we lay to rest the notion that interruption is the core tactic to produce attention and commit to a future built on respect and quality. With that in mind, Industry leaders come together at the Native Advertising Forum to discuss today’s native transformation and brainstorm tomorrow’s possibilities.


Wednesday, 9/30: Behind The Scenes on the Fight Against Fraud
Request your pass to attend here

Inventory quality in online advertising is one of the largest existential threats to the growth of the industry. Take an inside look at how the world’s leading independent ad tech company eradicated invalid inventory from its platform through aggressive policy enforcement and sophisticated data science measures. AppNexus CEO & Co-founder, Brian O’Kelley, and Chief Data Scientist, Catherine Williams, will give you unfettered access to the techniques used to establish a new industry standard for transparency.


Thursday, 10/1: Automating Premium Programmatic
Register here

Join AppNexus Director of Product Management, John Murray as he demystifies automated guaranteed.


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Out with intermediaries: What axing bad inventory did for our platform

Originally featured on

Last week, you read about AppNexus’ initiative to rid its platform of as much invalid traffic as possible. The undertaking was complex, but through a combination of aggressive policy enforcement and sophisticated data science measures, we did it.

As a mathematician and data scientist, what interests me even more is what we learned along the way. We set out to develop some algorithms to clean our platform of invalid traffic and in the process came to a deeper understanding of the system and improved the whole thing.

Read the full article on

Number in Space series. Design composed of numbers, fractal textures and lights as a metaphor on the subject of computers, mathematics, science and education

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The Ad Blocking Controversy, Explained

This article was originally featured on

Apple’s introduction last week of iOS9, which allows iPhone and iPad users to download ad blockers that operate on Safari, has caused marked controversy within the interconnected worlds of advertising, publishing and ad tech. Since the announcement, we’ve seen dozens of articles foretelling (variously) the end of newspapers, the death of advertising, and an emerging clash of titans between Apple and Google.


Technology background, concept of global business

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Similarities & Differences between Media Buyers and Publishers – Infographic & Survey Results


Today we launched our first comprehensive global trust study, “Reaching Full Potential,” (link to page to view e-book /download pdf) in conjunction with Circle Research, WARC DDMAlliance, IAB Singapore, and IAB Australia with support from multiple IAB bodies across Europe. The report itself offers astonishing insights, many of which highlight the similarities and differences between the buy- and sell-sides in their attitudes towards programmatic trends. The following infographic provides a further look at the data, displaying how buyers and sellers answered the same survey questions. After all, it’s the dynamic between the two that fuels our marketplaces.

Click here to download the full report.





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Get your media planning up to speed with Automated Guaranteed technology

Download the whitepaper today.

Fifty years ago, Gordon Moore, one of the inventors of the integrated circuit (a.k.a. computer “chip”) and co-founder of Intel, observed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled almost every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore hypothesized that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. And it has; Moore’s hypothesis has become Moore’s Law.

In layman’s terms, Moore’s Law means that computers get twice as powerful (at the same cost) every 18 months. Sometimes quite visibly, sometimes less so, Moore’s Law describes the underlying dynamic transforming our daily experience, driving rapid evolution in the way we live, work, communicate and collaborate.

Moore’s Law is virtually repaving Madison Avenue. Examples of technology’s impact on media consumption are myriad and ubiquitous, but Moore’s Law is also hard at work behind the scenes. In less than a decade, an “ad tech” revolution has created a dynamic, liquid, automated and transactional environment for buyers and sellers – a new way of buying digital media that is generally referred to as Real Time Bidding (or “RTB” for short).

RTB uses software and computer processing power to electronically execute trades, the trades being the result of auctions of individual digital ad impressions in real time as the impressions are created. RTB is pretty amazing. It’s a tremendous innovation and a perfect applied example of Moore’s Law. It has been a key catalyst to increasing supply chain efficiency, improving results and better matching demand with supply in the digital media market.

But it’s only one part of a bigger story yet to be written.

For the substantial majority of most digital media budgets, campaigns are planned, purchased and executed in much the same way they were when the first display ad was sold – way back in 1994. Direct buying delivers tremendous client value, but it largely remains an inefficient, time-consuming, error-prone process, desperately in need of technology solution to help buyers leverage their skills to more efficiently deliver this value.

Better understanding this process was the main impetus behind our Twixt Media Buying Survey.

In our Survey, we asked over 500 agency media planners and buyers for feedback and insights about their current direct buying processes. We discovered that digital media planners spend an average of three hours a day shuffling emails, cutting and pasting, uploading various documents to multiple platforms and myriad other tasks that should have been automated out of their way a decade ago. That’s time that could be spent delivering better client outcomes and/or winning new business (although the two are opposite sides of the same coin, of course).

A recent article in Ad Age highlighted some of the same pain points and inefficiencies that our survey revealed, and highlighted the cost implications for agency clients; as a percentage of media cost, direct buys of digital media have 5X more overhead than TV buys – and intermediated buys are even worse!

The solution to this mess is Automated Guaranteed (AG) technology. The advancement of AG will free cycles for media planners and buyers to spend more time with clients, better understanding objectives and defining meaningful metrics for success. It will help augment media planners and buyers’ skills, allowing them more time to think strategically with media partners and adapt to feedback to deliver better outcomes. The bottom line is that AG will help agencies that use it win business from those who don’t.

To learn more about our survey findings and see how Automated Guaranteed technologies like Twixt can help media teams deliver more value for clients, please download our new whitepaper: Automated Guaranteed: Recasting the relationship between digital media teams and technology.


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Header Bidding – Another Nail in the Second-Price Coffin

Originally posted on

With the rise in popularity of header bidding as a mechanism for publishers looking to increase yield, AppNexus’ SVP of publisher strategy, Tom Shields, outlines his thoughts on this potential shift for the industry.

Auction dynamics are not exactly cocktail party conversation (unless you are at an AppNexus Summit), but they are critically important to how economic systems like RTB advertising work. RTB has historically worked on a second-price auctionmodel, explained clearly here. As RTB has matured, however, some of the assumptions behind the model have started to break down, and both buyers and sellers are seeing unexpected results. The rapid rise of header bidding is exacerbating some of these challenges.

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Join AppNexus │ Yieldex for the Sixth Annual Yield Executive Summit


The sixth annual Yield Executive Summit (Y.E.S.) brings together the world’s leading publishers, ad operations professionals, and more for an exclusive day of discussion and debate about today’s most relevant themes in the ever-changing digital advertising landscape. Featuring industry leaders sharing their views on the future of programmatic, video capabilities, and viewability metrics, Y.E.S. also provides an exclusive opportunity to participate in the conversation and network with online advertising’s most forward-thinking minds.

There’s still time to register, join us.



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