Publishers and Programmatic — Nine Publishers Answer Six Key Questions About Embracing Automation — The Jay Sears Interviews   Leave a comment

This article was originally published in Jack Myers’ MediaBizBloggers.

Ad holding companies are slashing the number of publisher vendors they contract with annually by up to 90% from an average of 3,000 today to a goal of 300, according to anecdotal reports. Ad holding companies are looking to leverage programmatic and advertising automation across all media buying, not just the unsold or performance market. If it can be automated, it will be automated. Ad holding companies are expecting programmatic and automated delivery to be part of every upfront discussion—and that discussion will be about leveraging automation to access unique opportunities around both media and first party publisher data.

For sellers, it will be a tale of two cities. Successful sellers will know how to identify, package and sell unique opportunities around their media and first party data via the automated channel. The automation is simply a means to an end — a required tool to allow you to successfully package and sell.

How do sellers wind up on the top of the heap versus struggling in a bloated, growing sea of irrelevance? If you are a publisher or chief revenue officer, can you answer these six questions?



(VIDEO: We presented the topics covered in this article during a presentation at the Festival of Media Global in Rome, Italy on April 7, 2014)

1. Unique media + unique data. Do your conversations with buyers include leveraging not just unique media assets but unique data assets as well? Have you connected your DMP to your order automation and auction platform?

At The Financial Times, Commercial Director,Global Advertising and Insight Jon Slade reports: “We are happy to surface our first party data… why wouldn’t we add value by doing that? We’ve said that from day one. Every impression on has up to two dozen targetable data points against it, so our task is to bring that data together and create smart packages for our customers that help them reach the perfect audience target.” For Matěj Novák of the Czech Publisher Exchange , a cooperative of 5 leading Czech online publishers who joined to sell programmatically to better face the competition of global players like Google and Facebook, the implementation of first party data strategies is a key priority in 2014. First party data “is very important for the development of programmatic trading as a data market is virtually nonexistent in the Czech Republic,” says Novák.

2. Pricing segmentation across channels. Do you have an offer and pricing segmentation strategy to offer your best, most important buyers access across “direct and indirect” channels? Don’t you already use this methodology in direct sold business to extend the impact of a custom program or reach a blended cost basis? The controls exist today to claw back “indirect” and make this part of the discussion with your best customers. Manage the channels; don’t let the channels manage you.

At USA TODAY Sports Media Group, Chris Pirrone, General Manager, Sports Digital Properties, reports they are “fully engaged with programmatic across all channels [direct, private and open marketplaces] and see it as a necessary source to drive demand for our large set of display, mobile and pre-roll inventory.” Over at Telegraaf Media Groep in the Netherlands , Head of Revenue Development Martin van der Meij says, “Our salespeople are compensated on every dollar sold — manual, direct order automation and auction. Salespeople have a responsibility at an advertiser level. This means we don’t care how they spend their money. As long as they spend budgets with us.”

3. Direct order automation. Have you built out your direct order automated channel? If a media planer or buyer can look on your company’s web site or call a sales rep and see a full media kit, a full editorial calendar and a full rate card, can they do this via your direct order automation channel? Have you adequately represented your unique media and unique data assets? Do you and your reps know selling and negotiation skills are needed more than ever to leverage automation? Do you know you can maintain full pricing and channel control?

“Workflow efficiency and the opportunity to blend brand publisher data pools into the buy and layer across inventory are the obvious reasons for us,” says Slade at the Financial Times on direct order automation. For Rob Brett, Vice President of Programmatic Sales at Viacom Media Networks , “Allowing clients and agencies access via automated channels is critical for the digital business, the scale and speed will demand it.”

And at Tribune Digital, Lori Tavoularis, Managing Director, Revenue Partnerships reports order automation and its adoption are evolving and already include premium placements such as home page, IAB Rising Stars and rich media ad units. “At one point we did not think we would allow Rising Star or Rich Media via programmatic and now we are,” says Tavoularis.

4. Use transparency to your advantage. Want you know what buyers really think? Go naked on your terms. Every day you put your company’s brand and your own sales team’s best foot forward. You segment and manage your channels. Why don’t you do the same thing via your automated channel? Manage it. Do you know how your best buyers behave in the overall market? Could you leverage these insights to deepen your mutual commitments? Do you want to know other buyers who might be showing an affinity to your media property?

Martin van der Meij at Telegraaf Media Groep says, “Most publishers focus too much on technology or on the difference between auction based and deal IDs. The conversation the CRO should be having is, ‘How can I maximize my revenue?’ That’s much simpler. We still think that the airline industry is the best example. You have a certain amount of goods to sell (advertising space/seats) and you want to maximize the revenue per day/flight. This means price differentiation is crucial.” Brett at Viacom Media Networks reports using its DMP to deliver insights around content consumption for brands. “We believe that the environment, the context for clients messaging remains the overwhelming driver for key brand performance,” says Brett.

5. Your sales compensation plan. Is your sales group incentivized or dis-incentivized to leverage automation? The automation train has left the proverbial station. Advertisers are deploying budgets via automated buying. They are now looking for unique media assets (home pages, IAB Rising Stars, rich media capabilities) and unique data assets (the insights only you have about your customers). Make sure your automated and programmatic capabilities are fully integrated into your revenue organization.

Brian Quinn, Chief Revenue Officer at Triad Retail Media , says, “Invest in a dedicated, tech-savvy programmatic sales team that is integrated with your existing display teams. Implement “everyone gets paid” comp plans to reduce internal friction/turf issues.” At the Financial Times, Jon Slade says, “Our salespeople are compensated on every dollar sold via private marketplace, fundamentally because it still needs a sales job done if it’s going to be done properly.” And Swedish publisher Expressen, part of the Bonnier Group, is just implementing its programmatic strategy. They “are looking into a programmatic sales commission model,” reports Dilem Guler, Head of Business Digital Web at Expressen.

6. Manage a unified marketplace. Do you view automation as simply another way for you to sell and to manage your buyer relationships? Are you comfortable you have the right systems in place to manage your advertisers safely? Or do you view automation as a threat to your business? Stop thinking about “direct and indirect” and start thinking about a holistic view—how can you use a unified marketplace and unified approach to create the highest level of buyer competition for your business.

At La Place Media in France , a premium media universal exchange with supply from 24 major premium sales houses and more than 150 sites, Managing Director Fabien Magalon reports programmatic premium an holistic yield is one of the three biggest initiatives for 2014. “Our top 25% demand is now highly competitive with the bottom 25% of our premium publishers sales, consequently we are now willing to more intelligently allocate impressions between the direct channel and the indirect channel,” says Magalon. A final bit of advice for chief revenue officers? Slade at the Financial Times says, “It’s old school, but it works: Talk to the agencies. Tell them why you’re worth dealing with, what makes you special, what value you are bringing to the party and how you’re interested to experiment in this brave new world. (It’s not so new now!) Don’t just sit on the edge of the party over-thinking it — participate and help create the rules of engagement.”

Programmatic and advertising automation is the new tool set. But the skills to be successful as a publisher today have not changed. Embrace automation to do what you already know how to do — identify your unique assets, segment your buyers, put your best foot forward, motivate your team and sell.

It’s a brave new world. The good news is you are already equipped to tackle it. See you out in the hustings.

Posted June 7, 2014 by jaysears in Advertising Automaion, Rubicon Project

Six Advertising Automation Trends for Buyers and Sellers   1 comment

This article was originally published in Jack Myers’ MediaBizBloggers


(PHOTO: Left to right: Jay Sears, SVP, Rubicon Project with global trading desk leaders Michael Brunick SVP, Programmatic, Magna Global; Paul Dolan SVP, Global Business Development, Xaxis; Josh Jacobs, President, Accuen; Adam Kasper, Chief Media Officer, Havas Media North America and Kurt Unkel, President, VivaKi during Advertising Week 2014.)

In the wake of our session with the leading global agency trading desks held in front of a sell-out crowd during Advertising Week in New York City, it is worth stepping back and looking at the six major take-aways assembled from the five major trading desks— Accuen, Affiperf, Magna Global, VivaKi AOD and Xaxis. If you are a buyer or seller, it’s worth asking yourself how each of these inescapable trends can benefit your company in 2014:

1. Automation Has Two Main Parts.

Automation has two parts—the first is programmatic and the second is workflow. Know the difference.

Programmatic is the ability to break a buy down to the impression level for decisioning and/or the application of advertiser or publisher data. This is commonly associated with real time bidding. Programmatic is intended to drive the effectiveness of advertising, so buyers and sellers see a better return on investment.

Workflow is the replacement of manual processes (often phone, fax and email) with a more unified process often in an easy-to-use user interface. This can often involve the connection of currently disjointed or unconnected systems. Workflow is intended to drive the efficiency of advertising, so human capital can be deployed to higher impact activities.

Some companies present solutions that focus only on programmatic or only on workflow. Others deliver solutions that encompass both. Make sure you know the difference.

2. Trading Desks Compete for Budget.

Know where trading desks complete for budget today and how this is expected to change over time.

Today, trading desks are competing for budget allocations against ad networks, in order to either pass savings onto their clients and/or capture some of the profit margin for their own holding companies.

As trading desks push beyond performance and become more enmeshed in the planning function of their operating agencies, expect them to compete for share with larger portals and to bring automation to site buying activities. This is already beginning to happen.

3. Ad Holding Companies Are Going on a Diet Plan.

Holding companies are working on slimming down the aggregate number of publishers they contract with over the course of a typical year—from two or three thousand to two or three hundred.

The trading desk is becoming Jenny Craig—the weight loss coach for media buyers inside the operating agencies gorging themselves on 10 or 20 ad networks on a single plan, and on small value paper IOs being sprayed around like candy shooting out of piñata at a small child’s birthday party.

One of the must haves for a publisher to stay on the list of winners?—the ability to deliver all inventory via direct order automation (programmatic plus buyer and seller workflow). Buyers are looking for this to include IAB Rising Stars units, rich media units and unique data assets, as well as, standard IAB units.

4. Media Planning and Buying is Being Organized in New Ways.

While it varies for each holding company, there are new planning and buying structures being adopted from the “hub & spoke” model where planning happens at the operating agency and the media buying happens at the trading desk to the “embed” model, where the folks handing the automated buying sit alongside the planners inside the agency. Know which organizational model is being adopted by your agency so you can select the best partner.

5. Publisher CROs Need to Think Differently.

A dollar is a dollar is a dollar.

The publisher CRO needs to be compensating their sellers for every dollar—regardless of channel. Make smart policy decisions about direct and indirect channels and then compensate sellers on all revenue. A bifurcated strategy where direct order automation and auction capabilities are considered non-core will only frustrate buyers, and a seller’s own staff. Automation can bring tremendous insight that will enhance both direct and indirect sales.

6. Upfronts Are Being Transformed by Automation .

If they are not already, watch for your upfronts next year to include programmatic as an expected capability for direct orders. Buyers are looking for both programmatic and workflow against various content and data assets featured in your media kit and editorial calendar, including IAB Rising Stars units, rich media units, as well as, standard IAB units.

Automation is transforming the buying and selling of advertising. Ad holding companies, operating agencies, agency trading desk and leading publishers are all being impacted by the march to automation. Programmatic solutions bring greater effectiveness to advertising and greater value creation to be shared between buyer and seller. Workflow solutions bring greater efficiency and allow people to avoid manual redundant tasks and spend time on work that is more fun and valuable. Embrace this undeniable march towards automation so it contributes to the success of both you and your company.

A Look Ahead – Speech at IAB Ad Technology Marketplace Conference   1 comment

[if you are looking for the list of #AdTechSuccess words, scroll down or go here]

The following was delivered as a speech at the IAB Advertising Technology Marketplace on Monday, July 15, 2013.

slide #1

Hello Ad Technology!

This morning we are going to talk about “A Look Ahead”. This is going to be an interactive session, so be sure to tell us what you think.

Before we start, I’d like to ask each of you to go onto your Twitter account. I may be the first speaker who actually wants you to look at your phone.

Now, we all know we are in the midst of the consolidation of the ad technology ecosystem. Using your Twitter account and #AdTechSuccess please tweet three words that describe the characteristics of those ad technology companies that will survive as successful and flourishing enterprises. Not company names. I don’t want company names.

Hash tag #AdTechSuccess and three words only that describe the characteristics of those ad technology companies that will survive as successful and flourishing enterprises. Be sure and include #AdTechSuccess so we can find and aggregate your contributions.

slide #2

Innovation. You are all innovators.
And market innovation most typically comes from the bottom of the market and works itself “up the stack” or up the value chain.

Look at history:

The Nasdaq stock market. It was first used to trade penny stocks and now trades the finest listed companies in the world.

Sabre systems. It was first used for American Airlines to trade unsold seats on their airline and now trades all inventory from airline and hotel brands.

eBay. It was first used as a virtual yard sale to sell mundane items such as Pez dispensers. Even to sell used Pez dispensers. Gross…

Today, eBay motors sells a new car every minute.

Now these are examples of innovation we need to embrace.

From penny stocks for a flash in the pan Canadian gold mining company to shares of Microsoft and Google…

From the airline seat in the back row, middle seat to an ocean view room at the Four Seasons…

From a used Pez dispenser to a shiny new car.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’d rather be an owner of Microsoft and Google stock and be driving to the Four Seasons in my shiny new car…versus opening my mail and finding a used Pez dispenser…

Now, what does this mean for ad technology?

It means we need to “Automate the Rest of It”

We have been busy automating the bottom 20% of the advertising market. Remnant.

We’ve transformed the way advertising is bought and sold. But we have only transformed 20%.
The bottom 20%.
And truth be told is  programmatic – RTB – and auction markets – have many of the ad tech folks in this room speaking with each other—and NOT with the actual buyers and sellers.

Now the mechanics of ad technology—for all the confusion—works pretty well these days. That’s good news.

But, like I said, now we need to automate the rest of it. The $3.3 billion RTB US display auction market is a small fraction of the overall digital market and a comical rounding error of total global advertising spend.

We need to think bigger.

We need to think A LOT bigger.

I asked each of you a minute ago to take out your phones and tweet using hash tag #AdTechSuccess three words to describe the characteristics of those ad technology companies that will survive as successful and flourishing enterprises.

Now, I have another tweeting assignment. Using the hash tag #AdTechFail, tweet three words that describe the characteristics (not names of companies but the characteristics) of those ad tech companies that will perish or otherwise be subsumed.

Hash tag #AdTechFail. Tweet three words that describe the characteristics of those ad tech companies that will perish or otherwise be subsumed.

Interpublic Group and its Mediabrands group are thinking bigger.

Matt Seiler and his team have said publicly they will automate a full 50% of media buying over the next three years. Not 50% of display. Not 50% of digital.

50% of all media buying.

Each ad holding company is having the same discussion. How to bring the benefits of automation not just into their trading desk units but into the broader expanse of their operating agencies.

If our world used to look like this:

slide #3

It now needs to look like this:

slide #4

Notice the prominence of sellers and buyers—of publishers and advertisers.

Ad technology—largely as part of a cloud of arrogance that floats over many companies—has forgotten a very key component:


Many an ad technology executive, usually one at a small, emerging, overcapitalized, unprofitable company with an alpha stage product has taken to Twitter or the trade press and declared the death of sales people, of media planners, of media buyers.

That’s not a great idea…

As we all move out of the auction market and into direct deal automation, into automating the rest of it…:

We need to empower people.
We need to empower sellers.
We need to empower buyers.
We need to push the technology down and pull the buyer and seller closer together.

Notice the prominence of direct deal automation.

Automation in the ad technology business has two primary components:

slide #5

First is programmatic. All of us should be thinking about the deployment of programmatic into direct selling and buying. The best, most premium packages on the best most premium properties. The best, most premium brands looking for deep engagement in the best environments.

It does not sound like how most of us talk today. But these types of words describe our future.

The second component of automation is workflow.

The PEOPLE. The enablement of buyers and sellers.

We are not talking about our platforms and products being used by programmatic specialists that talk ad tech geek speak.

We are speaking about global workforces of the ad holding companies. We are speaking about massive sales organizations of the very top comScore publishers.

If your company is not already down the road in these areas, you are already in the rear view mirror of the market.

This is already happening.

In fact, other markets across the world—including the United Kingdom, France, the Nordics and Australia are ahead of the game and moving fast.

slide #6

The LumaScape chart. Terry Kawaja introduced the LumaScape chart at this conference just a few years ago. Since then it has been downloaded 500,000 times.

Never before has a PPT slide generated so much investment banking fee revenue.

Maybe we can ask Terry to bi-furcate the LumaScape chart. We need a chart of the consolidators and the “consolidate’es”. Of the winners and the ones that will fade away in that rear view mirror.

We need a LUMAstars chart.

I asked Terry what his three words would be to describe the characteristics of those ad technology companies that will survive as successful and flourishing enterprises.

He said:

slide #7

1. Scale
2. Transparency
3. SaaS

I asked Peter Naylor of NBC Universal. Peter also serves on the Board of the IAB and has served as its Chairman. He also serves as the Treasurer of the OPA.

He said:

slide #8

1. Nimble
2. Streamlined
3. Value-adding

I asked Bill Wise of Media Ocean, who always has a way of emphasizing his point.

He said:

slide #9

1. Scale
2. Scale
3. Scale

My three words that describe the characteristics of those ad technology companies that will survive as successful and flourishing enterprises are:

slide #10

1. Scale
2. Platform
3. Open

To keep this conversation going, I have asked twenty different leaders in the ad technology space their views on the words describing Adtech Success and the words describing Adtech failure and I have posted their answers on my blog,

Please look at what each of them have to say and join the conversation.

Take Terry’s three characteristics.
Take the three characteristics as described by me, Bill Wise or Peter Naylor. Or go online and see what others including Jonathan Bellack of Google, Penry Price of M6D, Steve Katelman of Omnicom Media group, Pete Stein of Razorfish and Mitch Weinstein of Universal McCann have to say.

Take the characteristics you believe embody the companies that remain as successful and flourishing enterprises.

What are you doing to make sure you and your company decorates the new PPT slide of the winners in our ecosystem?

And there has to be the other list, of the companies that fade into the rear view mirror. I’ve posted a list of attributes that various ad tech leaders believe describe those companies too.

Now what should we call that PPT slide? Maybe…

slide #11

The M.A.D. slide.

Merged, acquired or dead.

Maybe… The F.A.B. slide.

Features and buttons.

Maybe… The D.O.P.S. slide

Death of point solutions.

Or maybe just:

slide #12


There is a massive opportunity in front of our industry and in front of each one of us.

slide #13

Let’s go get it.


Posted July 15, 2013 by jaysears in Ad Technology

Tagged with

#AdTechSuccess : 3 Words   Leave a comment

[Please see reference to this project in my “A Look Ahead” talk at the IAB Advertising Technology Marketplace conference on Monday, July 15, 2013]

In July 2013, leading up to the IAB Advertising Technology Marketplace conference, I asked the following ad tech execs two questions:

#AdTechSuccess What three words describe the characteristics of the those companies that will survive as successful and flourishing enterprises?

#AdTechFail What three words describe the characteristics of those companies that will perish or otherwise be subsumed?

Download this PDF to see their words each of these folks use to characterize #AdTechSuccess and #AdTechFail.

The hash tag for the IAB Advertising Technology Marketplace is #IABATM.

Please add your own words in the comment section or by using hash tag #AdTechSuccess and #AdTechFail and Twitter.

Ross    Sandler    Analyst, Global Internet & Digital Media Research    Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. @DeutscheBank
John    Battelle    Chair, Founder    Federated Media Publishing @FMP    johnbattelle
Jonathan     Bellack    Director, Product Management    Google @doubleclick    jbellack
Brian    Pitz    Analyst, Internet and Interactive Entertainment    Jeffries & Company, Inc. @JefferiesEvents    BrianPitz
Terence    Kawaja    Founder & CEO    LUMA Partners LLC @LUMA_partners    tkawaja
Penry    Price    President     M6D @m6d_inc    PenryPrice
Michael    Brunick    SVP, Programmatic    MAGNA Global    mrbrunick
Bill    Wise    CEO    MediaOcean @Media_ocean    billwise
Peter    Naylor    EVP Advertising Sales    NBC Universal @NBCUniversaI    prnaylor
Steve    Katelman    EVP Global Strageic Partnerships    Omnicom Media Group    katelman
Brian    Wieser    Senior Rsearch Analyst    Pivotal Research Group    brianwieser
Pete    Stein    President, East    Razorfish @razorfish    pstein211
Jay    Sears    GM, REVV Buyer    Rubicon Project @rubiconproject     jaysears
Dave    Morgan    Founder / CEO    Simulmedia @Simulmedia    davemorgannyc
Jeff    Green    CEO    The Trade Desk @TheTradeDeskInc    jefftgreen
Philip    Smolin    SVP Market Solutions    Turn @TurnPlatform    philipsmolin
Mitchell    Weinstein    SVP Director of Ad Operations    Universal McCann    mitchellw @McCann_WW
Bill    Todd    President    ValueClick Media @ValueClickMedia
Kurt    Unkel    President    VivaKi @VivaKi     KurtUnkel
Brian     Lesser    CEO    Xaxis @Xaxistweets    blesser

Posted July 15, 2013 by jaysears in Ad Technology

How the Real-Time Ad Market Grows From $2 Billion to $9 Billion: ‘Programmatic Guaranteed’ Will Mean RTB Gets Upfront Ad Budgets   1 comment

This article was originally published in AdAge on January 3, 2013.

What is programmatic guaranteed? And what makes the market so ripe for it?

In the rest of the ad business, when you allocate your media budget, you expect this budget to be spent. This has not been the case with real-time bidding — the fastest growing segment of digital media. Until now.

Real-time trading (or real-time bidding, or RTB) has always been about the “spot” market — the non-guaranteed. It’s the inventory the sellers can’t sell. Chief revenue officers at top comScore publishers and media heads at leading agencies are amused, and often confused, by the spot market’s complexity. They know that the real money is in guaranteed budgets.

Programmatic guaranteed (also known as “futures” or “programmatic premium”) combines real-time trading and automation with guaranteed, 100% book-to-run budget capability. It’s the ad-tech world and the “real” world, together at last.

Advertisers submit electronic RFPs (request for proposals) to publishers, with rich, structured meta data about audience, budget and desired outcomes. Publishers offer packaged inventory to a marketplace. The media kit and editorial calendar, with their seasonal and feature-driven calendars, are now electronic and searchable. Super premium, unsold premium and other guaranteed and private rights are presented, discovered, negotiated, sold and transacted in the digital-ad equivalent of the iTunes store.

Audiences aggregated across publishers — or across a class of publishers (think about various indexes in the financial market that connote quality or value, such as the S&P 500) are offered in the same marketplace, according to cycles followed by the media planner and buyer. Advertisers can RFP audience aggregators, who package an audience across a designated publisher class. All this — on your iPad — at lunch.

Here is why this is happening now:

It’s the budget, stupid. Programmatic guaranteed — a market that may soon bring in $9.1 billion a year — has four components. Each has its own dynamics and stakeholders: the mid-tier and premium direct sales of most publishers ($2.65 billion), the mid-tier and premium direct sales of the top five publishers ($2.65 billion), the ad-network business excluding RTB ($1.8 billion), and the existing RTB market ($2 billion).

The ad-tech industry has already laid the pipes. Unlike the early days of online advertising (AOL’s walled garden) or search (Google’s way, or the highway), real-time trading is an open framework, with enough agreement around standards that companies can participate without too great an investment. Support for this openness has come from the leadership of the Internet Advertising Bureau and its various initiatives, including its Quality Assurance Guidelines, OpenRTB and its newly formed Advertising Technology Advisory Board and Council.

A bigger pot of ad dollars await. The current RTB market is $2 billion. Ad networks, agency trading desks and demand-side platforms (DSPs) are all asking themselves the same thing: How do we grow 50 percent, 75 percent or 100 percent? Dipping into a $9.1 billion pot is a lot more attractive than mud wrestling for the same $2 billion.

At the same time, agencies and marketers continue to struggle with reducing the operational costs associated with digital (20% to 30% of a media budget is spent on overhead, or execution costs) and they know that until they reduce that percentage, digital spend will only creep beyond its current 10% share.

DSPs and ad networks have long pushed for “better” inventory — higher quality content and demographics. On the flip side, supply-side platforms (SSPs) are always pushing for bigger, better cost per thousand and overall budgets to support the delivery of that “bigger, better” inventory to automation.

As soon as we can sort all this out, the ad technology can be subjugated, so that it seamlessly supports buyers and sellers working more closely together. The only debate is how much budget will move to programmatic guaranteed, and how fast.

Posted January 3, 2013 by jaysears in Rubicon Project

Why the Rubicon Project Will Win   Leave a comment

As 2013 gets underway, I wanted to share a window into the Rubicon Project and what will continue to allow our team to win. The email below was sent by Frank (our CEO) over the holidays. The email is an embodiment of our cultural values. Wouldn’t you want to work for a company like this?

As for me, I’ve taken my $2,013 (look in Frank’s email) and donated it to the Student Conservation Association. By creating service projects for high school and college students in national parks, cultural landmarks and other green spaces, the SCA teaches young people important life skills while building the next generation of conservation leaders. The SCA gave me the privilege of working in three of our national parks. #payitforward

Best wishes for a fantastic 2013, Jay

Here is Frank’s email prefaced by our cultural values:


  1. Innovation:  We invest our thinking and resources into change that will propel the industry and company forward.
  2. Excellence:  We do things right, not always first.  If we can’t do it best, we won’t do it.
  3. Good People:  Pride drives us to win, respect and humility help us learn, and having fun celebrating our wins (big and small) keeps us energized.
  4. Competitive: We are driven to win and are highly competitive; externally not internally.
  5. Transparency: Knowledge is powerful.  Transparency keeps us honest.  We believe in the highest level of transparency possible with our team, investors, customers and partners.
  6. Active Communication: Communication makes or breaks relationships.  We will devote time and effort in making communication a priority.
  7. Accountability:  Personal accountability is the fuel that powers our overall system of accountability.
  8. Speed: We go fast but don’t hurry.
  9. Mistakes are OK: If we aren’t making mistakes, we aren’t moving fast enough.  Making mistakes is the key to innovating and learning.
  10. Test/Measure Everything:  What gets measured, gets done.  What gets tested, gets better.
  11. Community: We consider ourselves to be fortunate and believe in paying it forward to those in need.

From: Addante, Frank
Sent: Sunday, December 23, 2012 4:58 PM
To: everyone
Subject: Profit! = Bonus, Donation, Gift – Happy Holidays!
Importance: High

(warning, this is the longest email I have ever written.  thank you in advance for reading this on your holiday…)

Dear Rubicon Project Team, 


I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to write this note.  I’m in Chicago with my family and today is the first day in a long time I’ve had to slow down, take a deep breath, reflect on the year and truly soak in a full appreciation for all that we accomplished together as a team.

I’m not going to go into detail on every one of our accomplishments in this email.  We’re a bit spoiled by our own successes, I go on to Yammer and it seems that every day we have multiple things to celebrate.  It’s a challenge in itself to keep up with all of the good news that is generated by all of your dedication and hard work.

Having said that, you know my philosophy for Rubicon success:

Great People innovate Great Products and great products attract Great Customers

It’s clear that we’ve made tremendous advancements in each of those categories.  There is no question that we have the BEST team, the BEST products and it’s proven by our customer roster and financial success.

2012 was a big, big year for us.  We accomplished something that no other independent company has, in our industry, at scale.  WE ARE PROFITABLE!  Let that soak in…  WE ARE PROFITABLE!  Not only have we achieved this important milestone, but we have done it with:

– massive revenue scale

– a pure-play tech, transparent business model

– low-margin fees

– continually making massive investments into our team, product and acquisitions

Profitability alone is a huge differentiator in our market.  That combined with the four points above make us elite.  Each of you should be very proud of this incredible accomplishment, but you should be admired for the way we did. We have always remained committed to doing the right kind of business in the right way.  It has taken a lot of discipline – and I’m so proud that we have also done it with an obsession for our long-term goals and a strong will to never cut corners.  I am filled with pride as I write this.

When our family picked up Allison and I up at the airport, they asked how I was doing and I told them that I couldn’t be happier.  I also told them that I needed to spend some time alone to write a note to my team to tell them how proud I was of them and thank them for making me the luckiest CEO in the world.

Through the years (and from some very direct people) I’ve learned that I have extremely high expectations, a low tolerance for inefficiency and very little patience.  I am almost never satisfied and always believe I (and by association) “we” can do better.  It’s rare that I am truly impressed and almost never satisfied.  I have to tell you, I am really, really impressed by what you have accomplished in 2012 and in the 5+ years since we have started the company.

This is truly a special company and it’s powered by a special team.

One of the reasons that I was excited to write this note is because of what being profitable enables us to do.  When I’m interviewing someone to join our team, the most important question that I ask them is “What does it mean to you personally if this company is successful?”  The responses usually range from pride in building something to money to career growth to learning…  Here’s my personal answer…

I have been very lucky to have built some very successful companies at a young age.  Many have told me that it’s been due to my own hard work and perseverance.  I think that’s part of it, but part of it is luck.  There are a lot of people in this world that work hard that haven’t had the same outcomes.  So, for me, i wanted to take all of that success and luck and pay it forward.  I wasn’t looking to start another “corporation” before I started Rubicon.  I was planning on taking all that I’ve learned in building great teams, products and companies and use those learnings to go build a non-profit charitable organization.  I hadn’t decided what that was, yet – but I knew I wanted to do something good for the world.  When I decided to start the Rubicon Project with Craig, Duc and Julie, I told them and our first investors that the following things were important to me:

1.  I needed to incorporate community and philanthropy into the company fabric

2.  I wanted to always put team first and build a culture that people admire

3.  I only want to build a business I am proud of – do it the “right” way, never cut any corners and always follow my gut instincts

We have been really good at all of these sometimes, sometimes we have lost focus on them…  But I can say with confidence that we have always been great at least one of them.  In 2013, I want to be great at all three.  It starts now.

I’d like to celebrate our big year and big milestone of profitability in the following ways.

1.  Give back to our team

2.  Give back to our community

3.  Invest in our culture

1.  Giving back to our team:  $2,013 bonus for everyone

– As a big THANK YOU for your hard work, commitment and loyalty – to celebrate our first big year of profitability – we are issuing a $2,013 bonus to everyone

– This couldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for each of your individual contributions and for each department and function of the company performing with near precision throughout the year — managing to plan and to budget in terms of revenue, expense and cash management.

2.  Giving back to our community:  1% of profits to charity

– when we formed the company, we made a commitment to give 1% of our operating profits to charity

– I’m personally very excited about this one because it’s been something I’ve been looking forward to for 5 years and we’re finally able to do it!

– here’s what we’re going to do:

A. I want to recognize and support EVERY ONE of the charities our team supports.  As such, half of our charity pool will be distributed equally to charities that each of you believe in.  (more details to come…)

B. The other half is going to go to a charity that is very very special to me, CASA

I’d like to explain to you why this organization is so important to me and why your contributions to this, through our profit proceeds, mean a lot to me…

CASA is a non-profit organization that serves abused and neglected foster children.  CASAs are volunteers who make a commitment of 2 years of their lives to serving 1 foster child at a time (yes, just one.)  It’s a very special organization – these foster children are dealt a bad deck of cards (physical abuse, sexual abuse, parents who are drug addicts, sometimes they’re babies left on door steps or in dumpsters.)  These children become wards of the court/state and are slung throughout the foster care system.  Basically, their “parents” are a judge who only has time to meet with them (in a court hearing) for only 6 minutes every 6 months, on average.  The children have social workers, lawyers, foster homes and foster parents that are constantly being swapped out and changed – the system is an absolute mess.  It’s so bad that a child passed away this year and the state refused to pay money to properly “dispose of his remains” let alone a proper funeral.  This child’s CASA pulled people together to raise money to give this child a proper funeral.  CASAs are the only consistent adult presence in these children’s lives and handle everything from their health care to education to ensuring they have proper food and housing.

I got to know CASA through my wife, Allison.  Philanthropy is very important to both of us – it’s one of the things that drew us together.  Allison left a very successful career in advertising and media to dedicate her life to philanthropy.  CASA is one of the organizations that she chose to be a full-time volunteer.  I shared with her that I really wanted to do more good for the world and it had been difficult for me with running a high-growth company.  I would often feel guilty if I didn’t dedicate all of my energy and attention to Rubicon.  I would also feel unfulfilled and guilty if I wasn’t giving back to those in need.  Allison and I came to an agreement that she would become a full-time volunteer so I could spend all of my energy on Rubicon.  It’s been a partnership that has not only been fulfilling for me but one that gives me extra motivation to work hard to make Rubicon a great success.

In 2011, CASA suddenly lost 100% of its government funding.  It was a potentially disastrous event.  After serving foster children for 34 years, these children were going to lose the only consistent thing they had going for them.  All of a sudden, CASA was like a fledgling startup all over again.  I joined the board because I saw it as my opportunity to take much of what I’ve learned and apply to a cause that was in real need.  The board stepped in, gave CASA the “seed” money it needed to rebuild.  I’m happy to say that starting from $0, the organization, through the passion of its staff, board and volunteers has not only rebuilt itself, but over that same period of time has also doubled the number of children it serves.  It’s truly an amazing story and I am so humbled to have been a part of it.  I’ve had the fortunate experience of seeing two organizations in 2012 accomplish what most could never have imagined.

When I started Rubicon, I dropped off all of the Boards (including one for a company I started) and advisory positions so that I could focus 100% on Rubicon.  I left space for a cause that I could truly believe in.  Now, 100% of my focus, attention and dedication goes to Rubicon and to CASA. I’m proud to be part of both.

With that said, I am humbled to say that CASA has chosen to honor Allison and I at their first-ever Gala  on May 1, 2013.  This “Evening of Dreams Gala” is an incredibly important event and milestone for CASA.  In part, it celebrates an important year for the cause and its mission to serve the 23,000 foster children in Los Angeles alone.  The event is hosted by Dax Shepherd at the Four Seasons Beverly Hill Wilshire Hotel.

More information here (website still being built):

2012 was an important milestone for the Rubicon Project and an important milestone for CASA.  As such, the other half of our charity pool is going to go to sponsor the CASA Gala.

We’ll be in the company of other recent supporters such as Disney, Mattel, Kaufmann and NBC.  Aside from this being a wonderful thing to be able to do for CASA, it will also help raise our visibility in our community – it’s a great opportunity to show how we’re using our financial strength to support our community.  One of our biggest challenges in 2013 is going to be recruiting A++ talent (almost 100 new team members in the plan) while keeping our cultural fabric strong.  I’m hoping that our show of commitment to CASA at this Gala which will host many business, technology and financial leaders – will help us attract other “good people” to join our team.

Allison and I have been big supporters of CASA, both with our personal time and financially.  We are so passionate about the cause and the dire position the organization has been in, that we dedicated our wedding this year to CASA and asked our guests to make donations to CASA in lieu of gifts.  Rubicon has also been a great supporter through donations of time for various needed skills, opening our office space up for training events, supporting the Glamour Gowns event and donation drives.  I’m excited, through this donation and through the Gala to merge two worlds that are very important and dear to me.

With our donation, we’ll also have two tables, seating 20 people.  I am looking forward to having 20 of you join me for this special event.  I’ll work with our Culture Committee to figure out a fair way to invite 20 (it’s a black tie event, so for those who may be wondering — yes, I will be wearing a suit and tie!)  :)

3.  Investing in our culture:  Team Gift

– Team Gift:  We have a small gift for each of you to highlight one of our most important cultural values:  Communication.  We’re hoping to be able to get them in time to distribute at our first team meeting.  Until then, it’s a surprise!

– Rest and Relaxation:  As you know, we have committed to a mandatory shut down for U.S. operations the weeks of Christmas and 4th of July.  It’s important to me that everyone recharge.  In addition to you all deserving it, we all do our best work when we are less stressed.  This decision did not come lightly, we currently spend over $(xyz) a day to keep the company operating.  So, 5 or 6 additional days is a big financial commitment at our scale.

All in all, I’m happy that we are in the position that we are today.  Being profitable affords us more flexibility to invest in our team, culture and community in addition to innovation and technology…

All of the benefits and donations noted above to invest in our team, culture and community total over $1.5 Million!

A BIG THANK YOU to all of you for making this one of the best holiday seasons ever for me!

I can’t wait for 2013! It’s going to be an incredible year – our most ambitious plan ever to grow our team, culture, products, revenue and market share!  Driven to win.

Happy Holidays to You and Your Families!


P.S. – yes, this is public information – you are more than welcome to share…


the rubicon project

Posted January 1, 2013 by jaysears in Rubicon Project

A Smart Pipe Manifesto   1 comment

Auctions conducted—impression by impression—inside of 125 milliseconds.

Real time bidding (RTB) holds the promise of making our digital plumbing smart—solving major challenges around media, audience and data fragmentation. But in practice, despite all the promises, and despite all the actually capabilities, most of the time we still have a dumb pipe.

But the market is about to bifurcate—to the supply (RTB Exchanges) and demand sources (Ad Networks, DSPs and Agency Trading Desks) that make the leap to what I call “smart pipe” and to those that get left behind with a “dumb pipe” approach.

For all the talk, many implementations of RTB and the ad technology stack today result in the equivalent of running glorified re-targeting ad networks—user targeting across dark pools of inventory—or other situations that are only marginally better.

For all the press releases and sponsored iMedia presentations proclaiming the newest capabilities, the truth is the ad technology stack is super complicated and it takes both good intentions and coordinated work up and down the supply chain—publisher, RTB supply, RTB buyer, ad servers, ad creative producers—to deliver a smart pipe. Way too much exchange traded media gets lost in a sea of iFrames, entering a vast black hole that drives down its value for both the brand (ex.: I care about environment and audience) and the direct response (ex.: I care about ones and zeros—data to optimize) buyer.

Who is culpable in regards to our industry’s dumb pipe syndrome?

There is plenty of blame to hand out:

  1. Publishers need to work with exchanges to provide a clear view into the source of the impression.
  2. Exchanges need to pass this transparency along with data about the page, ad slot and user to its bidders to provide the greatest liquidity and demand for each impression.
  3. RTB Buyers (ad networks, DSPs) must accept and consume this data to create value by offering advanced targeting, optimization and reporting/insights.
  4. Agency Trading Desks and operating agencies need to develop & expand the workforce that can utilize this value; must be able to explain and convey this value to clients and must capture client budget that is about media investment not only cost reduction.
  5. Clients need to demand smart solutions and put their money where their mouth is. Programmatic buying can deliver a full suite of value from direct response to brand—clients need to understand, demand and fund these smart pipe capabilities when working with their suppliers.

Everyone in the supply chain has a job to do to deliver the smart pipe and some companies are further along than others. Anyone in this supply chain can drop in one or two Iframes, or not catch and pass along an important piece of data, and there is diminished value for everyone.

The good news is many in the ad tech stack are stepping up. In addition to specific company-to-company cooperation, initiatives through the IAB Networks & Exchanges committee and OpenRTB will assist in facilitating the smart pipe approach.

I declare 2012 the year of the SMART PIPE!

Posted September 19, 2011 by jaysears in CONTEXTWEB, Google, RTB, SSP

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