There has been a lot of industry chatter about the recent Rubicon Project acquisition of FAN? Was it a technology buy? Does some of this new tech, including MyAds, conflict with Rubicon’s existing offering? Will the FAN ad server, acquired through the deal, now become a core part of Rubicon’s business going forward? Jay Stevens, VP & GM, International at the Rubicon Project, spoke to ExchangeWire last week about some of the key aspects of the deal and what it will mean for Rubicon’s publishers.
Can you give a little more detail about the recent FAN acquisition, and how it impacts Rubicon’s European operation?
JS: Historically, FAN has not had any operations outside the US, so the impact for the EMEA team is minimal. Part of the organisation’s responsibility was optimising MySpace’s domestic remnant inventory, a publisher that we already work with in many markets throughout Europe and LatAm, and in fact, several of the core staff in Rubicon’s London office joined us from MySpace where they had responsibility for this function across 19 European markets.
It seems to me that this deal was more about acquiring technology? Can you explain how this new tech will bolster the current Rubicon offering?
JS: The technology assets were certainly a key component of the acquisition, as were the 130 new employees – the majority of which are in engineering and product, many of whom have worked together since they built GoTo/Overture. FAN’s FimServe, the MySpace ad server built on the back of SDC ad serving technology that FAN acquired a few years ago, as well the MyAds self-service buying platform, and a raft of audience intelligence technologies were also included in the transaction. These technology assets accelerate our vision to deliver an end-to-end display advertising platform; a platform that replaces the obsolete ad server with a complete platform and marketplace to meet the real needs of publishers in today’s complex and competitive marketplace.
How do you respond to Rajeev Goal’s recent comments on news aggregator site, AdOperations Online, that the integration of FAN technology will be both difficult and time consuming to implement? And that this distraction will ultimately result in “lost innovation” for Rubicon publishers?
JS: The Rubicon Project has achieved market leadership and profitability on the strength of the company’s yield optimisation technology. However, our vision of a complete display advertising technology platform for publishers required additional technology resources and assets – resources we’d already started adding on our own, but that this acquisition delivered immediately. Our product and engineering team is now almost 150 strong, providing us with the depth and strength to innovate advertising technology for publishers that is unmatched by any other company.
Obviously deep integrations of technology platforms take time, however, we are not reinventing the wheel. The SDC ad serving technology was built with optimisation at its core, and then further developed into FimServe with massive scale in mind – specifically, more than 3BN impressions per day that MySpace was seeing at its peak. And while I can’t say too much yet, our publishers are already experiencing some of the benefits of the technology integration that’s already started to occur.
Rubicon recently argued that the ad server was dead. Yet now you own a publisher ad server through the FAN deal. Will this be a key part of the Rubicon strategy going forward? Will you be going after the publisher ad server market – and DFP in particular?
JS: Ad serving is a commodity, at best, and one that is irrelevant without the other technologies and tools required to effectively optimise publishers ad revenue, safely. REVV for publishers, our yield optimisation platform, has always served ads; the difference is that the ads we’ve served till now have largely been delivered across unsold or remnant impressions. Offering primary ad serving has always been part of the Rubicon roadmap, however with the underlying philosophy based on providing the highest yield to the publisher, rather than just merely delivering an ad to a URL. The acquisition of FAN will accelerate our developments in this area.
What will happen to MyAds? Surely a self-service offering to advertisers flies in the face of Rubicon’s original goal of generating better yield from remnant ad inventory. Won’t a self-service offering to direct advertisers and agencies irk some of your ad network partners?
JS: Quite the opposite in fact. Many of our publishers have been asking for a self-service platform since we launched the company and many of our ad network partners already buy through a self-service UI, REVV for Demand. One of the critical goals of the platform is to help publishers gain maximum liquidity for their inventory – and MyAds provides an unparalleled opportunity to deliver automated, frictionless display buying and selling to grow publishers’ sales channels easily and significantly. The combination of MyAds with the REVV for publishers™ yield optimisation platform ensures maximum efficiency and revenue – with the benefit of REVV Brand Protection ensuring safety for both publishers and buyers – and precise targeting combined with vast reach (550MM+ unique users) across Rubicon Certified premium inventory for buyers. In addition, MyAds delivers our ad network partners and other demand channels liquidity and revenue, safely, via access to the best inventory and targeting technology available on the Web.
Now that NewsCorp is a minority stakeholder, are we likely to see global agreement between Rubicon and NewsCorp owned web properties?
JS: News Corp companies are remarkably independent and we already work with a number of the companies in their portfolio, including News International, News Digital Australia, and of course MySpace International, so they are not only an investor, but a client much like NBC who led our funding round in 2009.
What will happen to MySpace inventory? Will Rubicon now become the yield optimiser of choice for the social media platform?
JS: As mentioned, we have been optimising MySpace’s international traffic in over 20 markets for more than a year now with tremendous success. As the result of a separate deal (not part of the FAN acquisition), the Rubicon Project will now provide the advertising technology platform for all MySpace inventory, domestic and international, guaranteed and non-guaranteed, and MySpace inventory will become available through the REVV Marketplace.
How difficult will it operationally and culturally to integrate more than a hundred new staff?
JS: That’s actually one of the best aspects of this acquisition. Culturally there is already a good fit as a number of us at Rubicon were ex-MySpace and FAN and the ad tech community in Southern California is very tight. Also, about a year and half ago and previous to any acquisition talk, some of the FAN team visited Rubicon’s HQ to learn about the culture, and applied those learnings to the culture development at FAN – for example, everyone on the team is comfortable using Yammer for internal, informal but incredibly constructive communication across teams and offices. And for what really matters for most people in Los Angeles, the difference in lengths of commutes are unchanged as their former offices were less than a mile away from Rubicon’s HQ. J
Once the dust settles on this acquisition, what are we likely to see from Rubicon in 2011? Is the publisher ad server market now a key battleground for RP?
JS: Publishers will see a host of new products made available to them early in the new year, including ad serving capabilities. As we stated in our acquisition announcement event (available to view on the homepage of our website), April 2011 ought to be a pretty interesting month for publishers and the ad tech space.