Ad Tech’s Behavioral Targeting Shift

Curt Viebranz was the president of Platform-A, the ad network division of AOL, where cost-per-click campaigns often ruled.

But now, Viebranz believes that as last-click analysis falls out of favor, ad tech startups are looking for ways to appeal to the perennial need of brands to maximize ROI, regardless of their specific marketing objectives.

According to Viebranz, who spent 17 years at Time Warner and its predecessor company, Time Inc, this trend is reflected by a slew of rebranding efforts and consolidations in the industry, as many startups are shifting their focus towards attribution services and away from behavioral targeting. This shift, Viebranz, believes, is being driven by some of the newer companies in the space looking to get brands to “kick the click-through habit” by creating better attribution models and better methods of evaluating consumer data.

Besides attribution, these newer companies are promising they’ll be sensitive to privacy issues, a key worry for brands, Viebranz said.
“As an auto client told me two weeks ago, “I want to be sure that if I work with you guys, I’m not going to wake up and find myself on the cover of the Wall Street Journal,'” said Viebranz, now the CEO of Korrelate. “Brands want to bring more dollars online, but they are sensitive to privacy concerns.” Korrelate, formerly Ad Summos, has rebranded to focus on connecting online media usage to offline purchases.
Besides predicting a shift in the business direction of many ad targeting startups, Viebranz foresees a shakeout in the industry.
“There are a lot of companies in the space that have raised large sums of capital at healthy valuations and for whom an IPO may be the only acceptable exit for their investors,” he said. “For my part, I think we’re unlikely to see the days of 2007, where we had no less than five strategic exits for $250 million or more. We are seeing consolidation, and we think it will continue. At the same time, I think there is still room for additional players.”
According to Laurent Ohana of technology investment firm Parkview Ventures, companies that put privacy and better attribution models at the core of their businesses will be able to weather industry turbulence. “Companies providing rare insights will grow and corner the market,” said Ohana.
Viebranz added, “The reality is that we are trying to get people to look at the world differently and that takes time and effort.”
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