DoubleVerify Chief Mark Zagorski On The Expansion Into The Sell Side
Ad verification company DoubleVerify has been busy.
It followed up its $350 million investment deal last month with a new tool designed to help advertisers take a more nuanced approach to brand suitability.
And last week, DoubleVerify – long associated with the buy side – launched the DV Publisher Suite, which aggregates data on one platform and is designed to improve ad delivery, assess inventory quality and maximize yield for digital publishers, many of whom still have to manually aggregate, normalize and reconcile performance and revenue data. Publishers using the tool include Hearst, Meredith and Pandora among others.
So how did DoubleVerify end up offering sell-side solutions?
DoubleVerify CEO Mark Zagorski, who joined the company in July, worked the buy side when he oversaw eXelate (sold to Nielsen) and the sell side when he was chief at Telaria (merged with Rubicon to become Magnite).
He spoke with AdExchanger about the deeper move into the publisher space, DoubleVerify’s long-term plans and the challenges during the pandemic.
AdExchanger: Can you talk about the timing of the roll out of the DV Publisher Suite and the need for it now?
MARK ZAGORSKI: We have some core assets that we use to better inform advertisers about what’s going on around content, and thought, wouldn’t it be great to spin that back to publishers so they know how they’re perceived in the marketplace? And then we supplemented that with these acquisitions of Ad-Juster and Zentrick to help flesh out the suite and then the research that we did really helped inform how we should put all these things together.
We’re helping publishers make more money by either being more efficient with how they deliver their content out to advertisers to buy, or more efficient in how they render ads … and more efficient in how they actually interact with advertisers, how they bill and reconcile ads. It’s really efficiency and optimization for publishers so they can make more money from their inventory.
Traditionally DoubleVerify has been associated with advertisers/buyers. Has DV worked with publishers in the past?
Not really at any scale like this. This is our first real foray into a complete platform that provides a full solution set.
Is DV going to be a sell-side platform?
I wouldn’t say it’s a sell-side platform. It’s a further extension of the solutions that we always provided, which is being the oversight of this whole ecosystem and making sure the dollars are efficiently and effectively spent.
This is not competitive to an SSP in any way – this is truly analytics to help them better package their inventory that may actually be pushed out into an SSP or sold through an SSP.
Is this an extension of your brand safety business or are you launching a new product?
A core part of brand safety is analyzing what happens at the publisher level. That same data is coming back to the publishers to give them a sense of how advertisers see them as being brand safe. We’re certainly not moving away from that aspect of our business, and brand safety is just one element in a broader purview of effectiveness and advertising impact.
Brand safety impacts effectiveness. All of these things still circle around what’s happening between the advertiser and the publisher and whether it’s an efficient and effective use of their spend.
How many publishers do you have signed up now?
We’ve got about 100 publishers or so that are currently working with us. These are your biggest pubs, guys like Hearst, Meredith, Pandora, FOX. They’re using this to optimize what’s happening on their site, to bring their analytics together and help them benchmark against other platforms.
Is DoubleVerify’s recent activity tied to the investment deal?
Not specifically, no. We had a pretty aggressive growth plan laid out for the next several years. Funding plays a role in it, but we continue to be a profitable, fast-growing ad tech business.
How did your experience as the former CEO of a buy-side company and, later, a sell-side company, impact your decision to push DV into the sell side?
I’d love to take credit for the push into the sell side, but I’ve only been here for a few months and this has been in works. I’m certainly supportive of it, because I think that a well-balanced analytics company, where we sit in the space, is going to work with all the constituents in the process – the buyers, the sellers, the platforms – and having a single metric to do so is really important.
We’re creating a verification currency, and currency needs to be accepted by people who are buying things and people who are selling things.
What’s your ultimate vision for DV?
Our goal is to become the de facto standard in verification and become the backbone by which advertisers and publishers and platforms are evaluating the safety, the efficacy and the optimization of their spend.
To what extent has the volatility caused by the coronavirus impacted DV’s business, and the demands from your clients?
Internally, we’ve dealt with those really well. I joined remotely. We’ve hired more than 100 people since COVID – this year we’ll hire close to 200 people. We continue to invest in our people, we continue to invest in our product and we’ve done so remotely.
With regard to our clients, we’ve been a really good partner as they’ve had to go through advertising spend shifts. It wasn’t just COVID – we’ve had social upheaval, we’ve had politics which has driven a huge amount of incendiary content that we’ve done a really good job trying to manage.
If advertisers are squeezing their budgets, they’re even more concerned that the dollar they spend on an ad is really getting to a human being, is really viewable, that it’s really not running on a site that doesn’t adhere to their brand characteristics.