Media In Canada: Olive Media Zeroes in with Search Retargeting

*This article was originally printed in Media In Canada (4/27)

Olive Media has partnered with New York-based Magnetic to add a search retargeting service to its offering of digital advertising tools.

Search retargeting, essentially, uses existing search data created by large-scale search engines such as Google or Yahoo!, to serve ads based on a user’s previous search terms. Magnetic has a database of five billion search terms across 300 million unique users monthly (according to the company), which Olive can now access to serve more targeted ads to users on its network sites with the goal of better conversion and performance.

The difference with search retargeting is that it targets the user using a particular term to search rather than the site the person is on, Mladen Raickovic, head of partnerships and product development, network portfolio, Olive Media, tells MiC.

“This is important for media companies because we are seeing them become more targeted in how they send out campaigns,” he says. “As we become more sophisticated, this type of product allows us to zero in on the right person.”

The tool, which Olive Media has already used in conjunction with over 25 campaigns in the consumer packaged goods, automotive and financial categories, works well for companies looking for a very targeted group, says Raickovic.

“Search retargeting works well for niche searches,” he says. “It is easy to use for particular issues when you can’t typically find people who are looking for your product.”

Practice and Theory: Search Retargeting Company Magnetic Shares its Approach to Hiring Great Engineers


Like any engineering profession, software engineering is driven by both theory and practice. The Magnetic interview process reflects this by evaluating candidates’ judgment and experience in building working systems and also their foundation in fundamental software engineering and computer science principles.

The first step in the interview process is to get a clear understanding of the level of experience within engineering.

Asking candidates to discuss their experience helps us evaluate what they have learned in past professional situations, how they approach solving problems under typical professional constraints, how they work on teams, and how much they taken away from one project and apply it to the next.

Technical screen questions are also valuable, but for a different reason. By focusing on general software engineering issues and computer science fundamentals like architecture, software design, algorithms and data structures, we can look at candidates as a group. Where discussion of experience discriminates candidates as individuals, tech questions level candidates relative to their peers.

In addition, theoretical fundamentals provide a common framework for analyzing problems and understanding solutions. We screen on fundamentals because we want to observe candidates applying them to solve problems. We want a sense of the tools a candidate chooses when presented with a new problem to solve, and how much mastery they have working with those tools.

For this reason, we favor starting the process with phone screen questions, which are deceptively simple – that is, simple enough to explain quickly, but subtle enough that better candidates identify and address subtleties as the discussion proceeds. The best candidates point out issues that have never come up before, or highlight flaws in the answers presented to them. One of the most interesting and rewarding aspects of interviewing is how much you learn from the interviewees!

Candidates who do well in the phone screen move on to visit Magnetic’s Times Square offices for an on-site interview. This provides us an additional opportunity to evaluate the candidate as an individual and in turn, allows the candidate to meet the team, spend time in the office and get a feel for working here. Our engineering team growing quickly, so each team member’s enthusiasm and commitment crucially contributes to the team’s success.

On site, we also present candidates with a classic “go to the whiteboard” technical question. This exercise combines theory and practice because the candidate is working through a general question, while literally “thinking on their feet.”

Finally, we ask candidates to bring in code they have worked on and do a code review with us. This has proven to be a very powerful evaluation tool. Excellent and conscientious engineers should be able to discuss tradeoffs, strengths, and weaknesses of software they have created. They should be able to present code in the context of the goals it was trying to achieve and the constraints under which it was written. The code review is as close as we can come to getting a feel for the candidate as a day-to-day developer.

After all that, if we’re excited about you joining Magnetic and you’re excited by the team you’ve met, our engineering challenges, our focused technical strategy, and the outsized business opportunities we’re pursuing, then we’ve made a match.

Welcome to the team!


Search Retargeting Part 2: Seeing the Future – Architecture & the Product Roadmap

In my last entry I discussed the two parallel missions of a great engineering team:

Supporting systems to keep them running
Continuously improving the value of our products
One of the most important skills the team needs to succeed in these missions can be described as the ability to predict the future.

New technologies emerge all the time, which must be investigated and evaluated. In addition, innovations arise from a diverse set of consumer, business, political and social influences.

Magnetic engineering must identify the attributes our systems needs now and should have in the future. These strategic decisions include questions like what data model most flexibly allows us to integrate new data? What should we compute in real time? What tools would help us do this? What infrastructure do we need to build into our web application to support upcoming features?

These and many other questions sit at the intersection of technology and business, and are all captured by the notions of “architecture” and “roadmap.” Architecture defines a system’s major elements, the essential attributes of those elements, and the appropriate technologies for building them. In essence, architecture defines what each part of the system must do for the other parts of the system and also the capabilities of the system as a whole. By extension, architecture also defines what the system can and can’t do for the business.

But, how do we know what the system should do for the business? Agile software development methodology gives us the tools to answer those questions in the present and a short time into the future. In order to look beyond the near-term, we need a roadmap, a set of longer-term strategic goals that we believe the business must achieve to succeed.

Because architecture identifies the essential attributes of the company’s systems, and defines the capabilities of those systems, it must be driven directly by the goals in the roadmap. In essence, architecture is the engineering team’s response to the roadmap, its plan for building software and deploying systems that deliver the roadmap for the business.

Further, when the architecture is aligned with the roadmap, each member of the engineering team shares the vision most likely to drive company success. Every day, with every line of code they write, engineers are making the most valuable decisions when guided by the context of the right architecture.

The right architecture also helps the team gel. When the team is guided by a shared vision, ideas move back and forth, building up a holistic understanding and identity. At the end of the day, an engineering team has a much better chance of seeing into the future if everyone is looking in the same direction.

Search Retargeting Insights: Straight from Ad:Tech

 

During Ad:Tech San Francisco Josh Shatkin-Margolis, CEO of Magnetic, joined Ad Web 3.0’s panel: MONETIZATION DISCUSSION II: DISRUPTIVE/ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES, SOLUTIONS, BUSINESS MODELS AND ROI.

Josh was in good company alongside executives from companies like MediaMath, Adbrite, Vizu, MediaMind and RubiconProject.

According to Josh, efficiency takes the cake as the main topic of discussion with key points focused on data and attribution. Here’s three areas the industry should focus on as we move through 2011:

1. Making the process easy for advertisers – This means cutting through the crowded eco-system slide and making it easy for advertisers to spend money online. We can do this by selling data+media, offering all types of media including comScore top 250 and complete transparency on who we are targeting.

2. Drive more premium inventory on the exchanges – The world’s largest brands want top quality inventory (comScore top 250) as more dollars move online. With most exchanges currently focused on low quality inventory, we’re facing limitations to growth. We need an easy way to access top quality inventory, early session impressions, etc.

3. Full-funnel attribution – There’s no doubt that many folks agree that last-click attribution is not a winning model. Smart attribution models should be able to target the entire purchase path – from pre-funnel to conversion. Full funnel attribution would allow marketers to identify the very keyword or search engine that led to the customer’s final click, tracking search impressions and better analyzing the path consumers take to conversion. This opens up brand new opportunities to influence decisions before consumers choose a brand preference.

AdWeb 3.0 – Monetization Discussion

9:00am to 5:00pm, San Francisco, CA

AdWeb 3.0

3:00PM – 4:15PM: MONETIZATION DISCUSSION II: DISRUPTIVE/ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES, SOLUTIONS, BUSINESS MODELS AND ROI

This panel focuses on the ways and means that ad networks, data services, technologies and solutions provide buyers and sellers in the advertising marketplace with the tools needed to accurately target and deliver to customers campaigns in the most efficient, relevant manner possible. This includes data collection, analysis, digital buyer/seller ad networks and systems from the perspective of agencies, brand managers, publishers, technologists, researchers and solution providers.

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Entrepreneur’s Spotlight – Search Retargeting

 

*This article originally appeared on Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s Entrepreneurs College Online website in March 2011 and is used with permission from the firm

Timing may be important, but it isn’t everything. Just take a look at Magnetic CEO Josh Shatkin-Margolis. He graduated from college with a computer science degree just as the dot.com bubble was bursting. And he started to seek funding for an Internet start-up a month before the 2008 financial crisis erupted. But instead of a cautionary tale, Josh’s career trajectory is a success story, demonstrating that even in times of economic turmoil, technological savvy and entrepreneurial zeal can trump the odds.

Josh began exhibiting both computer and business acumen early on in life. “I was a geeky kid,” he recalls of his childhood in Natick, Massachusetts, not far from Boston. “I ran a bulletin-board system—a sort of a precursor to the Internet—for my high school.” He continued to work in Internet-related jobs while studying for a degree in computer science and electrical engineering at M.I.T.

After a brief stint as a consultant following his graduation in 2000, Josh joined DoubleClick, the pioneering digital ad-management technology company that’s now part of Google. “I started as a back-end engineer and eventually became the principal architect for all their advertising systems,” he says. “After that, I ended up taking over both product management and engineering for their search division.”

In 2005, Josh’s former boss at DoubleClick lured him to Yahoo. He spent three years there as director of engineering, heading up a team of about 100 responsible for data processing in the company’s advertiser division, which handled both search and display ads.

Both DoubleClick and Yahoo taught Josh quite a bit about the dynamics of Internet advertising. “For instance, most people spend only about 2 percent of their time online using search engines, but search engines account for more than 50 percent of the total revenue of online advertising,” he observes. “One out of two people who click on an ad after searching for car insurance request a quote, so there’s an amazingly high conversion rate, much higher than any other advertising medium. Plus, you can get very creative with Internet display ads, adding animations and video and all sorts of cool things.”

Josh left Yahoo in 2008 to found a company—initially dubbed Domdex, now called Magnetic—that uses the power of search data for targeting online display advertising. “I started talking to potential clients and data providers and developing ideas for what we call search retargeting,” he says. “For example, we show cell-phone ads to people who previously searched for cell phones. It’s a straightforward concept, but surprisingly, there are only two companies that do it: Magnetic and Yahoo.”

As Josh explains the business of Magnetic, “What we really do is two things. One is we sell data, which is sort of a new thing in online advertising. Selling data is actually selling the ability to retarget a user who meets certain criteria. And the second thing we sell is what’s called data plus media. That means we work directly with an ad agency or an advertiser who asks us to show their, say, insurance ad, to people who searched for insurance, and have that ad appear on top websites like those from CNN and The New York Times.”

The technological part of Josh’s job comes easily to him, but the business side required a bit of a learning curve. “At first the business was just me sitting by the pool in L.A. writing code and sometimes reaching out to various search engine providers to get data on what people were searching for,” he says. “I didn’t really know about raising money, but one investor introduced me to another. Although I didn’t have much of a game plan in those early days, I really focused on the feedback I was getting from investors, so that while I was raising money I was really evolving the business model. I was thinking about the different Internet marketplaces, and how we could enter them most effectively and best address our customers’ needs to give our company the highest potential outcome.”

Building a Business in Tough Times
Josh began meeting with investors in September 2008, a month before the financial meltdown that signaled the start of the Great Recession. “I thought for sure we were never going to get money, so I was looking at other options, including applying to the Peace Corps,” he says. “But it didn’t come to that. We got our first term sheet in January of 2009, which was pretty amazing during that time period.”

When talking with potential investors, Josh was interested in more than money. “There was a big VC that wanted to put in a large sum amount of money, but we ended up taking a lower valuation from a group of angel investors led by Roger Ehrenberg,” he explains. “We did that because I’d gotten such valuable advice from those particular investors. Every one of them was someone who had worked or invested heavily in online media or advertising, and their advice was just brilliant. For entrepreneurs, it’s a great idea to include investors and clients on your team, as opposed to limiting yourself to the feedback you get from your dozen or so employees. You need that range of perspectives.”

After that initial investment round of $1.25 million closed in mid-2009, Josh hired two engineers. “We advanced the technology to the next phase, and today we have by far the world’s greatest technology when it comes to data exchange,” he says. By the end of that year, Magnetic had interest from other investors, including Saar Gur at Charles River Ventures. “He’d worked at Adteractive and co-founded BrightRoll, and like all of our other investors, he gave us awesome advice,” Josh says. “At the time, we didn’t really need additional money, but he convinced us that we had something special going and that, rather than just let the company grow slowly, we should expand our operations. We ended up with sort of a happy medium, raising an additional $4 million.”

That second funding round happened even quicker than the first. Josh says he was on a Greyhound bus coming back from the funding meeting when he got a call informing him that a term sheet was being issued—and the money was in the bank less than a month later. “Our attorneys at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati were extremely helpful in pushing the round through very, very quickly,” Josh says. “That was really helpful, because with a small company, time spent raising money is time taken away from running the business.”

By mid-2010, New York-based Magnetic had partnered with the largest ad networks and data providers and was starting to add employees. “We’re building up a team, and at this stage we have 27 employees. Staffing a start-up is tough because you have to find people who are not only smart and capable, but willing to work harder for less money and take more risks than they would at a bigger company. They also have to believe in your vision and want to work for you, even though they may have more experience than you do.”

Another challenge that Josh believes entrepreneurs face is one of attitude. “You almost have to have two personalities,” he says. “Sometimes you really have to sell the company, like when you’re talking to investors and clients. Then at other times, you have to sit with the board and take a very critical view.”

Both are crucial skills, in Josh’s book, and successful entrepreneurs have to blend the two. “If you can get your biggest naysayer to really love your product, then you’ve done something truly amazing,” he says. “I remember meeting with one investor who was not a fan of our company, to say the least. In fact, when I first tried to show him our product, he was holding his hands up in disgust. But I learned a few things from his objections, and kept on trying to explain my vision. He eventually came around to seeing how selling data plus media to make profits easy for everybody gave us the opportunity to potentially access a multibillion dollar market, as opposed to sticking to the smaller, potentially one hundred million dollar market of selling data alone to other companies selling media.”

Another lesson learned was that even a global economic meltdown can have an upside. “I think the bad economy actually has helped Magnetic tremendously,” Josh says. “In a good economy, it’s really tough to unseat the incumbent product. Everybody says ‘Yeah, your system seems great, but what we have isn’t broken.’ But in a bad economy, everything’s broken. Everybody wants things to be more efficient. And that’s where we come in: Our whole system is about helping our customers find their own potential customers with superior efficiency.”

Personally speaking, Josh cites the dynamic nature of his role as his favorite part of his job. “I play every single role here at Magnetic, from recruiting and speaking to investors and panels to helping install servers and put desks together,” he says. “It’s just constant change, and for me, that’s a lot of fun.”

He also sees some interesting trends from his vantage point in the heart of Web 2.0. “It used to be that people liked the Internet, but they didn’t love the Internet,” he observes. “But both the technology of getting online and the quality of actual websites are getting better and better. Younger generations are hooked on sites like Facebook and Twitter, and even the older generations are reading The New York Times on their iPads. People are starting to love some of the content they get on the Internet as much as they do a favorite TV show or movie. It’s a paradigm shift that’s carrying everyone along and is sure to inspire even more innovation—and at an incredibly rapid pace.”

Search Retargeting & Magnetic: FAQ

Search Retargeting & Magnetic: FAQ

Here are some questions I often receive about Magnetic. Please keep sending your comments and questions.

What is Magnetic?
Magnetic operates a marketplace for advertisers and publishers to apply search data to all online advertising. Advertisers and publishers can use search data as the key indicator of intent to re-target campaigns to the most relevant audience online.

Why is there a need for Magnetic?
Targeting advertisements to visitors of websites without direct knowledge user intent is difficult. Many targeting and data companies lack transparency in customer segmentation. To overcome these problems, we need to harness the power of search. Sponsored search ads are the highest converting ads on the internet, perhaps in the world. By using search as the key indicator intent, we provide better performance and transparency.

Who do you work with?
We are currently working with ad networks, publishers, and ad exchange buyers/DSPs who can effectively use the data to serve targeted ads. We additionally sell data+media directly to advertisers and agencies.

Who do you compete with?
We differentiate ourselves from other data exchanges by working with search data. We compete with Yahoo search re-targeting and Google interest-based advertising.

How are you different from other data exchanges?
Data exchanges compile structured data from eCommerce sites, for example the one hundred travel destinations or one hundred automobile models. Magnetic compiles millions of user-entered searches from search engines and website partners that serve sponsored search ads. Magnetic’s advanced algorithms and interfaces extract maximum value out of search data.

How is your approach different from other re-targeting companies?
Magnetic helps advertisers use search data to re-target customers through all online advertising while they are in purchase mode. Advertisers can re-target customers who have searched for a set of keywords. This is very different from re-targeting companies that let you only target those who have searched and then visited your site. By using search data from the search engine itself, we allow advertisers to reach people that are in purchase mode for their product but have likely never visited their site.

Where do you get data from?
Magnetic compiles data from search engines and website partners that serve sponsored search ads.

Do these data providers include Google and Yahoo?
All of our data providers are search engines and websites that are serving sponsored search ads from major sponsored search marketplaces. Google and Yahoo are examples of major sponsored search marketplaces.

How would an advertiser use your marketplace?
We are able to run search re-targeted campaigns for advertisers via partnerships with the multiple ad networks, exchanges and DSPs we work with.

What ad formats can the data be applied to?
We can work with any ad technology that supports re-targeting, and this includes all common forms of advertising and all IAB standard ads including video, mobile, etc.

How will you protect consumer privacy?
Magnetic leads in user privacy standards by targeting keywords – not users. Magnetic implements the best practices in privacy: human-readable privacy policies, P3P compact privacy policies, W3C policy placement standards and user opt-out.

Why the new name?
We believe search re-targeting today is the most efficient way to find customers because of the large amount of display media, strong indication of intent in search data and other market dynamics. However, we wanted a name that represents us at our core. Magnetic describes the pulling force we provide our customers in finding their customers.

How is Magnetic different from Google AdWords Re-targeting?
Google’s re-targeting product allows you to do site re-targeting. Google provides you with a pixel tag that you can put on your web site and then target ads at users who have visited your site. Magnetic allows you to re-target users who have searched for a keyword who most likely have not visited your site. This allows you to reach more users who are actively searching for your product type but have not yet visited your web site. All modern ad servers and ad exchanges support re-targeting tags just like the recently added Google AdWords tag. Magnetic integrates with all of these tags including Google AdWords Re-targeting tags to provide you the power of search re-targeting, something Google does not offer.

Can I get a list of your full taxonomy of categories?
Search data works better than intender categories because the segments are customized for each advertiser (i.e., art classes or MBA vs. simply an online education segment). In order to make the process of building customized segments easy, we have built an advanced keyword generation system based off of a semantic web enabling you to enter one or more seedwords to generate a segment. Thus, our taxonomy works differently than companies selling intender categories (i.e., travel desitnations, auto models). If you would like us to create a set generic segments for a taxonomy (i.e., finance, education, etc.), we can, however you will gain the full power of the search data by letting our technology create custom segments. We recommend that we come up with a set of segments and we will build you a custom taxonomy. In order to do this we just need to enter short descriptions of all the categories in the form of seedwords and then we can export these lists along with their monthly forecasts (i.e., “athletic sneakers”,”hybrid car”,”online mba”, etc.). This process is so easy that you can do it yourself in minutes but to get you started we would be happy to do this for you.