Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jon Myers Interviews Ross Caveille of ContextWeb

Recently, I was invited to interview Ross Caveille by the SEO PR Team. Ross has been instated
into the role of Country Manager for ContextWeb Inc’s renowned product ADSDAQ(TM) Ad Exchange
and has been challenged with selling UK inventory to advertisers, with the aim to assist in
their attempt to reach exchange’s UK audience.

So who are ContextWeb?

ContextWeb Inc. is a leading contextual advertising company. Enjoying major success, one of their
most celebrated products is the ADSDAQ™. Welcoming over 93 million monthly unique visitors in the
US, the ADSDAQ Exchange represents over 50% of the domestic online population.

A few days later, I finally settled down to produce a few concise but hopefully revealing questions for Ross to gives us his views on…

Country Manager sounds like an interesting challenge, what are your initial objectives?

Personally the role represents a very interesting challenge and one that I am very excited to be involved with. We opened the UK office on the 17th of March this year with the aim to bring to the UK market the unique product that ADSDAQ by ContextWeb has to offer. Exposure and UK industry awareness of the ADSDAQ product and ContextWeb brand is the initial objective as up until we launched over here advertisers were not aware of the opportunities we could provide. In the US, we have around 5,000 publisher and 400 advertiser partners and have an established name within the online advertising marketplace, the aim now is to replicate this success over here in the UK (We’re already up to over 25% UK uniques according to ComScore in March 2008 - a good start.). In addition to establishing ourselves within the market the UK team will also be expanding and we plan to make additional hires in June this year.

Relating to these, do you see any major hurdles ahead and if so, how do you plan to jump them?

The UK marketplace is very competitive with regard to the number of vendors and options available to advertisers and agencies. Consolidation is happening within the marketplace, but as quickly as this happens new companies are born and so it is imperative that we differentiate ourselves and make sure our service levels are consistently high to match the standard of our product. This situation is mirrored with publishers in the way that there is growing demand for inventory both from advertisers and third party vendors. Fortunately, ADSDAQ offers opportunities to both advertisers and publishers alike on an equal scale as we operate an open exchange meaning publishers are able to name their price and advertisers are able to choose the brand-safe content and context in which they appear. There are a lot of opportunities for talented people within the market. We need to make sure we attract the right people in order to grow as a business and as this does represent a challenge we are prepared to take time in doing this if necessary.

ADSDAQ Exchange is well renowned over the water but how do you plan to build the status of and educate the UK audience about the system in the UK? Are you planning to or have you already established any partnerships?

The positive aspect of being established in the US is that our product is tried and tested and so we can be confident of delivering successful campaigns for clients within the UK. As eluded to above one of the main barriers is the lack of knowledge and understanding of the ADSDAQ Exchange so maximising exposure is a high priority. For example, UK advertisers are just beginning to learn about the brand safety offered by the ADSDAQ Exchange which is a result of the Exchange’s patent-pending, page-level contextual technology.

To date we have managed to secure press articles in NMA magazine as well as online with Reuters, Wall Street Journal and a number of additional publications. My role within the company is to make sure ADSDAQ is taken to market and as many agencies and advertisers as possible are allowed the opportunity to take advantage of the contextual targeting tool we have to offer. Since launching on March 17th we have run successful campaigns for clients through Havas, WPP and Profero and are now about to launch campaigns with a number of other leading UK agencies. The contextual tool that we offer can be adapted to a wide range of clients and as such we have already delivered campaigns using standard and rich media formats to UK, European and Global customers across film, music, finance, travel, business, theatre verticals. The next step now is to grow the number of advertisers and agencies in which we are in contact with and the number of campaigns we are running which is why we will be growing the UK team with new additions joining in June.

In turn, how do you think ADSDAQ will infiltrate itself to sit beside technology already available in the UK?

The great thing about the ADSDAQ Exchange is the technology we use and the way we work is that we are able to compliment many existing technologies or at least work in conjunction with them. Many publishers use the ADSDAQ exchange along with a network or Google Adsense, for example, as we only serve an advert to a page if that page contains specific content relevant to one of our advertisers campaigns. Similarly, we are able to work with all third party ad-serving technologies so there are no barriers for advertisers. With regard to competitor technologies our contextual targeting tool is able to not only understand keywords and content but also the context in which they are in so we can guarantee a relevant and brand safe environment every time. This is of key significance to contextual tools that are keyword based only as adverts often appear out of context.

This is a great piece of software to have, especially completely free, do you have any plans to introduce a subscription fee?

In short, no. The ADSDAQ Exchange is an open exchange and so allows both publishers and advertisers to fulfil their objectives and the more partners we can attract the more liquid the exchange becomes giving both parties more options and routes to success.

And what makes the system different? Could you tell us your three defining USPs?

There are three key USPs to what we offer the market. Our contextual technology serves adverts based on the context of the entire webpage, not just a handful of keywords, and so we are able to serve adverts within a brand safe relevant environment every time. As well as ensuring brand safety for all our advertisers this also allows us to extend reach and acquire additional unique users without compromising targeting. For example, a laptop supplier will want to run adverts within a computer website which is relevant but there will also be relevant pages of content available within non-endemic websites e.g. technology section of a news site. As every advert we serve is at the page-level we are able to pick out only the page that is relevant to the advertiser effectively eradicating waste while facilitating extended targeted reach. A recent study by OTX Research found that serving adverts to relevant content within a non-endemic website increase brand recognition by a further 19% over showing the advert in an endemic site. In addition, each advert we serve is in display format, including rich media, which doesn’t restrict advertisers to using just textlinks and means we can effectively transfer a search campaign online in a more impactful format. The third USP is the way we work with publishers, many behavioural or contextual tools require publishers to add tags or code to each page of their website this is not the case with ADSDAQ. By using just one Java script tag we are able to access every page of a publishers website meaning we can access more pages gaining additional reach for advertisers and work with the publishers that do not facilitate third party tags being added to their web pages.

Thanks for taking the time Ross to give me and SEO PR your views and best of luck in the new role going forward.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Searching for an outcome: Google Vs the Trademark owner

As a lot of us are probably aware now Google’s trademark policy launched 5th May this year, these changes are already having a significant impact on the search aspect of some campaigns and subsequently, it has come to light that there may be questions relating to the legality of this change in policy.

Following this uncertainty, some large scale advertisers have stepped forward and expressed their willingness to challenge the overwhelming power that is one of the world’s largest sellers of advertising space: Google.

The Background

For almost 9 years, marketers and agencies have benefited from Google’s policy on Trademark terms. Enforcing a policy which stipulated no other advertiser could bid against a registered trademark, Google offered a welcome defence against the competitor and left advertisers safe in the knowledge that their brand and trademarks were well protected…

However, accounting for 80% of the UK’s market share, this change in policy sees Google open up keyword bidding on all keyword terms, including trademarks. Effectively, more than one advertiser can now bid on and appear in sponsored links after a user has typed in a search query using a trademarked term. Ultimately, trademarks are no longer protected against competitors and affiliates. speak up…

It has been reported by Channel 4 News that the chief executive of, Ian McCaig, has stated that Google's proposals will “cost them millions”, could breach trademark law and that they are prepared to sue if Google do go ahead with this change.

Lastminute argue: "Google's policy change is a big problem and we object to it. We are investigating with vigour the legal position and if that investigation concludes positively then we will absolutely pursue a legal case, no question." (Channel 4 News)

Fundamentally, a high proportion of some of the UK’s biggest brands use Google to facilitate a major proportion of their Search advertising spend. do not stand alone in this view. Tesco “have consulted their legal team”, while some companies, including Auto Trader have stated they would “consider joining with other brands in a group legal challenge to Google.”

Google defends its decision…

Unsurprisingly, Google stand by their decision to change the policy and state this amendment will improve the user experience by offering competing choices, allowing consumers to make more informed decisions.

Google also have the advantage of experience, as it is not the first time the search engine giant has enforced this controversial change in policy.

In 2004, Google introduced the same change in policy to the US and Canadian markets. Some sectors, including; travel, finance and retail, saw large movements in market costing as competitor bidding initially became a battle field. However, after a few months, the market found its natural position and the cost acquisition consolidated down after rivals began to understand how much revenue and sales could be driven from competitor brand terms.

The MediaVest View

Only days into a policy which is unlike anything the UK market has experienced during its search marketing history, the conclusion of this debate and possible legal battle, is unclear.

In their Legal Guidance Notes, The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) point out that the law is very uncertain and untested in this arena. Their view is that, bidding on keywords of competitors may be an infringement of trademark.

“Clearly Google has taken the advice that it is not and for obvious financial and costs reasons, and due to its dominant position in the search market, Google is prepared to take the risk. Until an advertiser in the UK is prepared to bring a legal test case we shall not be sure of the way the courts will interpret trade mark law in this new media scenario.”

It will be interesting to see how this one unfolds in the coming weeks. Now that big brands such as, Autotrader and Tesco have voiced their initial opinion to the media.