Adzilla Names CEO

NEW YORK Former Carat executive Toby Gabriner is joining ad-targeting startup Adzilla as its new CEO.

Gabriner, 36, comes to the three-year-old company after serving as the CEO of New York Web optimization firm X+1 for nearly two years until last August. Gabriner will take the top executive reins from John Farlinger, who will remain the company’s president.

Adzilla is one of a few companies looking to expand the reach of behavioral ad targeting by striking deals with Internet service providers to track their users’ Web behavior. Unlike ad networks such as Advertising.com, Tacoda and Revenue Science, Adzilla’s system does not rely on cookies. Instead, it sees a wider swath of data, including Web searches and e-commerce activity.

“I believe this is the last mile of behavioral targeting,” said Gabriner. “The behavioral guys put a lot of emphasis on the cookie and have to infer a lot from that. We’re able to provide advertisers much richer, more relevant targeting.”

Adzilla uses the information it collects on consumers to buy targeted impressions across several ad networks and exchanges. It is mostly working with direct-response marketers, Gabriner said.

The question remains whether consumers will accept this level of monitoring, which Adzilla and competitors like NebuAd point out does not include personally identifiable information like names and addresses.

Eight North American ISPs, with a combined audience of 1 million users, are testing Adzilla’s service, according to Grabriner. He declined to name them, saying it was incumbent on the ISPs to communicate with their customers about the tracking. NebuAd is similarly cagey about its ISP partners.

“This is a new area for them so they’re very sensitive that as they tread into this space they’ve checked off all the boxes, the biggest one being the privacy one,” said Gabriner.

In the future, users will be given not only the chance to opt out of such targeting but rewarded for providing more targeting information and categories of ads they want to see, Gabriner said.

The concept is proving attractive with investors, who are banking on behavioral targeting becoming a prevalent form of online advertising. Adzilla closed a $10.2 million round of venture funding last August, led by Norwest Venture Partners and Alloy Ventures. NebuAd got $30 million of backing.

Since its funding, Adzilla has relocated its headquarters from Vancouver to Brisbane, Calif. It has 40 employees.

Gabriner left Carat in November 2005 after two years there. He also served as chief operating officer and a managing director. He joined Carat after it purchased Freestyle Interactive, where he was president and chief operating officer.