AdSafe Rebrands as Integral Ad Science

Ad tech firm repositions amid profitability

AdSafe Media built its business by promising to help brands keep their ads off unsavory sites. Now that ad verification has become something of a commodity (industry leader DoubleVerify has branched into other sectors, comScore bundles verifcation services with its suite of planning tools, and Google gives it away for free) AdSafe has decided to rebrand as Integral Ad Science, which CEO Scott Knoll described as “a media valuation platform.”

That certainly sounds promising. But isn't media valuation a big part of what supply-side platforms and ad exchanges are supposed to do, as they help advertisers determine the best places on which to run an ad at the most favorable cost?

“The difference is [the exchanges and SSPs] are creating marketplaces and helping advertisers to access data and buy impressions [but] they’re not telling them one piece of inventory is better than another,” said Knoll. Presumably, Integral Ad Science will.

As Knoll explained it, essentially Integral Ad Science is aiming to become the intelligence layer on top of SSPs and exchanges, helping brands figure out which impression to buy at a given time. It works with Rubicon Project, OpenX, Google/Admeld, AppNexus, PulsePoint and Yahoo.

Knoll contends that AdSafe's repositioning as a media evaluation platform isn’t actually brand-new. The company has “evolved over time as we continue to launch new products and go further from the original product, ad safety,” said Knoll. In fact, as AdSafe has expanded its purview, Knoll says he was asked continually whether the company would change its name and when.

Thus, the rebrand is nine months in the making. But Knolll didn’t want to make it official until the company had some new products to announce that substantiate its positioning. Now it does. The headlining product is a True Advertising Quality (TRAQ) Score, which is a bit like ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating but for display ad impressions. Ad placements are scored on a scale of 0 to 1,000 based on page content and the performance of ads on that page.

TRAQ also takes into account other indicators of quality, such as whether a page’s content is professionally written by looking at sentence structure and editorial misspellings, whether the page was designed via a site development tool or by a professional team of designers as well as how many ads are on the page. It also tracks which placements get the most exposure and for how long.

“The idea is to be something that’s very complementary with current targeting techniques,” Knoll said.

In addition to the TRAQ Score, Integral Ad Science is releasing an ROI Report that aims to show advertisers the impact individual publishers have on conversions—with the ultimate goal being to better identify ads that really have an impact on consumers.

The company does this by looking at people who may not have seen an ad but purchased an advertised product anyway, and compares them with those who definitely saw an ad, which Integral’s viewability technology is able to measure. By rewarding attribution to unseen ads that may be cheaper because they run at the bottom of a page, advertisers “are giving credit 60 percent of the time to something that shouldn’t get credit. We’re isolating that effect,” Knoll said.

Of course, drastic rebrands, especially in the cluttered ad tech world can be easily perceived as desperate moves by failing companies hoping to remain relevant while shedding any stigma. That doesn’t appear to be the case here. Knoll wouldn’t discuss specific revenue figures but reported that AdSafe's revenue has grown fourfold over the last 12 months and that the newly Christened firm is profitable.

Plus, no layoffs or office closures are planned; instead, international expansion is on Knoll's 2013 to-do list, after setting up shop in Australia and Japan this year. The rebrand “will require a new coat of paint as our color is changing, but other than that we’re focused on the new stuff,” he said.

Knoll dismissed the notion that AdSafe was pressured to rebrand as companies like comScore and Google make verification a product feature as opposed to a business. However the business pivot would seem to stack Integral against comScore, which is building its own media valuation platform after acquiring AdXpose last year. ComScore even indirectly acknowledged Integral (then AdSafe) as a competitor this summer when it filed a lawsuit against the company and two others for infringing on patents related to viewability.

Knoll said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit but dismissed the competitive comparison. “We’ve very different than comScore,” he said. “They’re very focused on traditional planning or reporting after-the-fact, where we’re focused on actionability.”

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