TubeMogul Expands Into Ad Sales

Upstart analytics firm TubeMogul is looking to take its expertise in online video measurement and translate that to ad sales.

The Emeryville, Calif.-based company has quietly been building out its own video ad network over the past year, testing roughly 100 campaigns with big-name advertisers such as 20th Century Fox, Coke, Nestlé and Kmart. A few weeks ago TubeMogul opened a New York office and plans to add several new sales execs in the near future.

To date, TubeMogul has built its name in the digital ad space as something of a ratings alternative to Nielsen for Web video. The company places a unique tracking code in many of the top video players used on the Internet and claims to track billions of video streams.
Besides raw viewership, TubeMogul is able to provide detailed data on how long people stream particular clips and when they pause, rewind or click off videos.

Delving into ad sales is something of a departure for an analytics firm. But TubeMogul’s pitch is that because it has such a unique window into online video habits, it can be far more open and effective than other video networks. “We kept hearing advertisers complain about a lack of transparency in this space,” said CEO Brett Wilson. “The drumbeats were loud. This will be a 100 percent transparent video ad network. With our stuff, you see [what you buy] for better or for worse.”

Wilson’s other argument is that, rather than relying on old-school contextual targeting, TubeMogul can ensure that ad campaigns reach users who are inclined to watch their ads—since the company knows what they’ve already watched. “Think of it as Netflix for [Web] video,” he said.

That sounds like a major improvement to digital buyers. “Online video ad targeting has been ham-handed to date,” said K-Yun J. Steele, vp, digital intelligence, Zenith Interactive. “This is a really exciting evolution.”

To kick start its new sales effort, TubeMogul has started buying inventory from the top 250 comScore sites, said Wilson, which it’s able to repackage for advertisers. “We anticipate this being the largest video ad network in the world.”

However, rivals see an inherent conflict of interest in TubeMogul’s attempt to straddle the line between objective third-party data provider and seller. “This feels like a church-and-state issue,” said Molly Gallatin, director of marketing for video ad network YuMe. “Nielsen and comScore have never gone in that direction. They let agencies make their own decisions on how to connect the dots with data.”

But Steele said that he didn’t have any problem with TubeMogul’s move since on the Web the worlds of data collection and ad sales continue to blend.

Said Wilson: “We haven’t run into any publishers that care. We provide publishers with a lot of data and value.”