DoubleVerify, the private equity-backed measurement and verification vendor, had been without a CEO for nearly five months through the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the end of July, former Telaria boss Mark Zagorski has taken the reins to focus the company’s next phase of growth around a medium that’s “nearest and dearest” to his heart: connected TV.
“There’s an opportunity for a company to create a standard around CTV. I think we could do better than Nielsen. I think there’s an opportunity for a standard that includes performance, a standard that includes safety, and a standard that includes viewability,” Zagorski told Adweek.
CTV usage has spiked during and remained high during the pandemic as people stream more content while they stay at home, but it’s still a relatively new medium that’s riddled with fraud and lacks standards that have helped define its linear TV predecessor.
DoubleVerify has recently introduced a suite of products around CTV and hired Jack Smith, the former global chief product officer of GroupM, to help build new CTV offerings.
Zagorski said “so much revenue” is pouring into a medium that has issues around transparency, fraud, viewability and brand safety. CTV ad spend in the U.S. is expected to surpass $10.8 billion by 2021, up from $7 billion in 2019, according to research firm eMarketer.
The unloved middelmen of ad tech are following the money are running fraud schemes in CTV, where CPMs are typically much higher than mobile or desktop prices. A 2019 report from Pixalate found that 22% of CTV traffic was invalid, while a separate analysis from AdLedger last year said that 20% of over-the-top impressions are fraudulent.
Zagorski spent the last three years as CEO of Telaria, which he helped build into a CTV-focused supply-side platform after divesting the Tremor Video demand-side platform. Prior to this, he held a senior position at Nielsen, a role he was appointed to after selling data science outfit Exelate to the TV measurement firm for a reported $200 million in 2015.
He left Telaria in June, three months after it was acquired by Rubicon Project, now known as Magnite.
Zagorski said Telaria’s CTV revenue grew from 2% when he joined in 2017 to over 60% by the time he left, but he was unaware of some of the problems tied to the inventory his company was selling. “It’s something I just started discovering since I came to [DoubleVerify],” he said.
Not only does CTV measurement and verification need a new set of products, but it also requires the ad industry to redefine some terminology. The issue of viewability on CTV can’t be compared to that on desktop or mobile, since TV ads fill the entire screen.
Shailin Dhar, CEO, and co-founder of Method Media Intelligence said there’s a transition away from granular reporting of viewability based on the number of pixels on a phone or laptop screen, to a more binary, all-or-nothing metric on the big screen.
“Should we still be using 100%, or any sort of percentage, in our reporting there? Everybody’s doing different things, from what we can see, just because this economy and language hasn’t been standardized,” Dhar said.
DoubleVerify and its competitors, Moat and Integral Ad Science, have come under scrutiny this year for their keyword blocking tools, which marketers have employed to prevent ads from running against content that include “coronavirus” or “protest,” driving down revenue for publishers that are already struggling due to the business impact of the pandemic.