Distributed Quota Management in an Ad Serving Environment: How Reduce Data Manages its budgets without overspending.

A few months ago (May 2013 to be exact), Google announced that they are going to rollout an Open Bidder using RTB. Real-Time Bidding (RTB) is the protocol used by ad exchanges to buy/sell ads. 

According to the Blog announcement:

"Thursday at Google I/O 2013, we announced Open Bidder, a fully customizable toolkit for building real-time bidding applications. By combining the speed and flexibility of the Google Cloud Platformwith DoubleClick’s expertise in real-time bidding, Open Bidder provides developers a robust platform to quickly create innovative RTB solutions.”

I was excited - Doubleclick is a large RTB exchange and that was reason enough to trust them to build the best bidder in the market. However, If this was an open source project then why isn’t it directly published it as one.

I was asking myself - as to why should I be filling up a form?. OK maybe Google wants run a closed test..  

Anyway, I instantly applied to the Google Open Bidder and got this reply:


It has been 5 months since then and I have got no feedback OR update from Google Open Bidder Team. 

Turns out that Open Bidder was everything but open and this project was not ready for primetime.

Google’s launch announcement had every self respecting advertising magazine and blog writing about it.

However, being a part of an advertising platform (http://reducedata.com) hat is writing custom bidders to connect to various exchanges, I was one of their key target audiences and I am wondering why they did not bother to get back to me. 

Google - I am sure that this is a real product but there is no reason to call it “Open bidder” when infact it has been completely closed down and still continues to remain closed.   Also, a piece of advice, please don’t announce projects years in advance or when infact you don’t plan to actually release them anytime soon…

Asif Ali 

I’ve never actually worked in a very large company but I’ve seen a few wrong things happen way too often in companies that I’ve known or heard from friends in the Industry.

Based on what I’ve learned and heard, I’ve compiled a list of things not to do. 

1. Hire people with no sales experience into weird long titles that have no meaning or sense to them - Head of Global Sales, Strategy - Seriously?

2. Hire a failed product manager from one company and assume that he/she will be successful in your company. Failed executives from somewhere else do not automatically succeed because you have a lot of money to burn. You can give them a chance but not into significantly bigger responsibility.

3. Hiring someone with no product experience, technology experience to lead a very high technology business unit = EPIC FAIL. It might have worked elsewhere. 

4. Don’t pay lip service to technology. Either you’re a technology organization or you’re not.

5. Honour your agreements and commitments to your partners. 

6. Please don’t acquire to screw. Small acquisitions cannot be based on retention + revenue goals + everything else under the sun. 

7. Lastly, don’t be a jerk.

 

 

I am happy to announce the Launch of Reduce Data Demand Side Platform [1] (DSP), an advertising platform that leverages big data technologies to deliver significantly optimized ad spends.

We believe that media buying is still inefficient and that there is a lot of room for optimization. Advertising fraud is more common than you think and this wastes billions of dollars of ad spending each year. 

Reduce Data is built from ground up using large scale data processing technologies (commonly known as Big Data technologies) to cut media waste, track campaign performance and optimize it at scale.  

Advertisers can reach users across desktop, tablets and mobile devices with Reduce Data.  We’re rolling out the platform with a variety of new features and are extremely excited about the path ahead.  

Please do watch our blog or our Facebook page for announcements. 

1. A Demand Side Platform is an advertiser focussed, programmatic platform that uses Real-time Bidding as a mechanism to buy display ads through auctions. 

The guy on the street is talking about incubators and accelerators.

You bump into Dave McClure at your favorite coffee shop.

The car sales man sold software for 20 years.

People are talking about open compute in the public bathrooms.

You see the same faces at Starbucks at the same spots everyday, using it like an office space.

The Google Product manager you spoke to a couple of days ago lives right next door.

You meet more Founders than Employees. 

Your car breaks down with a software bug.

You drive into an “Infinite Loop”. 

Dear Partner Manager at Google / DoubleClick - We’ve been trying to get to you for the last one month. This is to get our platform Reduce Data Certified. In our first response I got a form within an email without a submit button. 

In my second email a week later, I was asked to type down the responses line by line which I did and have not got any response.

I have tried to reach out to folks whom I know at Google but looks like it will take some time before I can get that channel to work for me.

In the contrary, last year before the Holidays, I got in touch with Facebook and immediately got a response from many senior folks in FB Partner Management. They were eager to sign on new advertising partners and even got into calls the following week and replied  even through the weekend with real names at the end of the emails and contact info in case I wanted to get in touch with them.

This really brings to me one key question: Is Google too big to respond to partners, customers and the marketplace in general. I wish it were not true. But it seems to me like it has already become too big to be nimble.

In any case, a request: I am still waiting for response from an unnamed person in the Google Doubleclick certification team. We are  losing valuable business because my company, Reduce Data is not yet certified.

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Almost everyday, I bump into Entrepreneurs from India in various parts of Silicon Valley. Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Menlo Park …they’re everywhere.

Surprisingly, many of them are ‘fresh off the boat’. That includes me as well, who came in late July 2012 and got a long term work visa a couple of months later.

In my discussions with Mukund Mohan (EIR, Microsoft Accelerator), it seems that a little over 300 companies have moved just in the last couple of months alone.

Many are gaining good getting traction, getting funded and hiring a lot of employees (both in India and in the US).

There are a couple of things that is driving this

a) Cities like Bangalore have become very expensive.

b) It is probably easier to hire and retain in Silicon Valley than in Bangalore (and sometimes in Chennai).

c) Most software product companies are built for global markets; and there is no reason to build it out of Bangalore or Chennai when you can do it in Silicon Valley

d) Silicon Valley is probably the best place to be in the world to build a technology company (You have to be here to believe it); and the lure of Silicon Valley culture is very strong - It is probably the only place in the world that has a high concentration of technologists, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. All of it being in one place helps! 

e) VP Level Jobs are at $100k in Bengeluru and Mumbai. 

f) The infrastructure issues that you face (traffic, commute times, power cuts etc) are a serious impediment to building any kind of business. 

Having said that these companies including mine aren’t really shutting down India offices and moving everything to the valley. We  are maintaining an engineering and sometimes additionally an operations team back in India.

But the centre of gravity of these companies is definitely moving west to Silicon Valley and while this is really good for the companies, it is definitely not good news for India in general. 

 

I logged in to Godaddy.com to change a domain and guess what?. All the domains were missing.

I call customer service, they say I deleted the domains but wouldn’t confirm the IP from which it was deleted

"Godaddy is a large business and we track millions of customers across the world, so we don’t possibly store the IP or region or computer name from which the domain names were deleted "

Another one says,”I didn’t say we don’t save this data, it is just that I don’t have access to it”.

Okay - I keep saying, I didn’t delete it. I deleted the debit cards that were on file so its possible that Godaddy possibly deleted all my domains along with my debit cards but no - the agent on phone doesn’t accept that’s what actually happened. 

"We will restore all of your domains except one domain which was about to expire - we have already released that and it costs $80 to restore it". 

Me - “So you’re holding my property Illegally and asking me to pay money to release it”

Agent - “Sir that’s the charge the registrar charges …we can come halfway and discount $40”

Me - “Why did you release a domain that belonged to me..the registration was still active. And two days before the domain expired, I renewed the .co domain at $30 for a year”.

The agent, “Since the domain was close to expiry so we released it”.

Me - “So you released my private property back to the registrar without reconfirming even though to me at that at that moment”.

Agent - “Yes - You cancelled it”

Me - “But the other domains are still intact”

Agent - “Yes but the last domain was nearing expiry, so we released it”

Me- “But I just renewed that like 2 days ago, which means it should not have been released”

Agent - “Doesn’t matter. You cancelled it again”.

After nearly 30 mins of argument, the agent doesn’t relent. He offers to give a discount but will effectively charge me $30 + $11 for the domain including registration. 

I remember that I requested them to “unlock” that domain so that I could transfer it to Namecheap.com. I never got to transferring it but Godaddy either has a serious issue with their system or have found a way to make a quick buck out of customers abandoning ship. 

To think of it, they might have done more harm by shutting down my key domains by simply releasing (my private property) back to the registrar. 

I cannot believe that this day and age, someone could be so cheap with their own long term customers. I’ve learned a valuable business today and that is to never trust a company like Godaddy ever again. 

How many times has this happened to you - You search and buy a product. Then you’re constantly hounded again and again for the next several days with ads of the same product appearing all over. Chances are that it has happened more than once. 

Would you buy the same vacuum cleaner twice? Would you want to buy that same book from Amazon or those amazing pair of shoes from Zappos again? I don’t think so, but today many of these ads tend to appear again even after a purchase. 

Re-targeting is the method of displaying ads again to users who have seen something of interest but did not complete the transaction

Re-targeting is useful, but displaying the same ad even after I (or any user) have already bought the product is a waste of advertiser spends and a great way to annoy any user. 

Why does this happen? Many re-targeting solutions don’t really exchange necessary data that tells the Ad Networks if the user has purchased the item or not.

And without this, what happens is that you get a constant barrage of ads of the same item displayed on every other site. 

This has been happening for a while now [http://www.adexchanger.com/data-driven-thinking/personalized-retargeting-overkill/] and therefore not really a new issue. 

To give you an example, I did an actual transaction yesterday evening (1/22/2013) by buying a Vonage line. 

  • I saw the service yesterday morning, clicked through but dropped out at the payment step.
  • In the evening, I saw Vonage targeting me with Google ads. I clicked on a re-targeted ad which had an offer on it.
  • Next, I bought the product in a few minutes and received confirmation email [see slide 1 at the bottom of this article]
  • Even 10 minutes after the purchase, I saw the ad again on the same website.  [see slide 2]

I really don’t want two phone connections today. Please forgive me for even buying the first one :-).

This is a classic case of an over use of re-targeting and probably just an inefficient tool  wasting advertiser spends. What’s troubling is that this has happened on a prominent ad network [Google] and not some small random player.   


So how does one fix this?

The solution to this problem is a little difficult but doable. Advertisers can exchange data with ad networks (using cross browser cookies or other mechanisms) to avoid such re-targeting issues. 

A simpler way would be to use a tool / network that has solutions to such problems. 

Another option (which also happens to be a shameless plug ;-))

It is always also recommended that an advertiser use an independent audit system such as Reduce Data to verify ad spends. 

Beyond that, Reduce Data can help identify steps in the campaign funnel causing media waste and give specific recommendations that can help optimize ad spends.

If you would like more information about Reduce Data, please head to our website at http://www.reducedata.com or our blog at http://blog.reducedata.com. 

The majority of Internet services are supported by advertising. I think it is is OK if a few customers decide to take steps to block ads on their browsers. But when an ISP does that, it creates a ridiculous situation (Fast Company:  http://www.fastcompany.com/3004452/french-isp-free-blocks-all-web-advertising).  

I think Google and other large players should limit access to free services (Gmail, Search etc) by putting up a SOPA like blackout for at least for 1 day. This blockade should not be seen as a use of force or coercion but rather a gentle reminder to users saying that ad revenue is important to Internet based free services.  And that they should request their ISP to not to unilaterally block advertising. I also suggest that the services be limited only briefly and that the user can go past and continue to use the product after seeing the message. 

I believe that an action like this will raise awareness of ad supported services and hopefully French consumers will force French ISP to reconsider its decision.