Friday, August 17, 2012

Rubicon Crushes Google on Advertising Reach

There seems to be a David and Goliath story brewing in the competitive world of online advertising. In this case, the “David” in this story is a small-but-growing Los Angeles-based startup known as The Rubicon Project, or just Rubicon for short. The “Goliath” is none other than the king of online advertising: Google. In the month of July, Rubicon beat Google’s advertising reach. Rubicon’s ads were able to reach 96.2 percent of the US online audience, bringing in a total of 212.7 million unique visitors for its advertising clients. By contrast, Google reached 93.4 percent of the US audience, with a total of 206.6 million unique visitors.

In the words of Rubicon’s CEO, Frank Addante, who was quoted in the August 9, 2012, edition of Business Insider, Rubicon has “been on the tail of Google for a while now.”

A Brief History of The Rubicon Project

The fact that Rubicon surpassed Google is no accident; the company has been making itself busy by expanding its advertising network’s reach over the past several years. In May 2012, Rubicon acquired Mobsmith, a company providing mobile advertising products. 2010 saw the acquisition of Site Scout and the very large Fox Audience Network, a News Corp. property. In 2009, Rubicon purchased Others Online, a company that had created behavioral targeting services for online ads. The list of acquisitions and partnerships goes on; Rubicon has been quietly expanding their territory and technological prowess for several years.

Meanwhile, the company has also been busy hiring new executives and expanding their global reach although Google is a strong competitor so it may not yet be time to trade out of any holdings in your share dealing account just yet. Recent additions to the Rubicon team have included former Ticketmaster executives and seasoned business people drawn away from other cutting-edge tech firms.

Significantly, Rubicon has embraced the move in online advertising towards real-time bidding, or RTB. As the name suggests, RTB moves away from the traditional static bidding of online advertising and towards a more flexible, dynamic form of ad bidding. For advertisers, RTB provides greater cost efficiency, smarter advertising cookies and overall better ad performance. Mike Baker, the President of the Internet marketing research company DataXU and guest blogger for the popular ClickZ website, stated back in a 2009 post that he thought “early movers” with the RTB advertising technology would be greatly rewarded.1 At least when it comes to Rubicon’s success, he was certainly correct.

What Rubicon’s Advances Mean for Google and the Online Advertising Industry

How did the Rubicon Project pull off its toppling of Google? As alluded to above, it’s been a combination of technology acquisition and serving the right website properties. When it comes to technology, the RTB ad server technology used by Rubicon, known as REVV, is currently the only advertising platform that sources its inventory directly from the publishers. Everyone else uses intermediaries or various buying relationships.2

As for serving the right website properties, Rubicon’s customer base includes roughly one-third of the top 100 comScore publishers. Although it serves some of the largest web properties online, the ones not served by Rubicon include those that are already within the networks of the other major advertising network players, such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, AOL, etc.

Time will tell if Google will catch back up to The Rubicon Project or if the Internet advertising industry has found itself a new Goliath.

1. Baker, Mike. “Real-Time Bidding: What It Is and Why It Matters.” October 19, 2009.
2. “Rubicon Project Passes Google in U.S. Audience Reach, Ranks #1 on ComScore’s Ad Focus Ranking Report.” BusinessWire. August 10, 2012.

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