Tacoda Announces Top Executive Suite Changes

An Interview With New CEO Curt Viebranz

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The promise of behavioral targeting has been a long time coming. But cookie-phobia and slow adoption of new technologies have presented real obstacles to growth. Behavioral targeting company Tacoda and rival agencies, however, are starting to prosper thanks to marketers' hunger for insight into the minds of consumers, and the prospect of premium targeting at non-premium-site prices. Indeed, behavioral targeting now accounts for more than 8% of Internet spending volume, according to eMarketer.
Curt Viebranz, newly named CEO of Tacoda.
Curt Viebranz, newly named CEO of Tacoda.

Earlier this year, Tacoda secured $12 million in new funding, opening new opportunities for growth. Its network -- which at last count reached more than 140 million unique U.S. users -- includes a wide breadth of sites, from Scripps to Gawker to Answers.com.

This week Tacoda promoted its chief operating officer, Curt Viebranz, to CEO. Dave Morgan, co-founder and former CEO, will assume the role of chairman, replacing fellow co-founder Brad Burnham. MediaWorks caught up with Mr. Viebranz to talk about where behavioral targeting is heading, screening content and the demand for better measurement.

MediaWorks: What are the main obstacles to growth that Tacoda and its rival agencies face moving forward?

Curt Viebranz: Despite all the hype surrounding behavioral targeting, there is still a tremendous amount of educating and evangelizing that needs to be done with agencies and advertisers to correctly define behavioral targeting and to bring them into Tacoda Audience Networks. Having said that, we are overwhelmed by the advertiser demand. Our principal challenge is to build the richest set of data against which to target ads. By doing this, we will command a premium cost-per-thousand rate and we can monetize our publisher's inventory at an ever-increasing level.

MediaWorks: How do you plan on defining your tenure as CEO of Tacoda?

Mr. Viebranz: Tacoda is synonymous with Dave Morgan and vice versa. Dave has done a great job positioning Tacoda in the marketplace, second to none. We both agreed that his strengths can best be utilized externally while I focus my efforts on delivering against the tremendous reputation we've built over the past several years. If I can do that, I'm certain we will have a large, profitable and enduring company. My legacy will be to put Tacoda in that place.

MediaWorks: Tacoda recently began to screen content that appears adjacent to ads served over its network. How is that process affecting business strategy?

Mr. Viebranz: Dave and I just finished an offsite [meeting] with the entire company where we spent a great deal of time talking about Tacoda's values. We are very serious about our reputation and how we are viewed by the world at large. From the outset, we have positioned Tacoda as a clean, well-lit place where high-quality brand advertisers can feel comfortable placing their ads. Our deal with ContentWatch to screen site content from our network is a key element of demonstrating to agencies and advertisers that we are serious about that positioning. We are not so naive as to think that there might not be isolated instances where a problem will occur despite our best intentions. We stand by our aim of creating the very highest quality environment for our advertisers, and if and when a problem occurs we will deal with it forthrightly and expeditiously.

MediaWorks: How is Tacoda meeting advertisers' ever increasing demand for more measurement numbers?

Mr. Viebranz: We are in the market with a suite of products which is already demonstrating success for advertisers. While we are selling our network on a CPM basis, we can show evidence that our performance is actually beating search. Our re-targeting product, Encore, allows advertisers to reach known prospects and to re-sell them with different creative or different offers. The early indicators are very promising.

MediaWorks: What has Tacoda learned from its experiments with brain scans, and how is it applying those lessons to improve ad targeting?

Mr. Viebranz: A main finding of the brainwave research was that time spent viewing behaviorally targeted ads exceeded that of contextual-targeted ads, especially when your audience is exposed to multiple impressions of an ad. We think it bears out our advice to clients that behavioral targeting can be used as a supplement to contextual ads, and that the engagement of consumers may actually increase out-of-context. It's early days, but I think we caused a stir with the research and got lots of agency folks thinking.
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