United Online Chooses OpenX As Its New Ad Optimization Platform

United Online Media Group is announcing today that it has chosen to use OpenX technology to manage the placement of ads on its properties including Juno, NetZero, and Classmates.

These kinds of customer announcements can be a bit ho-hum, but given United Online’s reach (it says it had 100 million registered accounts as of the end of March), and the fact that it says it went through an extensive “bake sale” to choose OpenX, it seemed worthwhile to hear more about the decision.

Santo Criscuolo, United Online’s senior vice president of national sales, noted that “the digital landscape has become more and more complex,” and that most of that complexity has done more to help advertisers than publishers. So the company was “looking for a partner” to help it navigate this new landscape, and it tested several ad management platforms in parallel for six weeks. What made OpenX stand out?

“Without disclosing any specific numbers, it comes down decreasing cost and increasing yield — that’s how we evaluated the test,” Criscuolo said.

(Jason C. White, OpenX’s general manager for publisher business west, added that OpenX’s benefits include the fact that it’s “the only platform that optimizes all classes of demand.”)

The change has already taken effect, Criscuolo added. OpenX has been managing United Online’s inventory for the past quarter — they just wanted to make sure everything was going smoothly before making the announcement. As for why the company moved on from its last provider (namely, PubMatic), he said, “That partnership was based on where the business was at five years ago.”

I also asked Criscuolo if, given his earlier comments, he felt that working with OpenX leveled the playing field with advertisers, and he said, “This is the focus group of one, but in my opinion, even though a company like OpenX certainly helps level the playing field, publishers are still playing catchup to the buy side. On the publisher side, there’s been a great deal of progress made, but it still skews heavily towards the buy side.”