AppNexus Moves Back Into Video Ads With A New Product And A New Exec

AppNexus has become one of the big names in ad tech, but CEO Brian O’Kelley (pictured above) recalled that back in 2012, the company had to pull back in a major category — namely, video.

While AppNexus built its business around display ads, O’Kelley said the company also offered “basic video capabilities” at the time. Unfortunately, due to its growth, in his view AppNexus was faced with “a really hard decision — either be mediocre in both or make a choice.”

So O’Kelley decided to focus on display, and while the company continued to serve existing video customers, it stopped taking on new ones. “I just can’t commit to making it as good as I want it to be,” he recalled telling advertisers.

Today, at the company’s European Summit in London, AppNexus is announcing that it’s getting back into video, starting with an ad-buying product that will soon move out of closed beta. This has been in the works for the past 18 months or so, O’Kelley said, and it represents “a complete overhaul of the company’s existing technology.”

“Four or five years ago, programmatic video was the Wild West,” he said. “But we’ve been testing this with a number of customers and we’re finally to a point where our video team can compete with entire companies.”

AppNexus says its buying tool will allow advertisers to target based on factors such as player size and when the ad gets played in the video, and it will provide data on things like completion rate and cost per completed view.

Plus, AppNexus will provide access to 250 billion video impressions each month. The company helped pioneer the programmatic (i.e. automated and real-time) approach to advertising, and O’Kelley said, “If you look at the programmatic buying of anything, one of the most important questions is scale. … If you spend money through the AppNexus platform you’ll be able to buy every single channel and it will be a fraction of the cost of other providers because of our overall scale.”

The company is also announcing that it has hired Eric Hoffert as its senior vice president of video technology. Hoffert’s had a long career in online video, including experience as CTO of JW Player and video architect at Spotify. He also co-founded the QuickTime video project while at Apple.

Hoffert said there were three big reasons for joining AppNexus — its technological strength (he described AppNexus as “a technologist’s dream”), the opportunity to “improve the video Internet” and the fact that the company presents a “full stack opportunity.”

What does it mean to improve the video Internet? In Hoffert’s view, that involves increasing the speed of video ads, reducing the number of middlemen between the advertiser and publisher, and making the ads more relevant.

“There’s a real opportunity to reduce all of the intermediaries in that path and basically create less friction,” he said.