The holy grail for ad retargeting is making display ads perform like search. Ad retargeting companies have mastered the ability to find consumers, but when to retarget and what have become the most complex tasks to accomplish for platform providers.
With a new tagline -- expand your search -- Criteo has added search retargeting to its product road map. Company president Greg Coleman briefly describes it as an offering that sounds similar to Magnetic, which relies on search data to retarget display ads. Today Criteo supports "image" or dynamic banner ad retargeting.
Coleman, a former Yahoo executive, and Huffington Post president, took the helm at Criteo in April. Although not all attributable to his direction, the company grew revenue by 185% to $200 million in the first six months of 2011. Now the revenue goal is reaching $400 million by the end of 2012.
Doubling revenue might seem like an ambitious goal, but renewal rates in Europe stand at 97%, which suggests marketers like the somewhat different business model. Criteo, founded in Paris, buys inventory from publishers at CPM and sells that ad space to brands at a cost per click, supporting 1,200 clients worldwide with a slightly different business model.
Most ad networks, trading desks and demand-side platforms buy and sell on CPMs. The company does business in 20 countries, most recently in Brazil, Japan, Korea and Australia.
The big challenge, however, becomes growing the 12% ad revenue that the U.S. contributes to worldwide sales. It means getting above the "500 companies making noise claiming to have magic," Coleman said. The companies include ad networks, ad exchanges and others, such as Yahoo's Dapper, Dotomi and Fetchback.
Personalized retargeting seems promising in the U.S. Over at Yahoo, travel clients have seen a 104% lift in conversion rates, and a 97% rise in sales revenue using a tactic that pays more attention to matching audience segments with creative pieces, according to Forrester Research.
Aside from rising above the competitive noise to grow U.S. market share, Criteo could find it challenging to get smaller companies to allocate resources to integrate Criteo's technology into their back-end infrastructure. Criteo, which employs about 175 engineers, allocates resources for companies to integrate the technology or works with them to provide funding for consultants to get the job done.
"We have our heads down looking to build a more than $1 billion revenue business within the next few years," Coleman said, commenting on Criteo's investment strategy. "Getting the U.S. up to speed would be something everyone would look for in the public markets, if we were to take the company public."
Last month, Criteo secured liquidity for early employees from two previous venture capital investors. Coleman declined to provide the company's valuation or the percentage of revenue it will allocate toward building out new technology. He added: "We're doing here what we didn't do at Yahoo."