DoubleVerify Adds Performance To Protection In Move To Build A Powerhouse

If someone looked at the high school yearbook of Mark Zagorski CEO at DoubleVerify, it would read: “I want to be corporate head of EF Hutton.” He moved to New York after graduate school without a job, and planned to work in finance.

“I never thought I’d be the CEO of a public tech company, but I knew I wanted to have fun building businesses,” he said. “I was never one for big companies, but liked getting into the muck and the mess. Even after I sold eXelate to Nielsen, I didn’t last long because it wasn’t the right environment.”

Zagorski plans to build DoubleVerify into a powerhouse by broadening its focus beyond evaluating ad quality — fraud, brand safety, viewability — to measure performance. As cookie-tracking dissolves, DoubleVerify wants to fill the gap and offer a cookieless way to understand return on investment.

This new area of focus for the company will position it for even greater success in the future, says Zagorski, who recently took the ad-verification company through an initial public offering in April.

DoubleVerify experienced about 30% growth in 2020 compared with the prior year. It generated close to $250 million in revenue for the year. First-quarter 2021 rose 32% year-over-year to $67.6 million. The company was recently valued at more than $5 billion.

Search & Performance Marketing Daily caught up with Zagorski to talk about taking a company public, plans for growth, and the future of advertising.

Search & Performance Marketing Daily:  What’s your 30-second elevator pitch to describe DoubleVerify’s future?

Zagorski:  We think of ourselves as advertising security software. We make the ecosystem stronger and more secure, keep advertisers safe from fraud. We help create a secure transaction between buyers and sellers by getting rid of bad players, bad inventory, and bad targeting.

S&PMD:  How is running a public company different from running a private company?

Zagorski:  There’s more transparency in the financials, more quarterly drive because you evaluate each quarter, which is somewhat challenging. The fundamentals are still somewhat the same. You focus on growth, building a great product, and servicing customers. The positive is the publicly traded currency that allows you to fuel growth in the business.  

S&PMD What does your research and development team look like?

Zagorski:  We have a very large engineering and product development team, with about 300 people. The company will have about 700 employees by the end of the year, with nearly half in research and development and product development.

We’re investing in global growth and continuing to expand and build more tools to verify media in certain sectors like connected TV, social media, audience streaming, podcasting, and gaming. These re areas where advertisers are focused. Advertisers have been slow to enter these spaces because of the lack of tools.

S&PMD:  Do you see any new measurement strategies?

Zagorski:  They are evolving in the era of cookie-free times in connected TV and audio, although they are not cookie-based technologies. The ability to measure and verify these types of media is different than measuring display ads on websites about seven or eight years ago. We never used cookies to build verification graphs, and always focused on direct integrations.

S&PMD:  What will change for DoubleVerify?

Zagorski:  DoubleVerify has always been seen as a protection company. We protect people from others who do bad things. We see this evolving into performance. Once you protect someone that’s the first level of driving better results.

We’ve launched contextual targeting tools by taking the same data used to help avoid bad advertising transitions and spin that into helping improve performance and transactions to drive better outcomes.

We’re never part of the transaction. It’s an extension of what we do. It’s kind of like Tesla cars moving into trucks.

S&PMD:  What do you like most about your job, other than building the business?

Zagorski:  Engaging with people, and that’s been the most difficult part of the pandemic, not being in the office around folks. I like to find the smart ideas from people who have been underrepresented.

I do a weekly mini coffee clutch with six to 10 random employees. We just talk for about an hour. I’ve heard so many wonderful ideas. We’re doing it virtually now. I’ve probably had about 50 of these meetings since I joined the company.

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