Rubicon Project Takes On Google For Free Ad Serving

Google dipped its toe into the free ad-serving market when it rolled out the DoubleClick-backed Google Ad Manager service in March, but the giant is far from the leader in what is an increasingly crowded space.

Companies like Exponential Interactive and OpenX already offer free ad serving, tracking and reporting, and now there's a newcomer that aims to take on Google: The Rubicon Project.

Los Angeles-based Rubicon's new Ad Network Ad Server is compatible with more than 300 ad networks--including Google's AdSense and the Yahoo Publisher Network, as well as networks with CPC, CPM and CPA-based pricing. The platform offers publishers the ability to serve and track ads across multiple networks, with a point-and-click dashboard interface that allows them to pull performance reports from each network.

According to Frank Addante, CEO of the Rubicon Project, it's the fact that the platform spans multiple networks that makes it a formidable Google Ad Manager challenger. "We've created an ad-server specifically designed for managing ad networks," Addante said. "Many of the free products like Google's Ad Manager were primarily designed to address direct sales for publishers."

Addante added that Rubicon's new free ad server tackles billing and reporting for non-U.S.-based ad networks as well. "We believe about a third to half of all U.S. traffic is international," Addante said. "And serving the right ads to the right people, in addition to dealing with billing currency conversions like Yen-to-dollars, introduces all new sorts of challenges for publishers."

What's not included in Rubicon's new ad-server is the performance optimization function--a service that Addante said that the company hopes publishers will want to pay for. "The idea is that when people see how well the ad server performs, they'll want us to do the optimization, so they can just flip the switch to show the highest-performing ads," Addante said. "With our existing ad management product, we take a small percentage of the revenue that's managed through the system."

And publishers including eHarmony, and ZoomInfo have already been tapping Rubicon's ad management platform, to the tune of more than 11 billion ads optimized since the company's launch in October 2007.

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