Questions for Ari Paparo, VP of DoubleClick Rich Media

DoubleClick’s rich media and video unit has morphed considerably in the half-decade it’s taken for rich media to reach its current adolescence. Its Motif self-serve rich media platform, launched four years ago, initially struggled in a market full of demand for customization and services — a demand that only increased with the adoption of video advertising. To rectify the shortcoming, the company purchased Klipmart in the U.S. and Tangozebra in the U.K., both of which offered consulting and production services along with their packaged video and rich media ad products.

According to Ari Paparo, VP of DoubleClick Rich Media, the acquisitions brought the firm “a services DNA we may have lacked before.”

Paparo leads the charge on all of DoubleClick’s rich media, video and mobile initiatives. On the cusp (in theory, anyway) of DoubleClick’s acquisition by Google, ClickZ caught up with him this week to discuss the direction of DoubleClick’s video efforts, the trend toward large-scale ad production, and the firm’s nascent mobile ad management product.

Q. How many video ads does DoubleClick serve in a month?

A. We don’t give out volume figures generally. The only source that is consistent is Nielsen, and we don’t agree with their reporting. According to all the figures, as far as we can tell, we’re the second largest rich media vendor. We claim we do the most video on the Internet. Our primary competitor [PointRoll] claims otherwise.

Q. What’s the split of your revenue from ad serving versus consulting and production services?

A. The offering we give to the market is almost always combined. There isn’t really a big market for pure technology services. Almost every client wants us to be involved at some level in a consultative fashion.

In addition, post-campaign we get very involved in analyzing the result and recapping what worked and what didn’t. It’s a very high services model, and it has to be because these are the most expensive ads on the Internet.

Q. Assembling and targeting many versions of an ad on the fly has become something of a theme this year, with the launch of Yahoo’s SmartAds product, Digitas restructuring to facilitate offshore digital ad production, and Spot Runner and Visible World offering similar capabilities for TV. Can the principle be applied to online video and rich media ads? How much of this are you doing today?

A. We’ve participated in a large number of campaigns that have some element of dynamic visuals. We have a partnership with ShopLocal in Chicago. They have a database of local offers. We jointly developed a product for them called SmartMedia to have similar ads that dynamically [serve product offers based on] zip codes according to what’s available locally.

Some of our clients on the publisher side who have more context about where the ads are showing are also doing something similar to the Yahoo announcement. We definitely see this as a trend. It’s particularly interesting in certain verticals, such as automotive and telecom. We’re also working on it with movie showtimes.

Ultimately I don’t know if the model is going to be more of a Digitas model, with mass customization, or if it will be data driven.

Q. What else are you incubating now?

A. We’re looking at a lot of areas. We’re seeing more clients interested in widget advertising.

Q. Really? Is there a place for DoubleClick in the widget world?

A. Is there a widget world, or is it just an advertising world? We have a joke that one day we’re going to hire a VP of widget technology. It’d be a short-lived career.

Q. In seriousness though.

A. The operational aspects of rich media leave lots of room for improvement. Lastly, we’re doing some interesting things with data. Rich media has the capability to offer some interesting metrics. As of yet that data hasn’t been used to tell an interesting story. [For instance], you know what percentage of clicks results in a conversion, but to what extent does an interaction or expansion result in a conversion?

Q. I know DoubleClick doesn’t comment on the pending acquisition by Google as a matter of policy, but I wonder if you could speculate a little bit on the potential role a video ad division could hypothetically play within a large search-centric organization with an enormous contextual ad network.

A. No comment.

Q. What DoubleClick’s doing with mobile ad management?

A. We haven’t officially launched our product. We’re in beta with an ad serving product for mobile devices.

Q. Is it a publisher-facing or advertiser-facing product?

A. With all these emerging markets, we always start with the publisher side, and then we look to create an advertiser product based on that experience.

Q. So DoubleClick has no interest in mobile media sales?

A. Doubleclick’s general position is that it’s a technology vendor. We enable people to sell direct. In any channel there are networks. Generally what happens is those media companies, as the volume increases, they want to take the sales direct. That’s where we play a role.

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