Start-up DataXu: Optimization Really Is Rocket Science

DataXu, a Boston-based startup, has unveiled a new ad optimization platform and entered an agency partnership with Havas.

Equipped with machine learning technology developed by an aerospace professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the platform runs across major ad exchanges such as those run by Yahoo and Google. It bid manages and buys each ad impression individually, making real-time decisions on ad opportunities as they occur. DataXu launches with inventory partners such as Right Media, Yahoo, and the DoubleClick Ad Exchange.

One of the first agencies to adopt the DataXu platform is Havas Digital, the global interactive arm of umbrella firm Havas. Nathan Woodman, managing director for Adnetik, Havas’ buy-side ad network, said DataXu will serve as a tool within the unit’s arsenal.

“Havas Digital has managed mountains of data on behalf of our advertisers on the Artemis platform for over 10 years,” said Woodman, referring to Havas’s proprietary ad decision system. “We are fully versed with the opportunities present in as well as the inherent technical challenges from managing the data… DataXu has demonstrated the ability to make near optimal decisions from voluminous amounts of data very quickly. This is helping us unleash the opportunity in the data on behalf of our advertisers.”

Features of the platform include campaign-specific bidding algorithms that evolve based on campaigns, and performance insights by micro-segment. DataXu’s approach is designed to improve on technologies that require pre-optimized categories or broad audience segments, said Founder and CEO Mike Baker.

Before DataXu, Baker was CEO of prototypical mobile media company Enpocket, later sold to Nokia. “Mobile is a very important but still emerging media platform that required me to spend much of my time at Enpocket and Nokia evangelizing the opportunities and creating a market among advertisers and media companies,” he said. “At DataXu, we are addressing a large existing but very inefficient market — online display advertising — with a disruptive technology… What’s the same is helping the media company understand and leverage the transformative power of new technology.”

Noting that his company’s leadership includes actual rocket scientists, Baker said, “It turns out that flying rockets and flighting ad campaigns have a lot more in common than you’d think. They both are planned in advance based on a fixed budget, launched with great fanfare and hope, monitored continuously to ensure performance, and adjusted to better reach their target.”

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