Alta Vista and Overture veteran Jim Barnett believes that Turn, the ad network and exchange he helped create in 2005, is on the cusp of becoming a very large company. That’s why he’s excited about Turn’s new president and COO Bill Demas, another tech industry old-timer.
Demas, the head of the Yahoo Publisher Network until 2006, has worked for some of the most successful companies in technology including IBM and Microsoft. He’s been a member of the Turn board of directors since last year, a position he will retain.
“When I was running Alta Vista, I tried to recruit Bill to run the enterprise group,” said Barnett. “That’s how we got to know each other. Unfortunately, Overture was able to steal him away from me.” Barnett noted he and Demas worked together for awhile after Overture bought Alta Vista. “I was so impressed with Bill that when he left Yahoo I recruited him to our board,” he said.
Demas, reporting directly to Barnett, will focus on publisher development, client services and market optimization.
Despite the tough economy, Barnett expects Turn to continue growing or at least maintain its current level of business in 2009. He said he wanted Demas at the helm because he believes the industry veteran is the ideal person to oversee the transformation of Turn into a “very big” company. “As you go from a rapid-growth, entrepreneurial mode to a sizeable company it requires different approaches to processes and people,” Barnett said. “Bill’s background at Microsoft and Yahoo brings a level of management and business expertise that’s required to really get us to the next level.”
While at the helm of the Yahoo Publisher Network Group, Demas was in charge of business development, product development, marketing and professional services. His prior positions included sales at IBM, several consumer product and enterprise functions during six years at Microsoft, and a stint as executive VP of Vividence.
In a statement, Demas said Turn differs from others in the field not only because it uses “machine learning technology” for automatic targeting but also because it caters to advertisers that have both brand and performance goals.
Turn, based in Redwood City, Cal., is used by more than 500 advertisers and more than 3,000 publisher Web sites, said Barnett. “Others simply don’t have this sort of predictive targeting and dynamic pricing,” explained Barnett. “The typical network is manually targeting ads on a flat CPM basis to categories of publisher inventory.”
Company revenue grew 50 percent in the third quarter of 2008, said Barnett. “We had a good quarter,” he said. “We built a niche.”
Barnett acknowledged that “obviously we are in the middle of a pretty serious recession.” But he said he believes the online display ad industry will see modest growth. “The worst case scenario is flat or slightly negative growth which is significantly better than the rest of the advertising world,” Barnett said.