Mpire Drops Widgetbucks, Switches Strategy to Be All About Optimizing and Verifying Online Ads

2/3/10Follow @gthuang

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be the Omniture for advertising and online, specifically within display.”

Lest anyone wonder if Widgetbucks might still make a comeback, Greg Harrison, Mpire’s co-founder and chief technical officer, says ad networks now lie in the “commoditized portion of the ecosystem.” “It’s not a very high-value business to be in,” he says, in part because there are “too many of them.”

To understand the online advertising world—it’s gotten quite a bit more convoluted in the past year or two—requires being familiar with ad networks, ad exchanges, ad agencies, demand side platforms, and a lot of other nebulous terms. The diagram of the advertising ecosystem that Winfield drew on a whiteboard for me was one of the more complex flowcharts I’ve ever seen, with interconnections like so many strands of spaghetti. Suffice to say, ads get recycled up and down the chain until the people running the campaigns can no longer track how they’re performing; there’s little accountability; and brands sometimes have to shut down entire campaigns without knowing why. It’s the kind of thing that can cost ad agencies tens of thousands of dollars a day.

And that’s Mpire’s real opportunity. If its technology can monitor how ads are doing in real-time—and where the problem spots are in campaigns (and who’s to blame)—then it stands to get a steady flow of business from big-name brands and ad agencies. The challenge, of course, lies in making the technology very easy to use, and—crucially—always fair and accurate.

“There is a mission here,” Harrison says. “It’s about cleaning this mess up and making it safer for advertisers to bring their spend up online… It’s about growing the pie, by bringing safety, accountability, and transparency to this segment, to promote migration of online dollars.” He adds, “My personal passion is cleaning the mess up. There are so many bad actors. Every day one of them dies, and I celebrate.”

Mpire is backed by venture firms Ignition Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The company currently has 18 employees—15 in Seattle—and small offices in New York and San Francisco. The Seattle team is planning to move from its current digs on Westlake Avenue to 3rd and Union in downtown as of March 1. That will help the company be closer to ad agencies, and key customers like Razorfish.

“We are solely focused on servicing Fortune 500 brands and major agencies,” Winfield says.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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