Interview with Jeff Finn, CEO, zvelo
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role at zvelo and how you got to where you are today. What drove you to be part of an AdTech service/content categorization company, and how has zvelo evolved?
As CEO of zvelo, my role is to build an effective leadership team that sets the strategic direction for our company, determines the operating plan and builds their respective teams to successfully execute on that plan. The products and solutions that zvelo delivers to AdTech are a natural extension and evolution of the technology we’ve been developing for a decade. Our mission has remained being the leading provider of categorization and malicious detection of web content, traffic, and connected devices in order to make the web safer and more secure.
MTS: What’s the holy grail for achieving programmatic success with existing advertising technologies?
First, eliminate Ad Fraud – provide brands with trust that their advertising dollars are being effectively invested. The overall programmatic market will continue to suffer unless (and until) ad fraud is eliminated and brands have trust in the system. Second, provide highly targeted advertising that combines contextual, location and behavioral signals; the data exists to enable ads to be delivered to a specific individual with specific context at a precise time and location.
MTS: How does pre-bid bot/non-human impression blocking help advertisers combat ad fraud?
Pre-bid or real-time blocking of NHT impressions allows the Ad Tech industry to effectively eliminate ad fraud. The technology and data are available to virtually eliminate ad fraud TODAY, for those advertisers that have the fortitude to demand this level of service from their suppliers and partners.
MTS: To what extent can predictive intelligence capabilities for measuring invalid/bot web traffic affect the content creation and categorization for omnichannel customer engagements?
From a categorization perspective, having predictive intelligence about invalid and bot web traffic can allow them to have the peace of mind that their campaigns are being engaged by actual humans. Having this peace of mind about their inventory will then allow them to focus on specific content creation for their intended targeted audiences, and mitigate the fear of wasteful ad spending.
MTS: How do integrations with web filtering, brand safety, subscriber analytics, and other use cases make website categorization effective?
By combining data and signals from categorization and the malicious detection of web content, traffic/impressions, and connected devices, zvelo is able to utilize AI and Data Science to identify behavioral anomalies, perform early detection of new botnets being used for Ad Fraud, DDoS and other cyber threats, and proactively predict sources of pending attacks.
By having visibility into trillions of transactions a month, zvelo is able to identify malicious sources (whether hacked PCs or IoT devices, dedicated bots, or targeted threat actors) that are being used to attack systems via multiple threat vectors. For example, we are increasingly seeing compromised IoT devices that are being used not just for DDoS attacks, but also for Ad Fraud, spam and other purposes.
Having the visibility of a broader world of transactions than just AdTech allows zvelo to have much more comprehensive threat detection than someone who is focused exclusively on ad tech.
MTS: What’s the progress with bot detection capabilities gaining traction within the AdTech industry to enable brands to better combat ad fraud and adhere to brand safety standards?
Brands could effectively eliminate ad fraud right now if they demanded that level of service from their suppliers and partners. It’s the brands who are going to need to be the main driver of holding the entire industry to a higher standard.
Brands need to understand that the technology exists today to stop bots. However, that will result in potentially less revenue for most players in the ad tech ecosystem, as the advertising investment will be significantly more efficient (the same or better results for fewer dollars). But, it must start with the brands!
MTS: Do you have any customer digital campaigns that stand out due to zvelo’s solution? Who was the audience and how did you measure success?
zvelo has enabled many partners to be more successful in honing in on Brand Safety and eliminating fraudulent impressions. One recent example is S4M, who has licensed our IVT data. The IVT dataset equipped S4M with the ability to filter out ad traffic created by malicious bots and other non-human sources. It has filtering non-human sources from its ad impressions and clicks, of which the company discovered about 4% of each to be problematic. S4M has also been able to identify publishers delivering high percentages of bot traffic, allowing it to reallocate ad spend toward those publishers proven to supply higher quality traffic.
MTS: What adtech startups are you watching/excited about right now?
Some of the technologies related to addressing malvertising (where the actual ad unit is hacked and delivers the exploit) and spoofing of the targeted ad page are of interest. There’s also some really exciting work being done at the intersections of subscriber analytics, app, and video categorization. There are some really big tech challenges to doing this right, and there are some really bright people focusing on solving the problems in those areas.
This Is How I Work
MTS: What’s one word that best describes how you work?
MTS: What apps/software/tools can you not live without?
Collaboration tools (such as Slack, Google Docs, Pivotal Tracker). We do a lot of small team collaborative efforts, so having tools that allow for sharing as we work towards a final decision/deliverable is critical to getting the desired buy-in and commitment.
MTS: What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack? ”
Try to do email in batches through the day – otherwise, you spend your entire day simply doing email. With a personality style that tries to be “responsive,” email alone can consume a day due to the volume.
MTS: What are you currently reading? (And more generally, what do you read regularly and how do you consume information?)
I am a big consumer of content and typically am reading 2-3 books a week. I just finished The Attention Merchants and American Serengeti and am now reading The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Hillbilly Elegy. I’ve also really gotten addicted to podcasts, including Malicious Life and Jocko Podcast – they’re a great way to spend drive time on very specific topics.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Get back up.
MTS: Thank you Jeff! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Passionate about content categorization, cybersecurity, ad fraud/viewability/engagement in ad-tech. Hunting,Precision Rifle shooting, fly-fishing, tennis and golf enthusiast.
For nearly a decade, zvelo has been the leading provider of contextual categorization and malicious detection for URLs for a wide range of data sets and attributes and languages. Objectionable category values mapped to IAB taxonomies include: malicious website detection, piracy, pornography, and violent content among others. Data sets are accessible through simple, intuitive APIs for integration with applications in online advertising, brand safety, network security, big data analytics and other uses cases where accuracy, coverage, performance, multi-lingual support and scalability are key performance metrics. Using proprietary “hybrid” categorization and detection techniques that combine Artificial Intelligence, supervised Machine Learning and human quality assurance, zvelo has categorized over 99% of the active web in nearly 500 categories with dozens of supported languages.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.