Rubicon Project – So far, no good

In setting up Filthy Lucre, I have been playing with ad networks.   I set up Google AdManager to handle ads on the site, and just started by throwing AdSense in to start.   In researching ad networks, I came across The Rubicon Project.   It looked like a great solution for the problem of optimizing ad inventory.   But it ended up being a real waste of time.

First, good luck getting a hold of anyone there.   I filled out the lead form, and after 4 days, since I never heard back, I decided to call.   I got the voicemail box, even for the receptionist.   I left a message, and again, no return call.   So I tired again, and nothing.

After two weeks of this being on my to-do list, I decided that I would either get ahold of someone there, or drop it all together.   I got the voicemail again for the receptionist, left a message and tried back an hour later.   FInally I got through to the receptionist.   I told her I was a publisher with some questions, and she transfered me to…. you got it, someone else’s voicemail.

Now taking it a s a personal challenge to get a hold of someone at Rubicon Project that could answer some questions,   I decided to go to the About Us page and go down the list of people. Frank Addante is the CEO, but I decided to not bug him.   So, after trying a couple of the other Executive team names on the dial-by-name directory, none of which answer their phone, I started down the Publishing teams.   I finally got ahold of someone, Casey Steele.   I told Casey that she was the first person I really got ahold of, not counting my one 5 second conversation with the receptionist.   She apologized and told me she would be happy to answer my questions.

Casey answered quite a few of my questions, mostly just verifying what I already suspected.   She then told me she wanted to refer me over to someone who could help me get started, Mel Moultry.   She sent him an email and copied me.   I responded to that email with all my contact info.

Then Mel called me.   This is where things take a turn for the worse.   After my conversation with Mel, I felt like I wanted to pull my hair out.   It was one of the most annoying phone calls I have ever had.   Here is a sample:

(this is when I’m trying to set up an account with Mel on the phone)

Me: Okay, I’m now logged on.

Mel: Where?

Me: On the Rubicon system.

Mel: Oh, you signed up.

Me: Yeah, I clicked on the button you told me to click and signed up.

Mel: Wait, did you sign up before?

Me: No

Mel: Are you sure?

Me: Yes.   I filled out a lead form, but I never signed up.

Mel: But I’m showing an account for your name.

Me: I never signed up before now.

Mel: Well you must of, because I see an account for you.

Me: I just signed up now.   I never signed up before.

Mel: Oh, you know what?   This is the account you just singed up for.

Me: Ok

Mel: Usually are system is really slow.

The entire conversation moved like that.   For some reason, he kept insisting on telling me what CPM meant.   What level of publishers are they talking to that doesn’t know what CPM means?   Even after telling him that I was the CEO of USWeb and been doing this for over 10 years, he just kept telling me what our industry acronyms mean.   That in itself wasn’t horrible, except that it started to seem like this was new info for him.   He also started the conversation by trying to “explain” to me that AdManager and AdSense are two different products!   Nothing is worse than someone stating the obvious to you in a condescending tone.

As far as their product goes, I don’t know what to make of it so far.   From afar, Rubicon Project looks great.   But then there are the little details that seem out of place.   For example, according to Mel, since I already run AdSense on my site, they want to take 15% of my AdSense revenue.   I asked him why I would pay for a relationship I already have, through my own ad server.   He rambled off some info on his business that never actually explained why I would pay 15% of my AdSense revenue.

Then we went into the CPM.   I told him I was currently seeing a total page CPM of around $5.25.   He immediately said they couldn’t top that because my site was a medical niche.   I told him my site was not a medical website, and he referenced one of the articles on my website that dealt with the history of nursing.   I guess to Mel, if you write an article about the people being sick on a cruise liner, you’re a maritime website.   I tried explaining what my site was about, but he cut me off by saying it doesn’t matter, because it’s still niche.   At this point I would like everyone to look up at my navigation and take a look at how “niche” my site is.

Mel kept insisting that they could not top my CPM rate.   I tried explaining to him that the $5 CPM was across 10 ads, but he didn’t seem to get that.   He kept going on about how small my site is, and that 20,000 impressions per day wouldn’t be high enough volume for them sell at a competitive rate.

Overall, I decided to ignore Mel and try the system.   But then I tried to go through their system.   As you can see, Mel was right about one thing, it’s very slow.   This pic was taken after over 2 minutes of waiting.

It’s a shame that Rubicon Project was such a bust out.   In case any of their management read this, here is what I would love to see:

A system that sells my remnant inventory to the highest paying network.   Let me run my own ads, my AdSense, and your system kicks in when you have the higher CPM.   Don’t try to take away from my current revenue,   simply provide the best CPM rate you can and make it where I want to use your system.

Also, make your system load quickly.   Touting convenience over other networks when your system is slow doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And of course you may want to have a live person answer your phones, or at least return calls.   You’ll be surprised by how much business you’ll pick up by responding to leads.   And when you do respond, try to listen and learn who you’re talking to, and be a little respectful.

Oh, and make your system work with Safari.   It’s not that hard, and it just makes me think you guys don’t know enough to even make a website work, let alone an ad server.   And I know Frank Addante is using a Mac.

So for now, I’ll take my 600,000 impressions elsewhere.   My advice is to not waste your time with Rubicon Project.   But if you must see for yourself, feel free to give them a call and wait to hear back.

Update: Before I decided to just give up on Rubicon Project all together, I emailed Mel to ask him for his phone number, and mentioned that the pages on the system were not loading.   Here is his response:

Hi Edward,

I’m away from my desk in a meeting for the next few hours but feel free to leave me a voice mail.   Also we’ve received a few complaints that are UI is running a bit slow.


the rubicon project


  1. Edward– I'm responsible for the publisher program at the Rubicon Project and wanted to reach out to you personally. Please feel free to contact me directly at jt at rubicon project dot com

    I'm sorry you haven't had a great experience thus far. We pride ourselves in great customer service and responsiveness to publisher concerns.

    A couple quick notes that I think will be helpful:
    – If your page CPM is $5, there aren't going to be other networks that will be bring higher ad dollars to your inventory.
    – our core customer is a publisher with an abundance of inventory (usually in the tens to hundreds of millions of impressions a month). You seem to be monetizing your inventory quite well– I'm not sure other ad networks (and by extension, us) are really going to be able to help.
    – in general, we recommend publishers who have very high value traffic (a google CPM of $5 is a great start) and have limited inventory to create a few special sponsorship placements and bring in additional dollars that way. You get to leverage the laws of supply and demand that most web publishers get nailed by (cause they have "too much inventory").

    Happy to talk anytime. I hope we're able to speak soon.



  2. Ed, it was a pleasure speaking with you. As JT mentioned we are sorry that you did not have the full Rubicon experience. Again, feel free to contact me anytime. My phone number is (310) 943-4970.

    Take care,
    Frank Addante
    CEO & Founder
    the Rubicon Project

  3. I found this blog because I have noticed that when I'm loading the NY Daily News web site it keeps getting stuck on transferring data from rubiconproject. A reload usually works, but it is getting annoying. I suspected that the adware was the issue,
    Clearly this company has a problem.

  4. I couldn't agree more your comments. I have had the exact same experience with this company – and with Mel for that matter. This company reminds me of the fresh out of college kids in the early 2000s who thought they knew it all. Well at least until the dot com bubble burst and they were all out of a job. Time will tell, but this company looks way overhyped.

  5. I was trying to load a website which didn't, because of's retardedly slow system. I have a 5 second policy for webpages: if it takes your website more than 5 seconds to load the page, I'm leaving.

  6. I've been a reader of the Phoenix New Times online for years. I clicked on one of their stories and after reading it, I clicked the back button to get to the main page. Nothing happened. I clicked again. Same thing. Nothing. So I looked at the dropdown arrow and it said 'http optimized by rubim project" at least eight times in the quick history.

    That made me suspicious so I did a web search for this to see if it was a virus or malware that someone had inserted into the Phoenix New Times website. And that's how I arrived here.

    However this rubicom thing works, it has screwed up their website. It is certainly messing with the website's ease of use.

  7. I found this page after getting extremely annoyed with a slow-loading website being "optimized by". Like a commenter mentioned above, if a page doesn't load after a reasonable amount of time, I go elsewhere.

  8. Entrubicon is annoying it slows and locks up home computers so bad it even happened while looking up this site it eats space and makes it imposible to do anything on your computer i will never buy anything it advetises!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!er text right here!

  9. Enter text right I hear you doug..i'm very upset with .i have tried everything and can not stop them.i will never endorse or by anything they advetise. hemhere!

  10. Ed, it pains me to hear publishers like you go through such troubles like this. Unfortunately, companies like Rubicon hire unqualified reps to manage publishers. They hire for as cheap as possible and have them manage way too many publishers. That is why the customer service is terrible. The funny part is, you didn’t even dig into their system. That’s where people get even more frustrated:

    -Terrible ad latency
    -Underwhelming performance
    -Passive ad reps that don’t try to resolve problems for the publisher
    -Low quality ads from ad networks that send their bottom tier campaigns
    -One size fits all system that lacks any customization to the publisher

    It is completely wrong that other networks can’t beat $5 CPM. I’m assuming you have a low page view per visit on your website which constitutes a high organic CPM. I’m assuming your Google AdSense ads get very high CTR. Other ad networks that operate on CPC can beat Google AdSense. We’ve been able to boost one of our publisher’s CPMs to an average of over $7 CPM. This is done with fine tuned optimization that is customized to the specific website. Cookie cutter ad platforms like Rubicon do not maximize CPM performance.

    Anyways, your post struck a bit of a chord. If anyone would like to chat with a boutique ad optimizer, feel free to contact me at [email protected]. We thrive on close relationships with our publishers. We tailor our technology and expertise to your website and goals rather than get you signed and forget about you. Sorry for the plug but I thought webmasters should know.

  11. Rubicon Project is yet another ad-serving site that slows down the websites of their clients. Of course, they’ll probably deny this like all the other similar companies do.

    If you want a quick-loading site, avoid RubiconProject. What a total annoyance, and a complete waste.

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