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.
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?
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.
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:
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