33. Nancy Marzouk – taking a DrivePM through L90 and [x+1]

Nancy is the CEO and founder of MediaWallah, an identity resolution provider she started in 2013 as a way to “give back” to an industry that has been generous to her.

Nancy has been present at a number of seminal moments in the history of ad tech, including: L90’s acquisition of DoubleClick and the formation of MaxWorldwide; the latter’s acquisition into Excite, AskJeeves, and Barry Diller‘s Interactive Corporation (IAC); the folding into Microsoft’s grand ad ambitions of Seattle-based aQuantive’s DrivePM, perhaps the first agency trading desk and an innovator in retargeting; and the development of [x+1]’s pioneering DSP capability, later echoed by [x+1] founder Joe Zawadzki‘s own MediaMath.

NYC-based Nancy started as an artist and environmentalist and landed at a family-owned ad network called AdVenture Network, an early proponent of open plan office space for sellers. She was introduced to L90 when the network approached them to use their ad serving technology, and Nancy’s joined the hard-driving sales team at L90. It was a public company and resembled DoubleClick, with an ad server called AdMonitor, and both premium and secondary ad networks.

In 2001, DoubleClick acquired the tech assets of L90, including its ad server. (That same year, DoubleClick acquired email marketers MessageMedia and Flonetworks; media-planning tech from Adgile Interactive; and was in ultimately failed talks to acquire Real Media.) Shortly thereafter, L90 finalized the acquisition of DoubleClick’s performance media network, called Sonar, for about $10 million in cash and stock. L90 changed its name to MaxWorldwide.

2003 MaxOnline holiday party madness! – from L to R, Ramsey McGrory,
Nancy Marzouk, Aaron Goldman and Amy Chan

Nancy lived through a series of changes in the dot-com rebuilding era, as MaxWorldwide was acquired by Excite, AskJeeves and ultimately Interactive Corp (IAC) in 2005.

IAC was “a whole different ball game,” Nancy tells Marty in this wide-ranging episode. “I was in the digital realm … for most of my career at that point, and when I got to IAC, they had a very kind of old-school publishing mentality. They ran their websites like they were publications, not digital websites.”

After leaving IAC, Nancy joined DrivePM, a division of aQuantive, the Seattle digital pioneer that also housed the ad server Atlas and the Avenue A agency. DrivePM was “probably the first trading desk for an agency,” she says, and developed technology, “specifically retargeting,” building a form of premium retargeting that included behavioral profiling to identity higher-value browsers. Reach was possible through geo-based I.P. lookups for demographic clusters. While not as early as DoubleClick’s ‘boomerang’ solution, DrivePM was perhaps more successful.

In a famous debacle, Microsoft acquired aQuantive (including DrivePM and Atlas) for $6 billion and later wrote it down.

Microsoft’s Kevin Johnson (left) with aQuantive co-founder
Nick Nanauer and CEO Brian McAndrews in 2007

From 2007-09, Nancy worked at [x+1], where Joe Zawadzki described a vision for a DSP that sounded very much like MediaMath, which he later founded. She then joined IgnitionOne/NetMining and TagMan, acquired by Ensighten in 2012, the year before she founded MediaWallah.

Asked if she’s sanguine about the industry’s future, Nancy says: “I think there’s going to be some kind of … I don’t want to say the bubble’s going to burst, but there’s going to be something that’s going to happen, and the result of that will be a really good thing.”

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