DoubleClick Unveils New DART

Online advertising leader DoubleClick on Monday launched a new version of its DART ad serving product — a release that addresses a number of known problems but also sheds light on the company’s plan going forward.

Monday’s release of DART 5 is a major event for DoubleClick, which until now has never made any significant changes to the five-year-old DART ASP architecture.

Of course, that’s good news: while it’s the dominant online ad platform, DART has something of a reputation for being slow, difficult to use, and somewhat buggy. Indeed, the new version of the software’s two implementations — DART for Advertisers and DART for Publishers — is a complete retooling of the original, with a new architecture designed for speed, a new user interface intended to simplify ad campaign management, and most importantly, a new philosophy for the product.

Instead of providing a full-service package for interactive marketers to deliver their campaigns, the company intends its new release to be a platform for marketers to build on, by adding media- or format-specific vendors of their own choosing.

For instance, DART by itself won’t provide customers with the ability to launch rich media ads — but it will allow them to add a rich media “plug-in” to DART, supplied by a rich media ad firm like Enliven, Unicast or Bluestreak. While the rich media firm provides the specs and format of the ad, DoubleClick would handle the nitty-gritty of selecting, delivering and reporting.

Ebrahim Keshavarz, who is vice president of product and business development for DoubleClick’s tech unit, put it another way: “We want to be the plumbing, and have customers build on top of us.”

That philosophy is founded on DART’s modular design and heavy use of XML, which the company sees integrating with third-party vendors to provide ad delivery to media including interactive TV, wireless, and the Web.

By allowing third-party vendors to create XML add-ons to DART — which, theoretically, should be able to deliver ads to any digital platform if it has the right plug-in — DoubleClick is wagering that it will attract customers leery of spending time and money on a variety of different tools.

Media “channels are proliferating, but what we’ve seen … is that they all have the same lifecycle,” Keshavarz said. “We want to enable publishers to get to new channels with a minimal investment. That’s our technology strategy.”

The company said it will publish XML APIs, and is already in talks with several interactive marketing technology developers for plug-ins, but declined to name specific partners.

DART 5’s XML features also give it another advantage that DoubleClick hopes to leverage as a selling point: the product can integrate with a company’s existing systems. The upshot of this is that it allows data-sharing among a company’s ad serving, reporting, accounting and sales databases — for instance allowing clients to bring logs of online ad transactions into their billing systems.

“It’s more enterprise-ready,” Keshavarz said.

The new DART also has a revamped reporting module, which adds more metrics (like impressions versus conversions, through a de-facto inclusion of DoubleClick’s standalone post-click tracking tool, Spotlight) and better customized reporting.

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