Adknowledge hires ex-Yahoo data chief Fayyad for targeted ad push


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Every day, more brainpower gets devoted to figuring out what you want to buy, before you know you want to buy it.

The game of targeted advertising is heating up, and today Kansas City, Mo.-based Adknowlege added to its roster of ad technologists, hiring former Yahoo chief data officer Usama Fayyad to advise the company in its quest to build what it calls ‘an Amazon-like recommendation engine’ for online ads.


Fayyad has worked at Microsoft, as well as having started multiple companies, one of which was acquired by Yahoo in 2004. He has a raft of academic bona fides as well, including an engineering PhD and additional degrees in mathematics and computer science.

Adknowledge, which says it makes $300 million in annual revenue, has built its business to take advantage of corners of the Web that larger ad outfits -- Google Inc., Facebook and Microsoft (Bing) -- leave relatively untouched. That includes selling ads on e-mail newsletters, online games and social network apps.

Adknowledge does things like getting consumers to sign up for trials of services like Netflix, or car loans, or any other transaction where users are ‘rewarded’ for their time and information. In the case of online games, a user might receive some ‘virtual currency’ in exchange for their personal information. They can then use the in-game cash to buy make-believe items like swords or tractors.

Scott Lynn, the chief executive of Adknowledge, said Fayyad brings not just expertise in machine learning-style advertising, but is well-connected at leading online advertising companies, including Yahoo and Google.

‘Usama has a good pulse on what the market overall is doing to approach very difficult problems,’ Lynn said.

Part of Fayyad’s job will be to help Adknowledge publish an industry analytics report, beginning in 2011, that will focus on the company’s specialty advertising channels.

-- David Sarno