ContextTarget. I spoke today with Lance Podell, president of Kanoodle.com's contextual advertising division, ContextTarget. He most recently worked for Sprinks, which Google bought this past October.
To understand Google's blunder at having lost Lance to Kanoodle you have to first take a look at his history with About.com.
The History. Lance helped About.com develop the Sprinks property, which was the first service that allowed advertisers to place their ads contextually across the About.com network of sites.
Google followed Sprinks with AdSense, but could not offer the flexibility that Sprinks offered. With Sprinks there were no blundering placements, like the now infamous ad for suitcases on an article page about a murderer who put body parts in a suitcase. Sprinks offered ad sales by time of day, as well as the ability to block competitor's ads.
And, of course, Sprinks offered the ability to buy search ads separately from contextual ads.
Google, in an effort to protect their AdSense pricing, bought Sprinks. Two months later the brains behind Sprinks started working for Kanoodle.
Why Google Bought Sprinks. In our interview I asked Lance why he thought Google bought Sprinks. "Google got nervous because they realized the market preferred Sprinks. They bought Sprinks so they could shut the door."
What they didn't buy is the Sprinks concept of contextual advertising, and they sure didn't hang onto the crew that's going to make it happen for Kanoodle.
Why Did Google Lose Lance? My big question is if Lance was integral to the development of Sprinks then why did Google let him go? If they let the innovators slip away are they really serious about contextual advertising?
Lance started at Kanoodle on the 15th of December. In the first two weeks they secured MarketWatch as a partner (MarketWatch was in negotiations with Google at the time), and already have 300 advertisers. I asked him who else is coming on board and he said in three or four weeks we'll hear about a few others.
Separate Sales. I asked him his thoughts on why Google isn't separating AdSense from AdWords.
"What if contextual advertising is really better? Then where would Google be? Their brand is built on search."
Big Plays, Big Buys? Watch for big plays from Kanoodle in the contextual advertising area... and watch for another big Google buy.