Why Can't The Ad-Tech Industry Speak English?
A trade report features an excellent “confessions” series of anonymous Q&As with professionals from all over the ad-tech industry. The common themes in each confession are
disgruntlement and an airing of the industry’s dirty laundry.
According to the series, it seems like the ad-tech world is doomed. The industry is challenged with an explosion of poor advertising inventory, commodity technology and services. Other problems are clueless agencies, clueless tech vendors and clueless brand marketers. There are ethical dilemmas, like excessive gift-giving and boondogles -- even summer houses, vacations, and Super Bowl trips. Buyers are too complacent to invest in important channels like social and mobile, and all the unsustainable LUMAscape businesses are propped up by VC money that has nowhere else to go.
Indeed, these issues paint an ugly picture. But they are only temporary symptoms as the world of digital marketing goes through its ugly adolescent phase.
The truth is we have a far bigger problem: The ad-tech industry has forgotten how to speak English.
As MediaPost editor in chief Joe Mandese said, “the exclusionary nature of online media always talking to itself only divides the world of marketing, advertising and media services.”
I doubt anyone disagrees.
For those who do, let’s consider a Q&A with an anonymous ad tech executive cited in that trade report. When asked “What’s the biggest problem in ad tech right now?” this “leader” responded: “It’s crappy inventory for audience buying. You have a finite amount of quality inventory, and there aren’t too many ways to access it. You could be buying via an exchange and you could have a frequency cap of three, but some other exchange or network or DSP is already seeing that same page with 13 impressions. Frequency capping occurs at the platform level, not the publisher level. Everyone is trying to reach the same user multiple times, but nobody understands where they sit in the ad-delivery stack, whether you’re No.1 or No. 24. Another huge problem is cookie bombing. It keeps shit inventory in business. You have publishers who pass their tags to exchanges at the lowest CPMs to drop cookies on as many users as possible. You can buy dog-shit impressions for 25 cents and finding users who will purchase what you’re selling at some point down the road so you can take the credit and get paid. It perpetuates the bad inventory.”
Now if you work in the trenches of an advertising network, exchange or demand-side platform (DSP), you might understand what this executive is trying to convey.
But if you’re a normal person -- or anyone who doesn’t work at an advertising network, exchange or demand-side platform -- you’re most certainly left scratching your head.
I tested my hypothesis by presenting this same passage to three different people who work in various parts of the digital marketing industry. They all laughed at me; none could decipher every single sentence with 100% confidence. How can an industry progress if it can’t communicate? How can anyone accomplish anything? The story and the lingo reminds me of the subprime mortgage industry.
But I think I have a general sense what this executive meant, so I’ll attempt to translate: There is limited high-quality media inventory to run ads online, and third-party ad networks and exchanges have poor access to it. Moreover, there is such a complicated web of intermediaries in the buying, selling and delivery of online advertising that nobody is truly certain where their investment goes and how. And then there are media buyers who will purchase the abundance of low-cost ad inventory and blanket the Web to reach enough interested prospects, and there are abundant publishers and networks who will comply. This ends up eroding all attempts to position any online advertising as premium and scarce. Therefore, the industry is going sideways.
Did I translate that correctly?
Please weigh in.
And please speak English.