Putting Humans First
"When you get beyond 3,000, God knows what's in there. It must be horrifying."
-Doug Conely, VP of product strategy and operations, Exponential Interactive. Currently my favorite quote.
The above quote from Conely is in reference to advertising on more than 3,000 sites. He poked fun at the notion that big always means better in a conversation I had with him this morning. He said he's heard advertisers boasting about running on hundreds of thousands of Web sites, and that he can't help but laugh when he hears stuff like that. Which is when he said...
"There's not that many sites worth advertising on. When you get beyond 3,000, God knows what's in there. It must be horrifying."
With so much buzz surrounding ad tech, programmatic, machines, etc., it was both striking and refreshing to find someone in the industry that was willing to say that they put humans first when it comes to tackling ad fraud. That someone, Conely, even went so far as to say that all of today's programmatic hype is basically a rerun of what happened in 2005 and 2006. He said that the biggest difference today is that instead of having ad networks with integrations occurring behind the scenes, we have exchanges with open interfaces.
What we are seeing now is a "classic thing in ad tech," which is that things come in and out of fashion, Conely argued. "Right now it's about programmatic," he pointed out. "People have access to huge pools of inventory. Nobody wants to say it, but that was the same as 2005/2006. What you have now is people running around talking about [how many sites] they are accessing. At the same time, there's no way their ad fraud tech can keep pace."
Conely argued that for ad networks -- or exchanges -- it's important to "know your supply chain and the publishers that you are repackaging" in order to combat the fraud. This is where he and Exponential Interactive say that they put humans first.
"We've chosen to go humans first and then technology," he stated. A team at Exponential Interactive manually reviews the publishers looking to get onto their network. The team looks at a history of traffic patterns, how long the publisher has existed, name recognition, etc. To paraphrase Conely: "So you say you're growing faster than Pinterest, but we've never heard of you? Red flag."
Conely estimated that somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion are lost per year due to ad fraud. While he doesn't think that machines have no place -- he actually believes in a balance of humans and machines -- he argued that the machines are better utilized in the war on ad fraud after a network or exchange has been formed.
"The market is still immature," he said, echoing many others. "Anyone can put inventory up, and anyone can advertise. If you compare that to other exchanges (not advertising), there's much more control in certifying the members." That's what Conely means by putting humans first. He is essentially advocating that humans need to be on the front lines when it comes to network or exchange formation.