Ad Tech M&A And The Loss Of Neutrality: Real-Time With Adroit's Spivack

I had the opportunity to speak with Avi Spivack, director of product marketing at Adroit Digital, about the ad tech market. Our discussion touched on recent M&A activity, including the purchase of attribution companies Adometry and Convertro by Google and AOL, respectively.

But while many hail M&A activity and are pleased to see the space become less crowded and more consolidated, Spivack is aware that it has come at the expense of neutral media measurement companies -- companies that benefitted all.

Real-Time Daily: Why is having independent attribution companies important for the industry?

Avi Spivack: When you look at the market, and you look at where programmatic and RTB spend is happening, retail is at the top of the pack of industries that have adopted running media this way. And retail is a huge market, obviously, but the majority of that category spend is -- unfortunately -- with remarketing (retargeting). So you’ve got that massive layer of vendors at the bottom of the funnel -- Criteo, AdRoll, etc. -- and it's difficult to differentiate between them.

So how does this play into attribution? It directly correlates to a prospecting campaign. You need some sort of intelligent attribution model to tell the difference between prospecting and remarketing, to understand what you’re employing and how to attribute success. Almost across the board, everyone tries to cram it all into one bucket. If they are getting 10-to-1 ROI from a retargeting campaign, they expect the same from prospecting. That’s fundamentally wrong.

The “big 3" independent attribution companies in Adometry, Convertro and Visual IQ had done a great job of forcing the conversation to say “you can install tools to help you be smarter.”

Real-Time Daily: So what now -- considering Admoetry and Convertro are now part of Google and AOL, respectively?

Spivack: With two of those "big 3" being sucked up into Google and AOL, you start to question where the independent guys are.

A reasonable analogy is Nielsen and comScore. They are the independent third-party audience measurement guys. They serve as these beacons of audience validation.

I wouldn’t necessarily push my clients to buy an attribution solution from Google -- they own media and have their DoubleClick Bid management system. You start to question whether you can have an attribution solution that has real, independent value without competing intents.

Real-Time Daily: How do you feel about something more basic, like Google Analytics?

Spivack: I think it’s a very intelligent way for Google to bring a smart product to the masses -- and it serves as a perfectly positioned Trojan Horse to extend to the masses Google’s paid services. “Start with this free product, then expand into all of our paid ad products.” It’s brilliant, frankly.

Real-Time Daily: So is all M&A activity "bad" for the industry at large, or just when it comes to independent measurement companies?

Spivack: It’s attribution that becomes the issue here, especially because that is how asset allocation, distribution -- those kinds of decisions -- are made. They should be heavily based on multichannel attribution data.

At the end of the day, Google and AOL made very smart acquisitions -- at least on the face of it. Attribution is absolutely imperative to their offerings.

But for the greater landscape, it’s worrying. Who is going to be left to offer that independent view once Visual IQ gets purchased?

From a CMO standpoint, it’s kind of funky and creates further confusion of “Who do I trust now?”

Real-Time Daily: You mention trust, which is a big part of the “transparency” debate. How does this all play into that debate?

Spivack:  As we both know, transparency has multiple layers -- cost, services cost, where your ads run, and operational execution. If you are outsourcing digital media-buying, what is actually happening within the platform to produce XYZ outcomes? Absolutely the transparency tide will continue to come -- I think for the good of everyone.

There are technical hurdles left to clear toward greater cross-topic transparency, if you will, and I would put attribution in that bucket. You need to be able to expose what’s working and what’s not.

Again, if I were a CMO today, I would be going out of my mind trying to keep up with the speed of change and evolution, asking, “Where on earth do I spend my money?”

Don Draper had it easy. All he had to do was worry about TV and magazines. Faced with so much channel proliferation today, how does a marketer make sense of it? These attribution platforms could be great tools to help with that.

Real-Time Daily: So if you were a CMO today, would you be afraid of not being a CMO tomorrow?

Spivack: Figuratively, if you are a CMO from the “old world,” and you don’t have a technical bent -- or your team isn’t technically-minded -- you’re at a major disadvantage. If you don’t have the people who understand this wave of programmatic that will wash over everything, you’re going to be in trouble.

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3 comments about "Ad Tech M&A And The Loss Of Neutrality: Real-Time With Adroit's Spivack".
  1. Seth Ulinski from TBR , August 14, 2014 at 9:06 a.m.
    Completely agree that neutral players are needed. On that note, C3 Metrics is another of the independent attribution specialists.
  2. Casey Carey from Adometry , August 19, 2014 at 1:13 p.m.
    Avi - Very interesting insights, but I have to admit the whole "non-neutrality" thing is more conspiracy theory than something based on facts. We know any hint of bias would cause concern, so we have organizational and contractual barriers in place to ensure client results are not available to media sales teams. The real story is that integrating attribution with the most broadly used marketing platforms available (DoubleClick and AdWords), marketers are able drive even greater performance from their investments -- through both Google and non-Google media. Which, at the end of the day, is what they really seem to care about. And no, we also don’t believe the moon landings were staged. Casey Carey Head of Marketing, Adometry
  3. Shilpi Sharma from Kvantum Inc. , August 19, 2014 at 3:41 p.m.
    Avi- I echo the concern you have. There are very few pure play attribution vendors left especially when we talk about merging top down and bottom up techniques to provide real time attribution. While supporting agile marketing at various global CPG brands, we have seen that role of attribution is to bridge the gap between the brand drivers & media buy drivers. Being closer to the brand while working with their media agencies really helped media agencies to truly optimize the campaigns (be the right keywords, correct set of publishers or content) and media across programatic platforms. At the end, Attribution touches what media is bought or not and it would be very hard for any publisher (whether Google or AOL) to keep the boundaries between ad platform performance and its attribution solution to brands.