There’s a cautionary tale about how the most toxic worker is the one who deliberately makes a workflow overly complicated to make them “indispensable.” They force tasks to run through a black box that only they have visibility into, which doesn’t make them indispensable; it makes them a parasite who is only hindering the company. The only way to ensure long-term health is to get rid of them.
Creating this black box is the exact behavior that ad tech engaged in for years, and signs are pointing to the truth that both publishers and brands have finally had enough. Instead of trying to find a natural fit that made the flow between publishers and advertisers seamless, ad tech bloated the gaps between publishers and advertisers; the only party that truly benefitted was the ad tech vendor. It’s understandable that this system can’t continue. Publishers are losing readers and revenue because of poor user experience, and brands are seeing their ads placed in inappropriate or offensive places — such as videos promoting terrorism — due to their lack of visibility into automated exchanges. The solution is publishers taking full control of their revenue streams.
For those wondering why publishers need greater control, look no further than the current state of the ad tech market. Companies like Rubicon Project and Rocket Fuel grew very quickly because of the promises they made to publishers and brands. These promises, however, did nothing more than keep both parties at a distance from each other so vendors could skim as much off of the deals as they could. Ad tech vendors were the workers trying to make themselves indispensable, and in doing so they became a liability. Now big ad tech companies are hemorrhaging staff, their revenues are tanking, and the only positive thing one can say about the ad tech market is that it will likely see a lot of consolidation in its near future.
These are the organizations publishers are supposed to trust with their revenue streams? Truth be told, they’re more concerned with their own these days (and you know what they say about putting your own oxygen mask on first).
Publishers are responding by taking the reins. Time Inc., for instance, acquired both Viant and Adelphic to bring its ad tech in-house, and the increased overall demand for sponsored content is turning some publishers into full-fledged content agencies. Programmatic direct is another major part of this progression because its purpose is to close the gap between publishers and brands. Traditional automated programmatic exchanges serve as middlemen between publishers and brands, going back and forth between the two and taking a cut from both parties. Programmatic direct, on the other hand, empowers sales teams with the ability to work more efficiently. It doesn’t take the entire process out of their hands while saying “trust us, we’ll do you right,” but instead improves the process by putting all of the tools in the hands of the publishers’ sales and ad ops teams.
Brands also benefit because working more closely with publishers provides them with greater visibility into where their ads are going. Fake news sites (the actual fake kind) thrived because, due to a lack transparency, many brands didn’t know where their ads were placed, and now a growing number of brands are demanding their ads be pulled off of those kinds of sites. With programmatic direct, brands know exactly what they’re getting into because they have much more visibility into where their ads are going to go.
Bringing publishers and brands closer together also results in the most immediately beneficial outcome: reducing the dreaded bloat that comes from too much ad tech. When ad tech vendors wedge themselves into publishers’ sites, it takes a toll on the user experience that ends up slowing download times, adding a lot of noticeable cookies to a user’s browser, and obstructing the content that customers go to a publisher’s site to see. This results in ad blockers and abandoned pages. Taking these bloated ad tech vendors out of the equation is like pouring Drain-O down a clogged sink; suddenly everything runs quick and smooth, which is beneficial to all parties. Customers get a great user experience, publishers get happy, loyal readers, and brands get more exposure.
The results are a leaner, more profitable relationship for everyone.