Disrupting the Ad Tech Matrix

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hero-shot-placeholder copyIs there any industry with as much fragmentation and disparate overlapping technology solutions as the online advertising industry?  DSP, SSP, DMP, RTB, CPM, CTR, DNT….WTF?  If creating acronyms is a measure of success, then online ad technology is the front runner.

As the “Internets” rose to prominence in the late 1990’s, it held the promise of the holy grail for advertisers:  a completely new, highly efficient, and measurable advertising medium!  THE new medium that would quickly put other mediums’ out of business.  This promise was a key driver of the “internet bubble” of the early 2000’s and the “just go West, son, and get eyeballs…” mentality.

In the early days, however, most online advertising campaigns were very labor intensive.  It often started with an RFP (request for proposal) from a digital agency typically comprised of a word document overview and an excel spreadsheet with inputs for impressions, ad types, and CPMs.  Even a small online campaign of $10K would often require dozens of individuals to execute including brand marketers, agency media planners, supply side sellers, traffickers, gremlins, etc.  That doesn’t bode well for the actual advertisers – lots of hands stroking that media budget.

Fast forward fifteen years:  I just received an RFP from a prominent agency that represents multiple nationally recognized brand clients.  The RFP consisted of a word document overview and an excel spreadsheet!  Seriously?  This is broken, and needs to be fixed.

Obviously the online advertising industry has made great strides in the last fifteen or so years. Advertising networks quickly rose to prominence providing buyers scale and sellers access to major spends.  They still exist but are now being superseded by “real time” ad exchanges with Supply Side Platforms (SSP) servicing the ad sellers and Demand Side Platforms (DSP) aiding the buy side.  And there is a highly sophisticated ‘big data’ layer in the middle which guides the targeting and optimization of all the campaigns.  Oh yeah, marketers/agencies also need to identify and target their users with multiple formats (display, video, search) and across multiple platforms (desktop, mobile, and tablet…and anything in the future…watches, glasses, drones, embedded brain chips)?

As the advancement of online advertising technology has become highly sophisticated, it is now quite confusing if not downright intimidating – and not to mention prohibitively expensive. Keeping up with the changes is a full-time endeavor. And typically only large ad spenders and/or their agencies have the resources to engage a full “marketing stack” to capitalize on these advancements.

But what about the marketer and advertiser who can’t afford multiple enterprise level platforms and/or a giant agency to do this on their behalf?  And how about the independent agencies that also can’t tap into the ad-tech matrix?  How can they leverage these data driven and programmatic efficiencies?

Well, similar to many other industries that have been disrupted by software – Finance, CRM, ERP – change is a coming.  The large enterprise players (think Oracle in CRM) eventually yield space to competitors that figure out how to serve the longer tail (think Salesforce in CRM). There is a tremendous disruption opportunity for those who can deliver simple, powerful, and affordable digital marketing solutions to all the “other” marketing pros.  And considering their smaller budgets, these marketers/agencies need these solutions even more as their ROI can be completely wiped out by an expensive platform or another hand in the budget.This disruption to the ad technology industry will be exciting and often painful, but its evolution will ultimately help ALL marketers efficiently achieve their marketing goals, drive ROI, and grow their businesses.  It’s time for marketing ACTION not acronyms.  Get your popcorn ready, it’s going to be a fun ride!