Andrew Eifler: Thoughts on Media, Advertising, Technology and Business

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Learnings from an Ad Tech News Binge

Over the past month I’ve made a real effort to ramp up my reading of advertising industry publications and newsletters. Ad Exchanger, AdAge, ExchangeWire, AdWeek – I have them all sent to my Reader and, save for a few lapses, I’ve read nearly every story since the new year. After sorting through dozens of articles about viewability, cross channel attribution, programmatic guaranteed, ad verification, data management platforms (DMP), “premium” everything, big data, mobile-you name it, here are the five things that I’ve learned:

1) As an industry, we spend a lot of time flirting with new ideas, but relatively few of them actually see timely traction with buyers and sellers. By the time anyone has actually acted on a new idea in a meaningful way, chances are the industry has moved on to discuss the next hot topic. Sometimes, like in the case of the “DMP,” industry chatter steamrolls right along, leaving an idea underdeveloped and half-baked. Also, the hot and cold topics have little relation to the way people are actually doing business today. Reading through ExchangeWire today I noticed that four out of 10 headlines on their homepage relate to Programmatic Guaranteed, a hot new idea that no one has really executed at scale.

2) The ad tech industry is a strange mix of idealistic thinkers from the advertising world and technological thinkers from the technology world. Never has the dichotomy been more evident than in the “viewability” debate. The argument for viewability makes perfect logical sense: advertisers should not have to pay for ads that cannot be seen. Part of the industry is very eager to push this standard and even throw in some GRPs and compare it to television. The other part of the industry has been quick to point out that viewability is a nice idea, but tricky to execute technologically in a way that makes sense. The conflict is particularly clear in this post by Ari Paparo and the comments by Randall Rothenberg.

3) Many by-line pieces are written with total self-interest. It’s hard to maintain an air of objectivity when you’re an SSP advocating for more sell side liquidity or a small start-up who’s advocating for larger companies to make more acquisitions.

4) Just because people talk about something doesn’t mean it will actually happen. Over the past four years I’ve read more about the importance of cross channel attribution than about any other topic, yet to this day the industry hasn’t really found a way to make it work at scale. A lot of the time I feel like we start talking about concepts and ideas before we even realize if they’re possible (or practical) to execute.

5) Once you’ve read one article on a particular topic, you’ve read them all. Well, not really, but almost. There is an incredible amount of repetition and reiteration in the ad tech media. Of all the articles that have been written lately about Programmatic Guaranteed, I don’t feel like there have been more than five or six key points in aggregate among them.

Overall, my experiment with ad tech news has left me with some mixed feelings. On one hand, I do feel like I’ve learned some new things and I also feel a bit closer to the key players in the ad tech family (or, at least the ones that write a lot). On the other hand, however, I’m not sure if I’m substantially more informed (or inspired) than I was before my ad tech news binge. When it comes down to it, I suppose my final conclusion is that talk is cheap. It’s what you actually do that really matters.

  • Tim Avila

    Great post Andrew.  I particularly enjoyed points 3 and 5.  Unfortunately separating the meaningful articles from the detritus can be painful.  I look for key authors who are consistently insightful.  You have proven through this exercise that the gross consumption method doesn’t add much value.

  • Andrew Eifler

    Thanks Tim!  I like your approach.  There is definitely some really good stuff out there – you just have to find it.