Too Many Cooks in the Adtech Kitchen

by francine Hardaway on September 25, 2015

 I’ve been a marketer for longer than I care to divulge.

Tag-Cloud-AdvertisingI’ve been active on behalf of one of my clients, ZEDO, in the IAB and the Online Trust Association for years. What I see is that although the media industry has many organizations that come together to discuss challenges, and many working groups (the latest of which is the Trustworthy Accountability Group) to address the big issues like fraud, viewability, malware, and bots, none of the participants in these committees know all the other players in the industry. They’re not so much passing the buck as simply blindsided by the buck hitting them on the head from an entirely new direction.

Long ago, when I was at Intel, there were about half dozen leading companies that convened standards bodies. Those standards took hold. But that was in the computer industry.

Now, there are something like 2500 ad tech companies, and even if the major players or those have been around a long time (ZEDO has been a publisher ad server since 1999)operate according to a code of ethics, there will always be someone out there who doesn’t. And all of those “someones” have poisoned the well for the trustworthy players. They’ve made the consumer disgusted by ads, and now the entire system is imploding.

The most unpleasant of the ads, in the mind of the consumer, are retargeting and page takeovers. Perhaps these will vanish in the upcoming changes, like popups did a decade ago.

The example of the Deck and Marco Arment, John Gruber, Jim Dalyrimple et al is the most perfect one of how small publishers will are just by-kill as advertisers go factory fishing.

The Deck doesn’t do all the bad things the larger ad networks do. It serves up very straightforward ads to blogs by well-known publishers that service niche audiences. But even Marco developed an ad blocker. And then even he realized he (and his friends)was hoist on his own petard. Luckily, he doesn’t have a big company to support and he can change strategy on a dime.

Not everyone has that advantage. A big shakeout is coming in the online advertising business, and it will hurt both advertisers and publishers, although the publishers seem to be getting the worst of it right now. To them, it appears that the only way to survive is to get under the umbrella of Facebook. For now, that may look safe, but it’s a risky bet as many others have already written.

As for the advertisers, if Facebook takes all the publishers in, they will have a more difficult time reaching consumers contextually, because not everybody spends the day on Facebook, especially if they’re shopping for groceries or a car.

I wish I knew how this would shake out; I’d be rich. For right now, I can only say that it WILL shake out, and that advertising won’t go away. I just hope it will change.

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