Saturday, May 06, 2017

Martech Vendors Can't Avoid Ad Audience Battles

It’s been said that sports are soap operas for men. You can see business news the same way: a drama with heroes, villains, intertwining story lines, and endless plot twists. One of the most interesting stories playing out right now is online advertising, where the walled gardens of Google, Facebook, and other audience aggregators are under assault by insurgent advertisers who, like most rebels, aspire as much to replace their overlords as destroy their power. What they’re really fighting over is control of the serfs – oops, I meant consumers – who create the empires' wealth.

Recent complaints about ad measurement. audience transparency, and even placement near objectionable Web content are all tactics in the assault, aimed both at winning concessions and weakening their opponents. More strategically, support for letting broadband suppliers resell consumer data is an attempt create alternative suppliers who will strengthen the insurgents’ bargaining position.

Yet another front opened up last week with an announcement from a consortium of adtech vendors, including AppNexus, LiveRamp, MediaMath, Index Exchange, LiveIntent, OpenX, and Rocket Fuel, that they had created a standard identity framework to support personal targeting of programmatic ads. The goal was to strengthen programmatic’s position as an alternative to the aggregators by making programmatic audiences larger, more targetable, and more unified across devices.

The consortium was quite explicit on this goal. To quote the press release:

"Today, 48 percent of all digital advertising dollars accrue to just two companies – Facebook and Google," said Brian O'Kelley, CEO of AppNexus. "That dynamic has placed considerable strain on the open internet companies that generate great journalism, film, music, social networking, and information. This consortium enables precision advertising comparable to that of Google and Facebook, and does so in a privacy-conscious manner. That means better outcomes for marketers, greater monetization for publishers, and more engaging content for consumers."

But behind the rallying cry, the alliance between advertisers and programmatic ad suppliers is uneasy at best. After all, programmatic threatens the core ad buying business of the agencies and faces its own problems of measurement and objectionable ad placement. How the two groups cooperate against a common enemy will be a story worth watching.

Martech vendors have so far remained pretty much neutral in the ad wars, feeding audiences to both sides with the pragmatic indifference of merchants throughout history. But the new ad tech consortium brings the battle closer, since it involves the personal identities that have been the martech vendors’ stock in trade. In particular, LiveRamp (which links anonymous cookies to known identities) belonging to the consortium creates a connection that will likely pull in other martech players. Of course, the convergence between adtech and martech has long been predicted – it's more than two years since I oh-so-cutely christened it “madtech”  and the big marketing clouds started to  purchase data management platforms and other adtech components even earlier.  The merger is probably inevitable as programmatic advertising looks more like personalized marketing every day.  Martech vendors have growing reason to side with the programmatic alliance as it becomes clear that audience aggregators could threaten their own kingdoms by cutting off access to personal data and taking control of contact opportunities.

In short, what seems like a remote, and remotely entertaining, conflict in adland is more closely connected to the central martech story than you may think. So it’s worth watching closely and deciding what role your business will play when they call your cue

1 comment:

Ajay Kelkar said...

David-I completely agree with you. But while technology can create the capability for mass marketers to think 1:1, Marketers need to realize that data led customer marketing needs different thinking. I write about some of that here: