Ad Tech Today is a Dead End

Paul Berry is founder and CEO of RebelMouse, a social aggregation and curation site. 

The current paradigm of advertising technology is fundamentally broken.

Until recently, it was all about the Don Drapers of the world gathering together to take weeks, months and years to craft the perfect message. Technology has tried desperately to send that message to the right person at the right time. Ad tech has used the concept of context to try figure out what content was on on the page the ad is being delivered to so that you might be reading about Prism and get a Verizon ad.

We’ve been down this road long enough to understand it doesn’t work. You are more likely to summit Everest than click on one of these ads that accompany this post you are reading.

The road out is starting to become clear. Twitter and Facebook have been teaching marketers, consumers and publishers all the clear new meaning for real time. Advertisers weren’t structured to think of real time and context the way they are starting to now. Real time means we can react to the events of the world so quickly that we can be in the context of what people are actually thinking and talking about. Context changes with real time as well. Instead of scanning an article body to assume the visitor wants more related to that article, marketers have to be contextual to the readers. The content has to compete not with the rest of the article but with the rest of their thumbnails.

That means moving faster. Last February, in the middle of the Super Bowl, we saw the future of real-time advertising. The power went off. Hundreds of millions of people waited. And Oreo, in Twitter and Facebook, sent the world a beautiful picture of Oreo cookies with the inscription “you can still dunk in the dark.” Millions saw it. Tens of thousands retweeted and reposted it. Amazingly, in that moment of massive success Oreo enjoyed during the Super Bowl, none of its ad campaigns updated. And that is what is going to change.

It will take building true, deep technologies that will put the walk behind the talk that CMOs put out about being a digital newsroom. It will move even more power in the world to social and to the people who create content. Not every moment is as exciting as halftime at the Super Bowl, so brands have to use the boring news days to iterate on their content message to find what connects to their audience. Instead of testing in closed rooms, they have the opportunity to test in high traffic where the learning opportunities are gigantic in comparison.

Everything we need to shift into the new paradigm is in front of us now, but like any paradigm shift, it’s going to come with massive turbulence and displacement. The disconnect in the chain between the social teams creating real-time content for brands, the media buyers and the remaining Don Drapers is going to take rearranging. There will be massive pain and loss for many of the current winners in this broken paradigm. The brands and agencies able to reorganize themselves quickly will emerge as the biggest winners.

Image via Shutterstock