‘A lot of it is taped together’: Confessions of an ad tech software engineer
Ad tech companies constantly tout their innovation bona fides, but for the latest in our anonymous Confessions series, we talked to an ad tech software developer who doesn’t buy the hype. Here are the excerpts, edited for clarity.
What do you think people get most wrong about ad tech?
People act like the technology is always innovative. Something that is universal in ad tech, which is strange because it is named ad TECH, is that a lot of it is not that great. A lot of these companies are just copycats, aside from the major ones. If you look at performance numbers, they are all pretty much static. You can’t even buy a viewable campaign yet on any of the major exchanges. You can only do it on private deals, and a whole bunch of requirements have to be in place. You can’t just go to an exchange and say, “I want to buy this.” So where is this innovation?
Can you give me some more examples of what else is “not that great”?
Wouldn’t more people catch on if the services were so banal?
It is really easy to put up a website and mention “algorithms,” “machine learning” and a bunch of buzzwords. Nobody knows how that works. You can’t actually look into it, it is all just black boxes. But underneath, there is no real special sauce for a lot of these companies. You look at the Lumascape, 90 percent of these companies are copycats using the same technology. Technology is actually really hard to build and expensive. It’s not easy and cheap and something you can spin up in six months. When all these companies come out and say, “Hey we can do it too, we’re special,” it’s not real, it just doesn’t make sense.
But the reported revenues of many of these companies is quite high.
Revenues in this industry are very misleading. If you have a million dollar run rate, you only keep like 10 percent. All of the spend that goes through these platforms can be misleading, and nobody really knows how to evaluate this technology.
Is it all just marketing bullshit?
Yes. That is all it is. When they use terms like native, video, mobile, they aren’t comparable terms. Mobile is a type of device. Native is a type of execution. Video is a type of asset, and you can use video in any format. Why are you using these words? They don’t make sense. When people use them it is just marketing and I feel like people don’t know it.
You mentioned the “major” companies are actually being innovative. What do they do that smaller players don’t?
Facebook and Google are doing so well because they offer you everything you need for their networks. But nobody has done that for the web. And I don’t know why. I need other vendors to actually do anything interesting. Other than buying basic targeted ads and basic display banners, you need someone else to help you even on AppNexus and Rubicon. And I’m like, “Why can’t you, with a thousand employees, take that functionality and build it in already? What’s stopping you? What are you waiting for?” I don’t get it.
How Roblox is paving the way for a new era of branded gaming
Roblox is still in its infancy as a marketing tool. But over the last two years, the number of brands and retailers on Roblox has grown dramatically.
‘Email has become so cluttered’: Why DTC brands plan to use texting for Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday nearing, text messaging is becoming a more common marketing channel for direct-to-consumer brands.
‘There’s more opportunity’: Publishers on TikTok are taking branded content into their own hands
As their audiences on the social app have grown, a flurry of publishers have turned to developing branded content campaigns to explore new commercial opportunities.
SponsoredPublishers will lead the charge as cookie-less advertising becomes the norm
Steve Wing, managing director, EMEA, Magnite As the advertising industry moves closer to a cookieless world — one in which browserless environments including connected TV (CTV) and mobile in-app are an increasingly large part of ad budgets — publishers will have an increasingly important role in developing the future of identity. Segment creation and identity […]
Member Exclusive‘A more hopeful future’: As the coronavirus surges, advertisers aren’t pressing pause
Spending has remained consistent, according to media buyers, who say that advertisers are more prepared this time around.
‘Time to test multiple offers’: Why Black Friday and Cyber Monday advertising is coming earlier than ever this year
The accelerated shift of consumer shopping to e-commerce and the expected surge of online holiday retail, has led to earlier Black Friday and Cyber Monday advertising.