‘Tons of unnecessary ad calls going out’: Confessions of a beleaguered ad tech exec

Publishers love to complain about ad tech middlemen mucking up the advertising supply chain. But for the latest in our Confessions series, we talked to a vendor exec who said publishers are guilty of their own programmatic sins. Here are the excerpts, edited for clarity.

As an ad tech rep, how do you feel when publishers complain about vendors?
They can complain about fees all they want, but the fact is publishers have vendors on the page, and many publishers are generating money on them by promoting a poor user experience. So although they complain, publishers are still hiring middlemen.

How are publishers promoting poor user experiences?
I still see publishers using a 12-page slideshow when a single-page article will suffice, and some run autoplay videos below the fold that do nothing for the advertiser. There are tons of unnecessary ad calls going out to people, which is terrible for latency.

Why does this still happen?
As long as publishers receive a check from the vendors, they aren’t concerned where those calls go and what happens to the ad. They know that some vendors are bad for them because they overload the page with pixels and ad calls, but they cut a check at the end of the month.

What kind of vendors do you think publishers abuse the most?
There are too many content-recommendation widgets on-page. Publishers need to look at their own revenue model and really decide, “Are recommendation engines really bringing me enough money that I don’t care about my reputation anymore?”

What do you think of header bidding?
It can be good for revenue, but it has problems. Unless you are using an open-source product, there are too many coincidences where the provider of the wrapper is performing the best, and it is pretty obvious someone is favoring their own demand.

But some exchanges say they won’t work with the open-source products.
There is some truth to the idea that it isn’t always easy to just plug in someone else’s code and run with it, but there is a lot of sales bullshit too. Most folks don’t bring unique demand, and they don’t want publishers to realize that their tags are not necessary to have on-page.

How does a publisher find out who brings in unique demand?
You have to ask for specific examples, and you can’t just rely on the vendor’s word. You also need to know how to access the unique demand. Some exchanges will only let publishers access their unique demand if the publisher keeps the exchange tag on their page and out of a wrapper where the publisher can more easily remove them.

What is the most common programmatic mistake you see publishers making?
They don’t have a handle on their reputation among the big demand-side platforms.

Can you elaborate?
I have worked with publishers who had their ad-quality rating downgraded by Integral Ad Science. And they had no idea why this happened. I dug in and found they had a bunch of clickbait and extremist content.

What can a publisher do to fix this?
They need to talk to DSPs and exchanges and see if they are in danger of being blacklisted. And if they are in danger but don’t want to make the adjustments, they need to realize why they won’t be getting premium CPMs.

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