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At present’s main alternative for advert tech is to find a substitute for the cookie and for cell identifiers. Changing the cookie is the tip objective of billions of investments and tens of millions of promoting {dollars}. It is the gas that fills the hype machine and the opinion pages of AdExchanger.

But, even the perfect of these options would apply solely to a fraction of all digital promoting.

Impartial Advert Tech vs. Walled Gardens

For the final 5+ years, the mix of Google, Fb, and Amazon has captured nearly all of each incremental greenback spent on digital promoting.

That is to not say that the open Internet shouldn’t be vital, or that it does not supply significant alternatives to drive advert efficiency. However the {dollars} communicate for themselves: Walled gardens—Google, Fb, Amazon—have received digital. Everybody else is preventing for crumbs, and all the perfect improvements in advert tech are competing for what that oligopoly hasn’t already taken.


Walled gardens rose to their dominant place as a result of they serve the wants of companies within the center market. The 10 million independent advertisers on Facebook represent a broad and various demand base that comprise the center market.

Mid-market enterprise accounts for half of the US economic system and contains corporations with wherever from 10 million to a billion {dollars} in income. The world’s greatest advertisers might all halt spend on Fb—as they have done recently—with out jeopardizing the oligopoly’s revenues.

How Did This Occur?


On the one hand, the walled gardens grew to their dominant place due to their premium provide. Their wealthy experiences present a seemingly truthful worth change and a cause to gather and authenticate first-party information.

Their promoting merchandise are constructed on that basis: indispensable instruments for communication, collaboration, and commerce—services and products that few of us can stay with out for very lengthy. That is what generates the premium stock and provides the oligopoly an excessive amount of their leverage.

As for engagement and time spent, solely a choose few impartial publishers exterior the walled gardens can rise to that commonplace—and solely once they discover inventive methods to affix forces and pool provide.

However, we won’t overlook that the walled gardens additionally supply nice advert tech. Their platforms are self-serve, straightforward, and intuitive, and they’re geared towards efficiency. By combining premium provide with wealthy first-party information, elegant expertise, and closed-loop measurements, the walled gardens succeeded in assembly the wants of the center market—and succeeded, largely, by excluding impartial advert tech gamers.

Large manufacturers may deal with points like provide chain transparency, log degree information, or viewability and verification; however, within the grand scheme, these issues are area of interest and marginal. The widespread denominator for the tens of millions of advertisers within the center market consists of efficiency, reliability, ease of use, and a low barrier to entry.

Advert tech misplaced the center market as a result of walled gardens did a greater job of assembly these wants.

What’s Subsequent for Impartial Advert Tech?

As we strategy a cookie-less future, advert tech must heed the walled gardens’ instance and be taught the (generally painful) classes it offers.

In fact, working inside walled gardens comes with tradeoffs. There’ll all the time be manufacturers that function at a scale at which these trade-offs are unacceptable. Massive manufacturers endowed with large budgets, proficient groups, and wealthy information belongings can, ought to, and can put money into impartial expertise. And, in flip, there’ll all the time be advert tech corporations that service the wants of these subtle advertisers.

But when, as an trade, we deal with the delicate advertiser to the exclusion of the center market, advert tech will all the time function on a shaky basis. True longevity in advert tech will come from serving tens of millions of smaller advertisers somewhat than a handful of massive ones.

Consider it by way of the auto trade. To compete towards Ford, GM, and Chrysler, advertisers must reply with Toyota or Honda—one thing that competes in reliability, economic system, and efficiency.

Proper now, an excessive amount of of the impartial advert tech mannequin is designed to make Ferraris and Lamborghinis, customized builds, and enjoyable workarounds for a choose few. That market exists; it is actual—however it could’t scale, and it is a market the place consumers will all the time have leverage.

If impartial advert tech is to compete towards the walled gardens in a cookie-less future, it should resolve for the center market.

A brand new period of digital promoting is quick approaching, and the query is whether or not we have realized our lesson in time.

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