If there’s one term that comes up frequently when talking about advertising technology, it’s “confusion.” The promise of investment has brought an influx of technology companies that claim to make business easier, but results in a fragmented, convoluted landscape.
The reality is that fragmentation is actually a breeding ground for competition and innovation – two things that are vital for an emerging and growing ecosystem, as LiveRamp’s Travis May noted in a recent RTB Insider. That complexity is still hard to deal with, making it difficult for marketers to make the most sensible business decision. We hear so much about how ad tech is overly complicated, causing many to write it off as too hard. One solution to this problem, as May notes, is an integration layer, but perhaps more important is a community where technology partners come together and spell out exactly what they do, as clearly as possible.
This goes deeper than bucketing companies together in easy-to-read slides, which fails to differentiate the solutions and articulate how they can help with end goals. The only way to clear the confusion is for tech companies to put aside differences and collaborate.
It’s widely understood that marketers need technology solutions to advertise online because the sheer scale of media and data decisioning is just too much to handle manually. But too many buyers make rushed decisions to fill an immediate need based primarily on their connections, rather than finding a solution that matches their specific advertising needs. This leads to the adoption of solutions that are not fully used, resulting in inefficiency and producing little marketing value.
This isn’t to say that marketers don’t want to know what individual partners do, but we hear all the time that all the tech solutions sound the same, underscoring an urgent need for clear differentiation between companies operating in similar spheres. The reason for choosing a technology is to provide business value and drive ROI, conversions, awareness, orm whatever the end goal may be.
Marketers need to proactively educate themselves, but the industry also needs to fill the void by eliminating the smoke and mirrors in pitches, building transparency and developing clear comparisons. Many companies would likely balk at the thought of talking about their capabilities and limitations in the same forum as their direct competitors. Opponents to an open ecosystem would argue that it could kill the innovation brought by fragmentation, and that an open community built around transparent capabilities and interoperability is as bad as a consolidated market, and would kill competition.
That logic doesn’t hold up. Opening the kimono only helps marketers maximize the benefits of innovation through understanding the nuances of new vendors and technologies. It’s a classic case of all boats rising with the tide. If marketers can actually make more intelligent decisions and drive better results, they’ll inspire new customers as their competition races to catch up.
Constant innovation is the best thing in ad tech, and a clear view of the chaotic landscape is required to keep that innovation humming along. This massive technology ecosystem is designed to make things easier, but we’ve reached the point where technology companies can help themselves by embracing a concept of openness. If we can do that, then it will be far easier to plan campaigns, choose partners, and succeed at driving business results.