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Taking Out the Trash: How Innovators Are Detoxing Adtech

Welcome to the wild world of adtech, where the middlemen – those those highway robbers, money-grubbing gatekeepers, and digital parasite – have reigned supreme for years.

 They’ve siphoned ad revenue from publishers and lined their own pockets with grand promises of digital marketing miracles. What did they actually deliver? 

Bot-driven ad impressions, rock-bottom CPM prices thanks to bot farms, and a tidal wave of fraudulent clicks. Advertisers threw billions into this black hole, while real human engagement became an afterthought.

Publishers, lured by dreams of new revenue streams, woke up to a nightmare of declining revenues and shrinking margins. Real content producers couldn’t compete with fake publishers who had zero content costs and an endless supply of phony visitors. The middlemen? They thrived, laughing all the way to the bank.

It’s partially why publishing has died a slow, painful death. As CPMs dwindled, real advertising and sponsorships for content were replaced by tech nonsense that offers no Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). Instead of supporting quality journalism and content creation, the industry flooded the market with cheap, bot-driven impressions that did nothing for genuine engagement. This race to the bottom devalued real estate that was once considered prime, leaving publishers scraping the bottom of the barrel just to stay afloat.

The tech-fueled obsession with vanity metrics and clickbait led to a landscape where actual value became secondary to inflated numbers and deceptive practices. Publishers, once the proud bearers of substantive content, found themselves overshadowed by algorithmically generated fluff designed to game the system. It’s a classic case of quantity over quality, where the real losers are both the consumers, who crave genuine content, and the advertisers, who are left with meaningless metrics and no real connection to their audience.

But let’s not kid ourselves: the more vague these adtech wizards are about their “magic,” the more they’re full of it. And don’t get me started on anti-adblock tech. Either you pay to get whitelisted, nag your visitors (which works about as well as a screen door on a submarine), or find another way to monetize. Oh, and by the way, adblock detection and measurement? It’s free and open-source.

This brings to mind an old Latin saying from Emperor Vespasian: “Money does not stink.” Vespasian famously taxed public toilet urine sales, and when his son Titus complained, he held up a gold coin asking if it smelled bad. Titus said no, and Vespasian replied, “Yet, it comes from urine.” Ad impressions, high-quality or not, are money – no matter how much they stink.

Adtech hasn’t exactly been the industry’s knight in shining armor. Instead, it’s been more like the used car salesman of the digital world, making a lot of money while leaving a trail of confused and frustrated consumers in its wake. The whole ecosystem became a convoluted mess, decipherable only by investment bankers armed with buzzwords and jargon. For a while, it seemed like the only ones winning were the middlemen, collecting tolls and rent while everyone else struggled to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of digital advertising.

But guess what? The tide is finally turning. Some adtech companies are waking up from their digital delusions and realizing that an open web where anything goes just isn’t sustainable. The days of dumping ads willy-nilly and praying for clicks are numbered. It’s like they’ve collectively found religion and are now repenting for their sins. These companies know that if they want to stick around, they need to stop being the snake oil salesmen of the internet and start delivering actual value. The shift towards more ethical, transparent, and effective advertising practices is finally gaining steam, and let me tell you, it’s about time.

This new wave of adtech innovators isn’t just paying lip service to change; they’re rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty with real solutions to clean up the industry’s mess. These aren’t the same old promises wrapped in shiny new packaging. We’re talking about integrating AI to boost ad relevance and efficiency, cutting out the spam, and focusing on quality over quantity. They’re adopting privacy-centric technologies that respect user data instead of treating it like a free-for-all buffet. These trailblazers are setting new standards that could actually stick, proving you can make money without resorting to the same old dirty tricks or alienating your audience.

Take a look at some of these forward-thinking companies. They’re not just sprinkling fairy dust on old problems; they’re tackling them head-on. By leveraging AI, they can serve ads that people might actually want to see – imagine that! Real-time optimization ensures ads are relevant and engaging, not just annoying interruptions. Plus, with the phasing out of third-party cookies, they’re embracing privacy-friendly solutions that don’t make users feel like they’re being stalked by an overzealous salesperson. These companies are proving that respecting user privacy can go hand-in-hand with effective advertising.

And let’s talk about sustainability – yes, even in adtech. These companies are cutting down on digital pollution by reducing ad fraud and waste. They’re implementing strategies that not only enhance the bottom line but also lessen the environmental impact. It’s like adtech is finally growing up, realizing that it can’t just be about quick bucks and shady practices. They’re proving that there’s a way to do this right, and it might just save the industry from the brink of self-destruction. So, while it might have taken a while, the industry’s pivot towards integrity and efficiency is a welcome change, and here’s hoping it sticks.

Shahar Sorek, Overwolf.

Shahar Sorek at Overwolf is one such pioneer, embedding ads into user-generated content (UGC) within the gaming world. Overwolf’s platform lets gamers create and monetize mods and in-game enhancements through strategic ad placements. Unlike traditional ads that disrupt gameplay, Overwolf’s overlays pop up during non-intrusive moments, keeping the gaming experience smooth. This innovation has drawn significant ad dollars while keeping user engagement high. It’s a lesson in how adtech can actually enhance rather than disrupt user experiences.

Clive Sirkin at ScreenDragon is tackling the marketing and agency world’s red tape with a no-code work automation platform. ScreenDragon’s customizable solutions slash inefficiencies, boosting productivity and job satisfaction. From managing the International Olympic Committee’s rights system to streamlining workflows for a major pharma company, ScreenDragon proves its worth in large-scale operations. Sirkin’s ability to maintain ScreenDragon’s core values and culture amidst rapid growth shows that a personal touch can go a long way in this digital age.

Zack Rosenberg at Qortex is playing 4D chess with AI to place highly relevant ads within video content. Cortex’s tech analyzes video context using audio, transcripts, OCR, computer vision, and sentiment analysis to dodge mismatched placements. This holistic approach ensures ads are relevant and non-disruptive, keeping viewers engaged. Rosenberg’s leadership, marked by strategic growth and a passionate team, exemplifies how adtech can smartly leverage AI without losing its human touch.

Jason Fairchild at tvScientific is democratizing TV advertising, turning it into a marketplace-driven medium. His goal is to make TV ads accessible and measurable for all businesses, ensuring every ad dollar is justified by measurable returns. By introducing deterministic measurement techniques, tvScientific bridges the gap between ad exposure and business outcomes, empowering smaller advertisers to compete with larger brands. Fairchild’s open marketplace approach, free from the walled gardens of platforms like Google and Facebook, ensures a dynamic and fair advertising space for all players.

Gary Mittman, KERV

Gary Mittman at KERV Interactive is turning TV watching into an interactive shopping spree. By leveraging AI to identify and monetize key moments in video content, KERV Interactive enhances consumer engagement and democratizes advertising for small brands. Mittman’s approach provides measurable, performance-driven metrics, ensuring ads are engaging and relevant. This strategic shift in ad presentation and measurement revolutionizes the industry, offering precise insights into consumer behavior and ROI.

Marc Guldimann at Adelaide Metrics is shaking up the industry with attention units (AU) – a precise measure of media quality. Unlike traditional metrics, AU fosters trust between buyers and sellers, driving more efficient and effective advertising. Partnerships with entities like the New York Times highlight AU’s potential, enabling publishers to market high-quality inventory effectively. By integrating AU into programmatic bidding decisions, Guldimann enhances media buying efficiency, ensuring every impression maximizes its potential impact.

Fred Godfrey at Origin is redefining CTV advertising with creative strategies that integrate ads seamlessly into content. Origin’s Slingshot product transforms ad breaks into engaging experiences, making ads feel like part of the show. Fred’s focus on agility and authenticity ensures campaigns resonate without being invasive. By avoiding over-targeting and focusing on creative, contextually relevant ads, Origin maintains audience respect and combats ad fraud through direct content provider partnerships. Their interactive advertising approach, using tools like QR codes, represents the future of ad tech.

Drew Stein, Audigent

Drew Stein at Audigent is pioneering ad tech by emphasizing curation over traditional data management. Curation integrates data through the supply path, offering a dynamic, privacy-safe approach. This method enables real-time data enrichment and optimization, enhancing ad campaign efficacy. Stein’s journey from finance to ad tech has driven Audigent’s innovative approach, focusing on measurable performance and value. Embracing curation has positioned Audigent at the forefront of the industry, building an interconnected ecosystem where success is shared across partners.

These companies might not be the lone wolves of adtech, but together, they’re shaping a tech landscape that doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out. Sure, some of them will merge, and others will get snapped up faster than a hot startup in Silicon Valley, but they’re all part of this much-needed wake-up call. It’s like the industry’s collective alarm clock finally went off, and everyone’s groggily realizing that the old ways of doing things just won’t cut it anymore. We’re on the brink of an adtech renaissance where the focus is shifting from quantity to quality, and that’s a game-changer.

Soon, advertisers won’t be wasting their breath asking about inventory or platforms. Instead, they’ll be grilling the data nerds on how the media is bought, how it’s targeted, and most importantly, whether it actually delivers results. No more smoke and mirrors, no more hiding behind jargon. The future of adtech is all about transparency and effectiveness, and it’s about damn time. This is the era where every ad dollar will need to show its worth, and every campaign will be scrutinized for real impact. The future is here, and it’s demanding a better, smarter, and more honest approach to advertising. Finally, an adtech landscape we can actually get behind.

Pesach Lattin
Pesach Lattin
Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pesach Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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