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Starting the advertising industry from scratch

Our VP of Business Development in New York, Emily Kaufman, speaks about what she thinks the advertising industry would look like if it were launched from scratch tomorrow.

With the rate at which technology is, and has, grown over the past few decades, the ad industry has had to adapt and change at an exponential rate and quickly understand and adopt new ways of advertising to consumers.

This fast evolution is one of the contributors to the lack of clarity within the industry, which has had a rough time over the past few years. It seems like every few months a new story has arisen that’s pulled back the curtain on illegitimate practices including bid caching; wrapper neutrality; hidden exchange fees and concerns around third-party data.

At the recent U7 summit in London, industry experts and world-renowned brands discussed the issues of complicated supply chains, self-policing and a lack of global guidelines on transparency.

Jess King and Hilary Goldsmith at the U7

It’s not all doom and gloom though! Many companies in the advertising space are working hard to clean up the ad landscape by bringing transparency and trust back to the industry. Initiatives like the U7, and trade bodies like the IAB and Tag, are transforming the dialogue.

This got me thinking about what the advertising industry would look like if it were launched from scratch tomorrow. If we could start afresh what technologies, processes and standards would we put in place from the getgo to ensure the industry remained transparent and trustworthy while being as efficient and effective as possible?

Unified ID

Thinking along the lines of the IAB and Tag we’d need an independent organization to create a global standard or a set of protocols that companies who participate in the exchange would need to adhere to. An idea that often gets spoken about at Unruly is that of ID being a commodity rather than a USP.

In our current ecosystem, only a few media giants own people based identifiers, and this means smaller companies struggle. In our new industry, I’d make ID available for all, giving the market a more level playing field and allowing companies to work across borders.

On the subject of working together, I really believe our industry needs to learn how to do it better. If we were to launch again tomorrow I’d like there to be processes put in place to encourage collaboration and unity. Rather than battling against each other we should be looking at the overall picture and joining forces.

In our current industry, we’re too busy competing to find out how we are better together! This needs to be done, especially between the smaller independent companies, otherwise, there is not going to be any chance of competing against the walled gardens.


The next aspect that I’d look at is measurement. This is a constant gripe in our industry, with companies having different standards for metrics like viewability and CTRs. We’d need to launch with a set of standards in place for measurement from an independent governing body, much like the IAB is working towards in our current industry.

I also think that in the new world, we shouldn’t focus so heavily on the numbers, using them as metrics for how well a campaign performed. We both agreed that they should contribute alongside other metrics like brands collaborating with shops for instance, who could report on in-store sales during periods when the campaigns are run. With CTRs you are chasing empty dollars, there are only so many people who are going to click and if they do click it doesn’t mean they are going to follow through with a purchase.

Managed service vs. programmatic

Moving on to think about the managed service vs. programmatic debate, I wondered whether there would still be room for both in this new industry. I don’t believe, in its current state, that programmatic could completely replace managed service, it’s not quite there yet.

I wholeheartedly believe that in the world of the future, all premium publishing will be plugged into programmatic supply in a way that renders all formats successful and any data set that you want to use can be obtained programmatically, but we know that that’s not the case right now. So, if we were to launch again tomorrow with programmatic as it is today, I think we’d still need managed service until programmatic gets to the point where it can operate 100% efficiently on its own.

Data alliances

Data seems to be the buzzword of 2019 and in our new world, I’d have it regulated much more than it is today, and would call for an independent body to oversee the flow and exchange of big data sets.

I believe there will be a lot more second party data marketplaces in the future, where two first parties share their data. For example, BA and Avis are two companies that are non-competitive, one knows about car hirers and one knows about fliers, but collectively by exchanging data, they can start to build a more complete picture of their consumer.

In this new industry, direct data alliances between brands, publishers, and advertisers should be encouraged and the benefits conveyed to all. This would eliminate the worry of data being murky and fraudulent as it wouldn’t be bought from a third party who has bought it from someone else, it will be coming directly from the source!

The future

The industry we have today is great, and it works for a lot of companies, but it’s nowhere near perfect. Thinking about how I’d like to see the industry if it started again tomorrow allowed me to take a step back and evaluate what needs changing in the one we find ourselves in.

Encouraging collaboration and the sharing of data, being more transparent with our practices, re-evaluating how we measure success, and looking at how we can make ID fairer is a great start and I really encourage everyone in our industry to think about how we could begin to make this all happen.