Fragmentation Continues in Ad Tech

Fragmentation Continues in Ad Tech

Two major announcements shook the digital advertising market. First, Disney announced a new  partnership, bringing its inventory to The Trade Desk. Included in the deal is Disney’s immense 1st party data that will bolster The Trade Desks Unified ID program. It is a huge win for The Trade Desk in its quest to rival Google’s dominance in the ad tech/programmatic ecosystem. Second, Microsoft came seemingly out of nowhere to land the Netflix ad inventory business.

While there are many details to be sorted out, one underreported but crucial aspect of these announcements is the continued fragmentation of ad tech. When I first started buying programmatic media, Facebook had an ad exchange and I bought my ads via DataXu. It could be a bit clunky, but it was nice to be able to manage so much media buying via one console. In fact, I was very bullish on the future of programmatic. The promise of a fully open marketplace to buy all forms of digital media leveraging all datasets publicly available proved fascinating. We all know how this story ends as FBX shut down and ever since we have slid further away from the original promise of programmatic advertising. 

Unfortunately, the implications of this fragmentation go beyond programmatic and strikes at the heart of digital media in general. I think it’s safe to say that there will never be a fully open digital media platform. If you want to access all of the premium ad inventory out there, chances are you’ll be running 10+ ad buying platforms. To maximize the targeting of your first-party data you’ll likely be using several ID solutions. Finally, I think you can pretty much kiss the idea of a reliable attribution system for omnichannel media buys goodbye. 

The outlook isn’t all doom and gloom. Out of the ashes of chaos there will be opportunities for savvy media buyers. Since buying media at scale is virtually impossible for any organization to do effectively and efficiently, there will be a lot of opportunities to find alpha in the digital media marketplace. There will be tremendous opportunities for boutique, specialty agencies/consulting firms to continue their growth by providing expertise across all of the platforms necessary to manage an ad tech stack at scale. Brands are already beginning to seek out these niche experts to exploit the opportunities in all of the nooks and crannies of the digital media ecosystem.

Digital Video To Play a Key Role in Post-Cookie World

Digital Video To Play a Key Role in Post-Cookie World

As Google plans to phase out 3rd party cookies in Chrome by 2022, there are a lot of unknowns that need to be sorted out in the next two years. With little in the way of answers for how retargeting, conversion tracking, attribution, and 3rd party data targeting will work (if at all) one thing is certain: paid digital video ads will play a significant role in the post-cookie era. 

For starters, video has already been increasing in popularity. Every month 85% of Americans connected to the internet watch streamed video. By 2022 82% of all internet traffic will be from video. This will mark an increase of 15x from 2017. The massive expansion of digital video content has already attracted marketers, but the end of cookie tracking will only increase the rush into paid video for one big reason: log-in data.

Log-in data is the holy grail of personalized ad targeting. This is why Google and Facebook have been able to gain such a large share of digital advertising spend to date. Their properties have massive audiences who are logged in so they can easily track them.

Here are four major opportunities for advertisers to reach large, targeted audiences at scale without requiring cookies:


Many people do not realize that YouTube is the second most visited website behind and ahead of Facebook. Not only does YouTube have more visitors than the world’s largest social network, users spend more than twice the amount of time on the site compared to Facebook. YouTube is incredibly popular with younger generations, but its usage is growing with older people as well.

Connected TV

Connected TV (CTV) has not been around very long, but its rapid adoption has sent cable companies and content producers scrambling to adjust to the brave new world of cord cutting. Every major content company has a streaming app available on Smart TVs and connected devices such as Roku or Apple TV. Further, new streaming services are popping up to bring even more content options to viewers. CTV is attracting large brand dollars due to the ability to target specific viewers rather than broad audiences on traditional TV. It is also providing an opportunity for smaller advertisers to get into TV ads who were previously priced out.

Social Networks

If you spend any time on social networks it is clear that video is becoming more prominent. So much so, that one Facebook executive predicted that Facebook would be all video and no text by 2021 (although TikTok may already be filling this niche). While we cannot forecast which social networks will have the most active users 5+ years from now, two things are certain: social networks are not going anywhere and video will play an increasing role in the content of social networks.

Premium Publisher Content

When people think of digital video they typically think YouTube or Vimeo, much like people think Google or Bing for search. That said, a major difference in the digital video space is there are thousands of other high quality websites and apps with large user bases that are worth advertising on. Large scale independent publishers like the NY Times and content networks like Verizon Media (Yahoo, Huffpost, Rivals, TechCrunch, and many more) are also adding more video content to their ranks. These smaller publishers and networks do not have the scale of YouTube. However, when accessed programmatically their collective reach and scale surpass YouTube.

Bold Predictions for the 2020s

Bold Predictions for the 2020s

Industry News – January 21, 2020

Innovation and change in the ad tech and mar tech spaces happened at a dizzying pace over the last decade. With the start of a new decade I fully expect the roller coaster ride to continue.  I’m making bold predictions about how ad tech will evolve over the next ten years:

  •  The Walled Gardens will crumble: Facebook and Google will be forced to split up their publishing and ad businesses. There isn’t much that both parties in Washington have in common these days, but they both have Google and Facebook (and Amazon) in their regulatory crosshairs. Google and Facebook control around 80% of all digital ad spend (with Amazon rapidly leveraging their vast ecommerce/data platform to catch up).  With no viable competitor to any of these companies, the government will be forced to step in and break up their respective monopolies. The result will be a boost for programmatic as walled garden inventory will once again be available via exchanges.

  • Medium to small online advertisers will go programmatic. DSPs, data companies, and others that comprise the programmatic ecosystem have spent the 2010s going after enterprise clients. As the enterprise market becomes saturated, these companies will start to develop methods that make their solutions easier and scalable for advertisers with smaller budgets. These advertisers will be more than willing to ditch Facebook Business Manager and AdWords for DSPs that give them access to more platforms (Connected TV, Digital Audio, Digital Out of Home to name a few) and more data solutions.

  • Cable TV will go the way of dial up internet. The growth of streaming video content has been staggering. Currently, about 80% of households stream at least some portion of their video content every month. As more households become accustomed to using devices such as Apple TV, Roku, etc to access their video content, the desire to pay for bloated cable packages will continue to crumble. By the end of the decade we will finally realize the a la carte model for TV content via streaming services. The impact for marketers will be immense with vastly improved targeting options for TV ads.

Twitter Pulls the Plug on Political Ads: What This Means Going Forward

Twitter Pulls the Plug on Political Ads: What This Means Going Forward

Industry News – October 31, 2019

In a shocking move Jack Dorsey conveniently took to Twitter and announced that his company will no longer allow political and issue-based ads (click here to view the thread). My instant reaction was disappointment. I always had Twitter in my media plan for political and cause-based campaigns when the budget allowed.

What makes Twitter such a great platform for political and issue-based campaigns? The short bits of information Twitter was designed for is great for hot takes. If we know anything about political commentary today it’s all about the hot take. I understand Twitter doesn’t have the reach of other platforms, but nobody talks about “Trump Facebook Posts.” It’s the “Trump Tweet” because that’s the place to share hot takes and spark conversation.

In my opinion the timing of this announcement is nothing more than a PR stunt. Coming on the heels of Mark Zuckerberg vehemently defending Facebook’s stance on allowing political advertising on its platform Twitter is taking a shot at its much larger social media competitor. The question everyone in the political advertising space is asking themselves is whether or not Twitter’s stance will contribute enough additional pressure on Facebook to drastically limit or pull political ads from its platform altogether.

In the short term I believe Facebook will not bow to the pressure and continue to allow political and cause-based ads for the 2020 cycle. In the long term it may not be up to Facebook whether or not they continue this policy. We have already seen the first state take measures to effectively ban Facebook from running political ads. Many other politicians (both state and federal) have floated ideas of further regulating political ads.

I believe that Facebook is one more political ad scandal away from shuttering its political and issue-based ad business (either willingly or via regulation). One of three things will likely happen when the next scandal erupts:

  1. Facebook will get ahead of the fallout by voluntarily shutting down their political and issue-based ad business.

  2. Major brands will start pulling ads in protest (in the name of not wanting their brands associated with the offensive/false political content).

  3. Government will force the issue.

So what does this mean for political and issue-based advertising going forward?

I think advertisers will be safe sticking with their plans to use Facebook (sans Washington) in the 2020 cycle. That said, as Elizabeth Warren’s campaign recently pointed out Facebook still makes it very easy to promote fake political news on its platform.

I believe the next major scandal with Facebook is inevitable and likely will occur during the 2020 cycle. Facebook is already not complying with their ban on these types of ads in the state of Washington. Political and issue-based advertisers should start testing other channels to reach their audience now. As Twitter has demonstrated Facebook could come out of nowhere and shut down their political and issue-based paid media business.

Lend360 2019 Conference Highlights Importance of Programmatic Tactics

Lend360 2019 Conference Highlights Importance of Programmatic Tactics

Industry News – October 29, 2019

Population Science was on hand in Dallas last month for this year’s Lend360 conference. We love this conference because it showcases the latest advances in FinTech. It’s also great to see so many familiar faces and discuss new approaches to how data-driven programmatic advertising can help their businesses.

The FinTech space is not dissimilar from other B2C verticals where reengaging past customers is just as important as prospecting for new ones. Traditionally FinTech has relied on email, direct mail, and SMS to re-engage past clients. Unfortunately that isn’t enough anymore. As inboxes (and mailboxes) get more cluttered it’s becoming harder to stand out.

The biggest takeaway from this year’s conference for me was how programmatic CRM retargeting is moving to the forefront in terms of importance for financial technology marketing. 

Programmatic CRM retargeting allows companies to engage past customers on all of their connected devices, across a wide variety of channels, while managing frequency across channels and devices. This omni-channel opportunity allows marketers an opportunity to efficiently maximize their opportunity to engage past customers with offers to return for more products and services.

CRM retargeting is a tactic we will be implementing or expanding for all of our clients in 2020. To learn more about how CRM retargeting can make an impact for your business contact us today for a consultation.

We look forward to Lend360’s return to Chicago in 2020 and the opportunity to review campaign successes with our clients (and maybe meet new clients in the process)!