MASTERCLASSING

Ad tech is on a new, healthy trajectory – it is up to us to keep it on course

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Yaroslav Kholod, Director of Programmatic Operations at Admixer, welcomes the moves made by regulators and the ad tech industry itself, to clean itself up.

The rapid rise of ad tech over the past decade has transformed not just the advertising industry, but business as a whole, throwing open the playing field to start ups, DTCs and disruptors alike. However, despite this expeditious growth, it has managed to evade regulation for some time, only now coming up against legislation designed to curb liberties some companies have been taking with customer privacy and inter – business transparency. Today, we are on the cusp of a new-look industry, as both the uptake of legislation and a greater commitment to a transparent, fraud-free industry gather pace. 

So, are we entering a permanent new chapter for ad tech – a cleaner, more wholesome one – or is this merely a phase that is responding to the current zeitgeist for customer-first privacy guarantees?

Life after GDPR
Personal data protection is not only in the media spotlight, but constantly on the mind of legislators – which is something we welcome wholeheartedly. The enforced adoption of GDPR invited much scrutiny to digital advertising practices across the globe, which in essence rewrote the rules of the game.

There were very few businesses who were not impacted by the GDPR rules, and many are even now feeling the effects, but what precipitated this was a wholesale shift towards customer privacy. The wave of personal data protection regulations that followed, including Apple’s IDFA, pushed ad ecosystems to retire their advertising IDs, and search for a more privacy-centric approach and, with that, the introduction of probabilistic targeting.

It’s fair to say ad tech has never been a media darling, and in the past five or so years, since the scale of rogue programmatic buying was realised, it has been fighting for its reputation. But the recent performance of the top ad tech stocks suggests the industry no longer needs to prove it has changed.

Ad tech enters a new era
During the last economic downturn, the industry managed to grow and attract significant investments – admittedly on the back of a pandemic-inspired change in consumer behaviour that sparked a surge in screen time and tech dependence – but the drive for greater privacy continues to run in the background.

It is no secret that personalised advertising has been met with caution from its inception, and going forward, it seems the recent wave of privacy legislation might allow the industry to cleanse itself and build sustainable consent-based frameworks; with advertising IDs losing their grip, first-party data is becoming central, which in many ways is serving to rewire the sector.

The ad tech market, which for a decade was going through a process of unbundling, has responded with a wave of mergers and acquisitions – such as this purchase of CTV ad leader Publica by Integral Ad Science – that allow key players to gather more data under one umbrella.

Legislation sets the tone
Meanwhile, industry-wide initiatives such as IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework, are essential in providing a foundation that offers the most comprehensive opportunity to support and comply with GDPR for the digital advertising industry.

Many premium publishers have embraced the first-party-focused future, including the likes of the Washington Post, which this year rolled out Zeus Prime, its self-service ad platform which allows ad buyers to reach users across all the sites using Zeus Performance.

But then most publishers do not have the technological resources of the Washington Post. However, once IDFA is released and advertising IDs are disabled, publishers without a reliable technology for managing fragmented demand, and the ability to deliver first party data, face critical monetisation issues. The major fault with many SSPs is that they simply resell poor quality traffic, but that is an incredibly short-sighted way to operate, meaning many publishers are facing a race to save their profits. Publishers who wish to not only survive but thrive in a new safety-first and privacy-focused world must examine the processes they have in place that allow both advertisers and audiences to feel safe, secure and respected.

Staying one step ahead
At Admixer we have implemented an anti-fraud tool in the form of prebid and postbid filters, in order to protect clients from compromised parties, apps, vendors and platforms, stopping fake traffic at the entrance to the ecosystem and giving us opportunity to detect fraudulent requests by checking against databases. We have also recognised the need for an internal solution that blocks abnormal inventory spikes in real time.

All of these processes not only ensure we are prepared for RTB 3.0, but are essential in upholding our commitment to the creation of a sustainable future for ad tech, and in driving an honest and open dialogue with our partners.

Ad tech has met a fork in the road, and has been guided by regulation, legislation and a genuine appetite for longer-term change onto a promising path. Now, it is down to all players in the digital advertising industry, whether a recently-merged business or a proudly independent, agnostic platform like ourselves, to continue to drive forward this open, honest agenda that promises to drive the best possible outcome for all parties.