The Adtech Problem

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“Advertising technology, also known as adtech, is an overarching term that describes the tools and software advertisers use to reach audiences to deliver and measure digital advertising campaigns”

As the CEO of Specificity, I have always tried to be as authentic as I can be. I’m a blue-collar guy from KC and very much believe in telling it like it is even when it may go against the grain. Frankly, especially when it goes against the grain. Those that follow me on social and read my content are already acutely aware of the fact I do not mince words and this article will be no different. I want to make 2 very distinct points here that will lead into further analysis and will probably require a second post to finish.

  1. Adtech is failing businesses and marketers. The world of academia will not know about it in time to affect the kind of paradigm shift necessary to inform their students for some time.
  2. Marketers have been forced into an over reliance on adtech platforms and lack the ability and/or understanding to solve this problem independently.

Harsh, I know but follow me on this.

To the first point, Adtech has been decimated by the volatility in the data market and have had to make some really difficult decisions based on that reality.

Most have chosen to pretend their capabilities are the same in hopes that uninformed marketers aren’t doing their homework. Sadly, that seems to be working for the time being. Not for the client but definitely for the marketer who simply cannot build targeted audiences on their own. Adtech platforms keep selling things as though the iOS 14.5 update never happened- as though the FTC didn’t pass new regulations that created a vacuum for the data aggregation world. They continue to execute strategies using “like” audiences even though many of the selects they used to build them simply don’t exist inside their platforms anymore. To understand this simply search for the individual selects used to build an audience from 12-18 months ago and you will most assuredly see some of those are no longer available in the platform you built the audience within. All to often, the missing attribute is something that indicates a buying behavior which is a huge piece of the conversion puzzle.

That brings us to the second point. Adtech is getting away with this because marketers have been forced into an over reliance on software.

Instead of being proactive and seeking ways to deliver what they once could, most marketers have put on blinders pretending not to notice or they’ve simply accepted what they are given. After all, as I said previously, most digital marketing companies in the US find themselves in exactly the same boat so the pressure to seek solutions that deliver the critical contextual data layers simply isn’t prevalent! Everyone using the Facebook platform, for example, is getting the same emails we have. These emails have directly announced the removal of tens of thousands of targeting selects. It’s cute, really. It’s like the emperor has no clothes and no one has the courage to say it. Meta has even sent out emails to agency partners outlining why we all, as marketers and business owners, should use audiences that serve ads to 2 million people. Great tip! Spend more money serving ads to people who will NEVER convert. That should fix it…

At the end of the day, I am not anti-Adtech. In fact, we use Adtech. We just don’t use their targeting platforms to arrive at high likely conversion audiences and our clients reap the benefits of our efforts. The serving of ads is no longer where technology dominates because there are hundreds of platforms capable of doing that. Instead, the better technology play is to build these audiences outside of Adtech platforms and convert them into addressable audiences for ad serving. The fact of the matter is that the technology itself will continue to evolve while the functional need businesses have to efficiently spend ad dollars will not. There will always be a place at the table for those willing to forge the path leading to smarter campaigns that wastes less money marketing to uninterested/unqualified persons. The challenge is getting marketers to understand that these platforms profit more from increased volume and the businesses using them generate more profit when the audiences are more narrowly defined. It has become as difficult as playing a game of whack-a-mole while wearing a blindfold.

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