The Problem with Reliance Upon Adtech

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My dad, who was a union man, always said about the union, “The only promise the union truly delivers is that you’ll make exactly the same amount of money as the dumbest guy that was hired the same day you were.” A unique perspective from a lifelong Teamster. I see Adtech platforms in much the same way. The only promise Adtech platforms deliver is that you if you get good at using them, you’ll be exactly as good as your competition. No better. You’ll have no edge or proprietary advantage.

My definition of Adtech is any ad serving platform that marketers use to serve ads to the people they want to see them. As marketers, we’re forced into them throughout our careers at one point or another until something else comes along and offers a better path to our ideal audiences.

The problem with these platforms is inherent in their design. They are built to be used by as many marketers as possible. It makes little sense for them to focus on niche segments that are rarely used. It makes even less sense for them to leverage behavior exhibited on competing platforms because it lends credibility to other technologies. Doing so would be counterintuitive to their own model. In the interest of self-preservation, they simply sell what they have and ignore what they don’t.

When the iOS update hit and new regulations were put into place protecting consumer privacy, Adtech platform companies didn’t care because they only compete with other platforms who would also be deleting tens of thousands of targeting selects. Plus, using broader selects requires larger audiences to hit the same qualified buyers. That means greater spend for their customers, which results in more revenue for themselves.

To hell with that! Companies occupying the Adtech space are not the technology experts they think they are and have already outlived their usefulness to smarter, more advanced marketers. That’s why we built Specificity.

Our model isn’t about narrowly defined tech or monolithic platforms. The next and only play these platforms have is to start infusing new digital technology into a flawed marketing paradigm like we see them trying with AI. The best AI can deliver is only hampered by the “platform” approach. As Web 3.0 looms in the background, people will have real autonomy when it comes to their data in the new online world — or at least that’s the promise.  

Platform based tools tout their “ecosystem” as though it’s a big advantage. The biggest digital ecosystem in the space is Google and we’ve all learned that an over reliance on Google is a recipe for marketing disaster.

Google remains strong because many agency owners are lazy.

There. I said it.

Reselling older, more familiar, and easier to use technology is easy. It remains effective for many companies, although I’d make the argument there are much smarter plays. Blockbuster survived for years long after its hype because some consumers were slow to adapt to better, faster avenues of entertainment.

In my view, Google remains strong for similar reasons. Where else can you promise a client that you will kick ass by identifying people actively searching, and then when you do, you’ll stick a link in front of them right next to 10 or 15 of your competitors? It’s funny when you consider that is exactly the promise from AdWords and PPC agencies! The only other tactic that comes close to making me laugh as hard is SEO agencies, but we’ll save that hilarity for another post.

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