A ton of innovation from the sell side – but who’s innovating on behalf of the buyer?


  Written by Jason Cooper, General Manager, Mobile at Integral Ad Science

Today we find ourselves in a market centered around the seller, rather than the buyer. Innovation is mainly being led from the sell side, be that from the walled gardens, the mobile SSPs or the DSPs. There are a limited number of options available for the agency and brand, outside of the ad servers and verification companies.

Why are there so few tools available to the buyer? To understand this we need to take a couple of steps back. Firstly, on the buy side a large number of agencies see the ad serving problem as being ‘solved’. This can be seen as solved through many opting for a global deal with a big publisher who also provides a solution for every part of the ad serving stack: the agency-side ad server, the trading platform, the supply-side network, the publisher-side ad server and of course, the analytics and conversion piece. How does a company innovate and invest wholeheartedly into each of these solutions, when often one product is fundamentally at odds with the other? The simple answer is that you can’t. Often the platform that should be providing the most impartial and accurate insight into campaign performance, regardless of media owner, has historically been the one that has had the least investment and innovation to date: the agency-side ad server.

Secondly, the de facto agency-side ad server is effectively being given away for no cost. Why? Providing a cost-free ad server away makes it much harder for new market entrants to compete against the incumbent. And more often than not, agencies need to be ever more cost effective and seeking out cheaper alternatives, regardless of the subtleties and features of competing platforms.

I have seen that many of today’s mobile campaigns are employing desktop legacy systems for tracking and ROI with varying degrees of success. In-app mobile environments are fundamentally different from desktop and mobile web. Impressions go through a lifecycle of sorts – at least four stages that include: delivered, rendered and viewable impressions. Frequent OS updates from the likes of Apple tend to shift the landscape for tracking on mobile. Every 12 months there are seismic shifts in the mobile technology landscape and this leads to the mobile sell side scrambling to keep apace with these changes. Mobile users are seen to only update their smartphones on average every 24 months, yet we are not seeing a refresh of the tools, and in turn the vendors, employed by the agency to effectively address these challenging changes to mobile technology and operating systems.

Now that the buy-side can identify the problems and issues they face in this constant evolution in mobile technology, they must try to seek out a solution to staying ahead of the curve. Before they can find a solution, agencies firstly need to understand that there is a fundamental problem in innovation in the available tool set. With growing agency competition and pressure from clients, do agencies ever really have the time to stop and think about the imbalance of options available between the supply-side vs. the buy-side? And if they did, what would their suggestion to the problem be?

In order to solve this imbalance the buy-side needs to be open to new agency-side tools coming into the marketplace that can help to address problems around campaign performance and provide much greater insight into campaign effectiveness. If price weren’t a factor, would agencies still choose the same tools that they currently use? Testing new platforms would open agencies up to the benefits of different products and potentially improved performance thanks to gaining greater actionable insights. Through testing new platforms agencies may also find clients that are willing to invest more into a platform that has advanced capabilities and can further prove campaign ROI.



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