What My Driving Instructor Taught Me About Ad Technology

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When I was learning to drive, my instructor told me that anyone could be a great driver if they were in the only car on the road. It’s all the other cars that make it hard. A similar dynamic has happened in the ad technology landscape. When the supply chain was just networks and exchanges, it was easy to be a pro at delivering digital ads. Yet, in the past few years, this ecosystem has become congested with all sorts of players. The resulting complexity has made it more challenging than ever to make business decisions. It’s become hard to be a good driver in the digital landscape.


For buyers and sellers, it’s become harder to know if you’re doing the right thing. You have more tools to optimize your stake than ever before, but this abundance of opportunities for improvement has created an uncomfortable level of uncertainty. How do you know you’ve built the right stack? Are you sure all of your providers will work together efficiently? Will they integrate with your established systems? If you’re a buyer, are you sure that your providers’ data segmentations are aligned? Do you know where your ad is going to run and that it’s brand safe? If you’re a seller, is your proprietary data adequately protected and, at the same time, well leveraged? Is your inventory being properly valued? Do either of you feel confident you made the best possible deal? I doubt it.

Four years ago, when we launched the IAB Networks & Exchanges Marketplace, networks and exchanges were the primary intermediaries between advertiser and publisher. An agency would go to a network, buy space across specific publishers, target particular demographics, and run ads across those websites. Today a transaction regularly incorporates DSPs, SSPs, retargeters, data aggregators, and more. The primary relationship is no longer between the agency and publisher or even between the agency, the network-exchange and the publisher. It is now likely that there are dozens of players in the mix.

In addition, industry-wide issues like consumer privacy protections and the upcoming tectonic shift of the viewable impression are real and changing the way all parties do business. The guiding light of providing engaging, breakthrough consumer experiences can easily become hidden behind all of these pressing matters. We can’t afford for that to happen.

This is why the IAB Networks & Exchanges Marketplace has evolved to become the IAB Ad Technology Marketplace. On June 21, 2012, participants from across the supply chain will converge at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in New York City to address the impact of technology on the industry. On stage, industry leaders will break down case studies and explain all of the partnerships that operate between brand and publisher, describing how the wheels turn. Speakers will provide insights into the future of programmatic buying for the burgeoning sectors of video and mobile, will demystify the phenomenon of private exchanges, and will delve into the enduring issue of attribution. Need-to-know best practices for big data usage and control as well as consumer protections will be explored. Bringing all of these topics to the forefront and having an open discussion about these advancements will propel us toward more clarity and shared understanding. Whether you’re a buyer, seller, or a technology provider, it will help make even your boldest business-building decisions safer and more assured.

Buying and selling is the bedrock of our industry; it is the responsibility of the IAB to protect interactive advertising’s effectiveness while nurturing and responding to its development. The reframing of the IAB Ad Technology Marketplace is just one of our efforts to do just that. I hope you’ll join us, and I wish you all safe driving.

About the Author

Patrick Dolan

Patrick Dolan

Patrick Dolan is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Mr. Dolan is responsible for finance, operation, costs, compliance, and risk management. In addition, he works closely with the rest of the executive management team to supervise strategy and revenue optimization. He can be reached on Twitter at @patrickdolan.