June 29, 2021
June 24, 2021

Why the digital ad industry needs to just give up

Casey Saran
Co-Founder & CEO

Dear advertisers and publishers:

It’s time to give up.
Cookies are going away, so is much of mobile targeting as we’ve known it. The retargeting gravy train is soon to dry up, as is much of that sweet header bidding revenue you’ve gotten used to.
The Walled Gardens were already winning by 50 points in the fourth quarter, and now most of your starting five has fouled out. 

So might as well give up.
And do what we’ve all wanted to do for roughly two decades.
Let’s put a bullet in the banner ad. And instead of battling Goliath with a slingshot, let's borrow his sword instead.

What do I mean exactly? Am I advocating for digital publishing suicide?
Rather, I see this industry being completely reinvigorated - if we can recognize one thing.
People - real humans - barely tolerate/ignore/actively hate display ads as we know them. 
Yet they really love engaging with social media posts. In many ways, it feels like that’s all we’ve been doing since the pandemic hit.

So why don’t we give people what they want?
The engagement and sheer market power of Facebook/Instagram, Google’s YouTube, Amazon, and increasingly Pinterest and Snap, only keeps growing. The new privacy-focused rules of the road- aimed at helping consumers, stand to help the Walled Gardens immensely, given their reliance on first party data from logged in users, as well as their already mammoth size.
Yes, there are many efforts in motion to develop cookie alternatives and IDFA workarounds. But if you read the headlines, and dig into the details, these initiatives seem perilous or short lived (Business Insider: The ad industry is rallying around a solution to help save targeted ads, but publishers worry it could cost them control of their data and dent their revenue).

It’s not clear how these ID alternatives will work for brands long term. So instead of trying to preserve some semblance of the status quo, doesn’t this moment in time offer a perfect chance at rethinking, and maybe reinvention of our industry?
Except it is the case of social media - we don't have to reinvent anything - it works better than almost any ad vehicle on the planet. Just look at the earnings growth of the ad-driven tech giants during COVID-19. They only stand to gain more shares.
Here’s one thing these companies have in common. They don’t bother with banners. Their ads are as native as native gets, and people respond.
In fact, time and again the best performing advertising on the Facebooks and Pinterests of the world are not actual ad placements, but legitimate social posts from brands or influencers.
Brands are leaning into social hard and the open web misses out on this completely.
For years, we’ve tried to move past the very standard display ad package, embracing native ads, and in feed ads, and other forms of potential banner replacements. Yet the banner persists - in part because of what many have called the banners industrial complex.
Brands buy billions of banner impressions a day, so it’s understandable that it’s not easy for the industry just to shut all of that off, including choking off revenue even temporarily, to quote unquote start over.

What if you didn’t have to?
We propose using that infrastructure, using all that display inventory, to further distribute the best digital assets a brand has - its social ads and social posts.
I’m not talking about just repurposing some creativity from Instagram, or making banners that reflect a social campaign - I mean actually bringing the social media experience to the open web.
We don’t have to break down any walls to do this - these ads and posts can be pulled directly from the tech giants and delivered all over the web using existing tools. The same DSP your brand uses today can be used to buy ads all over the place, except the creative can come straight from Instagram or TikTok or wherever.
Not only can we unleash the power of Social Display - ads that people like so much they share them, or shop directly from them - but we can shift the entire ad paradigm on the web. Instead of inducing banner blindness, or paper over websites with ads that make surfing unbearable, we can bring a newfound creative vibrancy to websites. This means extending existing campaigns, collecting different data, and maybe expanding the number of advertisers buying in programmatic
Ultimately, we think this means far better performance for marketers, more revenue for publishers, and much better experience for the average users

And trust me, no one is going to miss cookies or banners anytime soon.
Giving up will never feel so good.


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