|So, You Wanna Be an Ally|
|In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, the digital media and advertising industry is bearing witness to America’s civil unrest—in response to systemic racism—by asking itself some very hard questions about diversity and inclusion efforts within its own ranks.
There was a flurry of response from brands in support of the protests and #BlackLivesMatter, but most with cookie-cutter templatized messaging that came off like one massive PR flex. Critics handed out gold stars for the performances but wondered, “Where’s the beef?” As Seb Joseph pointed out in his Digiday article last week: “They all say they’re fighting racism, but few call out the white supremacy that underpins it.” It’s one thing to talk the talk, but walking the walk takes a helluva lot more effort. For years, marketers have been called out for cultural tone-deafness. And it happens mostly because there’s no one in the room to serve as a litmus test before such fiascos occur.
Agencies talk a good talk too when it comes to racial injustices, but inside their offices, there's an overwhelming problem with diversity and inclusion. Are you putting your money where your mouth is?
And ad tech also got called out last week. AdWeek programmatic reporter Andrew Blustein wrote about the lack of diversity in the industry, citing the unconscious bias that rears its ugly head in funding, hiring and relationship-building within the community. Some ad tech leaders even have a hard time figuring out what allyship should look like. Bill Wise, CEO of MediaOcean, was dragged on Twitter for highlighting the diverse representation on his board. Is there more ad tech could (should) be doing?
|There is a direct correlation between diversity in leadership and profitability and value creation, according to McKinsey. In a recent conversation with LiveIntent’s Kerel Cooper, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing, he told senior editor Lynne d Johnson:
“There is a lot of value in having diversity in leadership roles…on concept that is top of mind around innovation and customer experience. A diverse group allows for different opinions because people approach creativity and problem solving differently based on lived experiences. Different approaches to creativity and problem-solving leads to spirited debates which ultimately leads to better products and solutions. They end result is a better connection with employees and customers.”
This is as true for consumer-facing brands as it is for ad tech vendors (and ad ops teams). Just like the larger tech industry, ad tech prides itself on being a meritocracy, but it sounds a lot more like lip service when you actually look at the leadership within these companies. Is it time to rethink hiring, retention and promotion practices? What about your partnership practices? Are you supporting diverse entrepreneurs?
And since ad tech builds the pipes to how advertising is delivered to individuals, maybe its time to figure out how to minimize the potential of ad targeting bias and how targeting and personalization can negatively impact dynamic pricing and targeting discounts. Yep, there's racial bias in AI too.
Just in case we still aren’t sure about what allyship looks like in a time like this, look to Alexis Ohanian resigning from Reddit’s board so the slot could be filled with a black candidate. Or how IBM is pulling from offering facial recognition technology that can be used for mass surveillance and racial profiling.
Believe it or not, dismantling and rebuilding unjust systems from the ground up is how true advocacy works.
|States Wanna Tear Google Apart|
|It’s amazing when people representing different parts of such a wide and diverse country can come together to demand change in the face of a near-monolithic force. Yes, we’re talking about all 50 state attorneys general rallying together to bring an antitrust suit against Google.
While we’ve seen a preview of the likely case in the Omidyar Network’s roadmap—which we were not enthralled with, but other industry thought leaders (and former Google employees) call it legit—it’s been less clear what remedy the regulators would prescribe. Now a report from CNBC suggests the attorneys general are leaning towards the severe route—a brutal breakup of Google’s ad tech business.
|We’d tell you not to crack the champagne, but we know our cynical Wrapper readers simply raise eyebrows in a curious (and alluring) fashion. The problem with a breakup has always been how Google’s ad tech business gets cut up and who ensures the slicing is precise. Certainly many industry actors have shared their suggestions, and strangely enough those could offer guidance for the attorneys general.
At the same time, CNBC notes that the State AGs “haven’t yet definitively ruled out pushing for alternatives for its ad technology business, like imposing restrictions on how it runs its business.” And our practical side hates to admit that may be a more realistic option considering the complexity of Google’s tangled web. Big G might understand that too, considering the move to thicken the web by placing Search (which also includes News, Discover, and Google Assistant) under SVP of Advertising and Commerce Prabhakar Raghavan.
Will some government red tape be enough to take Google pressure off the open programmatic ecosystem and let it thrive?
Filings are expected in the next few months—and the states may consolidate with the Feds. We’re keeping our expectations measured, spending our time with what we expect will be Google’s defense in the antitrust barrage.
|Here’s an Offer You Can’t Refuse|
|As we’ve previously noted in this space, the digital media industry has been among the hardest-hit sectors as a result of the global pandemic crisis. Thousands have been laid off, furloughed, had their salaries reduced, or are simply going crazy trying to manage work, family, and the stress of too much togetherness, too many Zoom meetings and virtual happy hours.
As Poynter recently pointed out, our industry is reeling. And the carnage isn’t limited solely to journalists and publishing companies. Forrester Research predicts that over 50,000 jobs will be lost in the U.S. advertising agency segment before we find the “new” normal. And while we all might need a haircut, what we really need as an industry is a solution that’s more than a price cut, job cut, or cut back in order to get our lives and careers off pause on to better days. Read on for the offer you can’t refuse.
|The reality is that even in this dreadful business environment there are businesses that are thriving by providing smart, innovative, sustainable solutions to help us find the lights at the end of our tunnels. These savvy leaders are gaining market share, maintaining profitability, bringing on new customers and, yes, even hiring skilled and experienced new employees who have been victims of the downturn.
So here’s the offer, if you are one of those companies fortunate enough to be swimming against the tide then make a commitment to hire one (or more) of these talented folks. They will pay huge dividends to you in due course, and there has never been a better time to recruit new talent. That is exactly what we are offering at Duration Media. If you are a demand-side expert ready to join a world-class team, get in touch with us. We are ready to bring you onboard now. Send your resume to [email protected]. He’s our Godfather.
|Another DSP on the Brink|
|Not that long ago DSPs seemed to be on top of the programmatic heap, dictating its wheres and whys and future. Funny how a few years and a header bidding revolution can change things. Many DSPs have been picked off or simply closed up shop, and some days it’s hard to remember just how many are left.
The woes have been piling up for longtime survivor MediaMath, with the pandemic driving the firm to lay off 8% of staff. Digiday breaks the news that the DSP has signed on with investment bank Clearview Partners to explore debt restructuring… or a potential sale.
|The independent DSP space increasingly seems to be the purview of The Trade Desk. Outside of the TTD, it’s getting harder and harder to see the DSP as a standalone business. (And then one wonders if TTD should have loftier ambitions…) No surprise to see SSPs drastically improving their buy-side reachout and connections with independent buying platforms.|
|Make the Resellers Work for You|
|We have a complicated relationship with resellers—a year or so ago we may have questioned whether they should be swept off the ad plain altogether. But we also recognize their legitimate purpose in reaching untapped demand for publishers. They serve a similar role for marketers—finding target audiences as well as new prospects on fresh inventory. The trouble is employing resellers well and not getting spun ‘round in a cycle of wasteful hopping. Hence why Jounce Media has put out an illuminating guide for marketers trying to get the most out of resellers.|
|The Jounce folks are quite good at transforming the amorphous programmatic supply chain into something coherent, and they rise to the challenge on this subject. They highlight four strategies in reselling: publishers using outsourced yield management providers; content syndication; proprietary placements; and reselling of an auction which does not control the final ad-serving decision (which Jounce calls “Rebroadcasting). The report then offers three keys for maximizing marketers’ resellers efforts: reseller reporting, exchange metadata, and “path-level” bidding. This report may be aimed toward marketers, but it has a ton of insights for publishers in how to leverage resellers as well as understand marketer strategies in this channel. Definitely worth a read and a think! (And if you like that, you should check out Jounce’s Supply Path Benchmarketing reports, available with a Monstership subscription.)|