Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Making advertising better. Not perfect. But better.

By Rhys Denny, co-founder at RedBud

January. The month of new year’s resolutions and the strive towards a ‘perfect’ new you. From finding your inner ‘zen’, to Veganuary and fad diets that help you forget about the insane amount of cheese you consumed in December. January will be the month where I finally reach perfection. Right?

Wrong. It never works out like that — not for me, anyway.

I am a creature of habit, comfort and balance – and a complete overhaul is not feasible. It’s why I (and probably most of the human race) normally fail their resolutions by mid Jan, and resort back to what they know.

This year, I wanted to take a different tactic and call on something that really resonated with me last year. It was something that Barack Obama said in his first speech back from his political hiatus. He talked about the importance of always striving for improvement. The below is not verbatim, but abridged for the context of this article:

Better is good, That’s the history of progress. Not perfect, better

Those words really hit home to me.

In so much of what we do there is a huge demand for immediate results. Why completely change everything at once, when we can work on small improvements bit by bit? Surely this approach will give us a more realistic chance of hitting our objectives?

Not perfect. But better.

Our industry is typical of this. In the world of adtech, it feels like every week there is a shiny new solution – new acronym, press release or article proclaiming that everyone should stop the way they are currently working and move to the hottest new toy. While innovation drives our industry — and makes us better in the process – change for the sake of change causes many of our industry’s challenges.

2018 Twitter action had people clamouring for “blockchain” to be the cure of all programmatic woes. These immediate calls for new technologies to save us all (with a very small number of people who have a genuine understanding of how they work in practice) just cause confusion.

Blockchain might (or may well not) be the future, but while striving to understand how future tech may pan out, we should not lose focus on getting the very best of what we currently have. Are we striving for perfection before working how to get better?

Looking inward

Transparency is no longer just an industry term. It has shifted from the pages of trade press to the national papers. Data scandals are increasingly leaked uncovering the darkest, deepest secrets of social media, data sharing and consumer consent. GDPR made TV news headlines and has heightened awareness of what is truly happening behind closed doors.

Now, more than ever, it is paramount that publishers start to understand what is truly happening on the backend of their sites. The ramifications of being blindsided to new regulations, are loss of revenue or a potential fine, neither of which is palatable.

Built in a reaction to adtech’s complexities, RedBud has highlighted some core improvements. The market is far from perfect (which we all know), yet arguably what is more worrying, is the number of areas in which publishers are getting punished, through no fault of their own.

A couple of examples include:

  • Legacy tags timing out or causing massive redirects; which in turn cause latency
  • Pixel piggybacking causing data to potentially leak to questionable partners
  • Masked/Hidden URLs
  • Cookies dropped by vendors that don’t have a presence in the EU and don’t comply with GDPR

By shining a light on these practices and helping publishers get full transparency on the behaviour of vendors within their ecosystems, we can start to make things better.

Looking forward

Despite industry challenges, I don’t want this article to be an adtech shaming exercise. If I did, I’d be a hypocrite. Truth is, I am hugely inspired by so much of what goes on within our complex worlds.

There are challenges, of course, and recent news of redundancies at a number of businesses is awful to hear (I can certainly empathise with them having been there myself a few months ago). Yet, we often lose sight of how far we have come. Ten years ago, smartphones were dumped in our pockets, with no ‘how to’ manual showing us the ropes. Now in 2019, we’re serving hyper-personalised campaigns with customisable and interactive formats. That’s not something to sneer at. Quite the opposite.

And, as transparency continues to be the topic on everyone’s lips, good news is that there’s a lot being done in this space to make things better. Vendors such as the IAB have made a stand, through their Transparency Q&A. And many others will follow.

At Redbud, we want to help create a better future for all our publisher partners. Giving true clarity to help determine better strategies that deliver better outcomes, is what matters to us. How? Well we help shine a light on what is happening within their adtech stacks, providing true transparency into who’s doing what and why, to help push with that goal to a better marketplace. A better future. A better business.