Ari Paparo Has A New Venture To Help Buyers Evaluate Tech Vendors (Minus The BS)

Let's cut the BS, please.

Netflix plans to introduce ads … and ad tech vet (and mayor of ad tech Twitter) Ari Paparo is rolling out an SVOD service of sorts. Weird world.

On Monday, Paparo, who sold his last company, Beeswax, to Comcast in early 2020, launched Marketecture.tv, a startup to help prospective technology buyers understand and evaluate the technology they buy before they buy it.

Marketecture.tv is a media company with a twist.

Rather than covering industry news, Paparo enlisted a handful of ad tech and mar tech experts to conduct roughly 45-minute video interviews with CEOs and product leaders that dig into the details of each vendor’s offering and ask what Paparo referred to as “the uncomfortable questions.”

“When you come in with a level of expertise, you can get down to the bottom of things and explain them,” Paparo said. “You can get the sort of information that isn’t going to be obvious from talking to a salesperson or reading a website.”

Paparo’s founding team of gimlet-eyed interviewers include mobile expert Eric Seufert (Paparo is also an investor in Seufert’s $10 million mobile advertising and gaming fund announced this month), former advertising journalist and current Substacker Mike Shields and Zach Rodgers, Marketecture’s editor-in-chief and the former executive editor of, well, AdExchanger.

Marketecture is launching with a library of about 25 videos focused on ad tech and mar tech companies, including InfoSum, LiveRamp, Innovid, Publica, Magnite, iSpot and Scope3, Brian O’Kelley’s new startup for calculating the environmental impact of programmatic advertising.

The plan is to add two new videos every week and, eventually, expand into other categories, such as fintech, ed tech and information security.

Marketecture will charge a monthly subscription fee, although select videos and some clips are available for free, and people can also buy videos a la carte. All of the content is also available in podcast form.

AdExchanger caught up with Paparo and Rodgers.

Ari Paparo, CEO & co-founder, and Zach Rodgers, editor-in-chief & co-founder, Marketecture.tvAdExchanger: Marketecture.tv … why not Marketecture+?

ARI PAPARO: Ha, good one.

I Googled “marketecture” and was surprised to find that it’s a real word.

PAPARO: Historically, it’s been used derisively, often by engineers, but over time it’s turned into a word people use to describe the process of explaining complicated things in simple, understandable terms.

Ad tech is confusing, but sometimes I think ad tech vendors revel in that fact or, at least, hide behind it.

PAPARO: In some cases, vendors benefit from using obfuscating language or creating their own terms that don’t really mean anything. There can be a marketing benefit to sounding more complicated than you really are. There are also nefarious reasons why companies don’t tell the truth about what they do.

ZACH RODGERS: But what we’re doing here is not for them, it’s for the buyer, and vendors participate because they want to be part of the consideration set.

How is this different from, say, a Forrester Wave?

PAPARO: Even if you think the Forrester Wave is a good product, it only comes out once every couple of years and it tends to cover only the largest vendors. It’s also expensive, and dissimilar vendors get bucketed together. We’re trying to give people nuanced information tailored to individual subcategories that you can watch when you’re actually doing an RFP – not a year after the fact.

What’s an example of obfuscating language that needs to be killed with fire?

PAPARO: The word “platform” is abused, especially “buying platform” or “selling platform” – that could mean almost anything. It’s extraordinarily broad.

One word I think isn’t used enough is “ad network.” A lot of companies out there are ad networks, but they do everything in their power to not be called ad networks.

RODGERS: But it’s not just about words that need to be banned. We need better explanations of what companies actually do, what their products do and who really uses them. So many companies position themselves as having overarching solutions that can do everything or they imply they have some kind of sweeping purpose when, in fact, they really only do one or two things.

It’s like, let’s just strip away the BS.

Point taken. But can we all agree to ban the term “zero-party data”?

PAPARO: Zero-party data … It makes me laugh. It just doesn’t mean anything. I’m still trying to come up with a perfect Twitter joke about it.

Why watch a Marketecture video and not just go to a vendor review site?

PAPARO: Those sites really are useless, at least in B2B. Wirecutter for B2C is a great product, but if you Google the name of a B2B vendor you’re thinking of transacting with, you’ll just get a bunch of clutter from websites that claim to be fair and balanced, but almost all of them have a model where the vendor pays to participate. And in most cases they don’t just pay for placement; they pay for their pages to be enhanced with reviews. And they only talk to the vendor’s happiest customers.

They’re also not tailored to the segment. These sites never go into the weeds on what a clean room is, for example, versus a DMP versus a CMP.

Beyond those sites, if you want to talk to someone with my level of expertise on the phone about clean rooms, it’s probably going to be, like, $750 an hour for that.

Cool, I need to change jobs. What’s an example of an “uncomfortable question” you might ask a vendor?

PAPARO: Pricing model is one example of something that’s sort of taboo. No one ever wants to put it on their website or talk about it. We don’t ask for their rate card, but we do ask how they price, what’s the range and what’s the smallest monthly fee that makes it worth doing business? We’ve had people say, “We won’t do business with a customer unless they’re paying us $10,000 a month,” and that’s important to know before you even get started.

RODGERS: Another question is, “What’s the No. 1 reason a customer chooses not to work with you?” As in, why might a customer opt out of the relationship? You can learn a lot from that.

Are you guys going to raise money?

PAPARO: We raised a small seed round. I personally participated along with AperiamVentures, which used to be called Math Capital, and a few other names.

And when are you launching your ad-supporter tier?

PAPARO: Ha. We may have some sponsorships, but no ad-supported version for us.

Well, I guess we’ll see what happens when you report on your subscriber numbers. One last question: Is the best thing about being an entrepreneur the ability to tweet unimpeded?

PAPARO: It really is. At Beeswax, I didn’t even give the login to our Twitter account to my marketing team until a couple of years in.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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