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AdExchanger’s Most Popular Comics Of 2023


Comic: Mr. Clean RoomAt AdExchanger, we’re a bunch of nerds in (what we hope is) the best possible way.

Every week, we publish an original comic inspired by trends in the online advertising industry.

Sometimes, the jokes in our weekly comics are ripped from headlines – like when the Department of Justice dropped its long-awaited antitrust lawsuit in January against Google over its allegedly monopolistic practices in the ad tech market.

And sometimes we’re simply amusing ourselves with ad-tech-related wordplay.

These are the stories – and the puns – behind AdExchanger’s top 10 comics of 2023.

Mr. Clean Room

Data clean rooms have earned their spot in the pantheon of shiny objects over the past two years.

They’ve been hyped as the answer to the ad tech industry’s ongoing privacy challenges. The technology allows advertisers, media buyers and publishers to securely share and analyze data without revealing any personally identifiable information.

But as valuable as they can be, clean rooms are not a panacea for compliance – nor are they the only viable way for brands to securely share data.

Go deeper: Clean Rooms Aren’t Always The Solution To Your Data Privacy Problems

When Ad Tech Meets Legalese

You know the phrase “I feel seen”?

Well, that’s how the ad tech community at large felt after the DOJ filed its lawsuit against Google earlier this year, arguing that it operates a monopoly over the digital ad tech market.


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The ad-tech-focused suit is not to be confused with a separate Justice Department lawsuit against Google for monopolizing search and search advertising. Litigation in that case wrapped in November, and the judge is expected to issue his ruling early next year … which is just in time for the antitrust trial to begin in the Eastern District of Virginia in March.

Oh, and Google is appealing its recent loss against Epic Games after a jury in San Francisco found that Google “maintained monopoly power by engaging in anticompetitive conduct” through the Play Store.

What a year in Google antitrust news – and what a year to come.

Go deeper: The DOJ Is Suing Google For Alleged Monopolistic Ad Tech Practices

“It’s Privacy Safe, Folks!”

Comic: "It's privacy, safe, folks!"Companies will often mention in passing that their offerings are “privacy-safe” and “privacy-compliant” – and then fail to explain how. If you ask for details, you’re usually showered with platitudes about how much the company prioritizes consumer privacy and data protection.

But it’s way overdue for these terms to become more than lip service.

People (marketers, included; they’re people, too!) deserve at least an attempt at a user-friendly explanation for how a piece of ad tech works from a privacy-protection perspective.

Go deeper: Firing Up The Privacy BS Detector

If It Looks Like a Duck

Comic: If it Looks Like a Duck ...There is a narrative in the industry that supply-side platforms are fighting for relevance as demand-side platforms, like The Trade Desk, encroach on their turf by creating a direct line between buyers and sellers.

To maintain their spot in the supply chain, SSPs are, in turn, launching products that allow publishers to work directly with advertisers. From a certain perspective, it looks like middlemen fighting with other middlemen for their slice of a shrinking pie.

But do the blurring lines between SSPs and DSPs just represent a natural and inevitable swing of the pendulum toward unified, lower-fee buying paths? The jury is still out.

Go deeper: Why All The Drama About Disintermediation?

Monkey See, Monkey Generate

Comic: Monkey See, Monkey Generate“AI” was named as Word of the Year by the Association of National Advertisers. Collins Dictionary did the same. (Should someone tell them that “AI” is an initialism and not a word?)

Anyway, it was nearly impossible in 2023 to get through a conversation without at least touching on how artificial intelligence is transforming digital marketing, from predictive analytics to automatically generated creative.

Now if we could only get the AIs to stop hallucinating. (For what it’s worth, “hallucinate” is Dictionary.com’s Word of the Year.)

Go deeper: Marketers Reflect On Generative AI As ChatGPT Turns One


Low-quality made-for-advertising (MFA) websites became a top-of-mind concern for advertisers after the ANA published the first installment of its programmatic advertising transparency study in June, which found that an eye-popping $13 billion of ad spend flows to MFA inventory every year.

That translates to 21% of all programmatic ad impressions. 😳

Comic: Cookies n' ChromeGo deeper: Advertisers, Here’s One Weird Trick From The ANA That Could Save You $20 Billion

Google will begin deprecating third-party cookies in Chrome starting in January. No, seriously, it’s happening!

Go deeper: Google Plans To Ring In The New Year With Third-Party Cookie Deprecation (For Real)

X CEO (not to be confused with ex-CEO) Linda Yaccarino is sticking to the script after owner Elon Musk declared from on stage at the NYT’s DealBook Summit in late November that advertisers could go “eff themselves” in response to advertiser boycotts over toxic content on the platform.

Comic: X... NSFW?After Musk dropped his F-bomb – and his mic – Yaccarino tweeted or posted (or whatever one now does on X) that the platform “is standing at a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street.”


Go deeper: Emergency X-It

If there’s anything that people in the digital marketing industry like to talk about more than retail media and the growth of ad-supported streaming, it’s the importance of first-party data.

But first-party data isn’t magical fairy dust. Advertisers and publishers need consent – and to get it, they’ll have to do a much better job of explaining why they want it.

Go deeper: How First-Party Data Is Helping The Container Store Think Outside The Box

Comic: Black BoxesBlack-box algorithms picked up steam in 2023, and many advertisers are conflicted.

Although machine-learning-powered ad platforms like Google’s Performance Max promise to deliver better results, the more automation there is in the ad-buying process, the less control advertisers have over campaign optimization.

And how much can you trust the machine?

Go deeper: Meet Performance Max, The Blackest Black Box Of All Google Ad Products

🙏 A big thanks to Nate Neal and Kevvo, the two very talented cartoonists who brought our comic concepts to life in 2023!

🎁 And if you didn’t get enough AdExchanger comics this year, here’s an excellent walk down memory lane (or is it?) by ad tech and marketing veteran Paul Knegten, featuring the first-ever AdExchanger-themed comic book published in the long-ago year of 2010: Thirteen Years Of Ad Tech Progress In One AdExchanger Comic

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Advertible Makes Its Case To SSPs For Running Native Channel Extensions

Companies like TripleLift that created the programmatic native category are now in their awkward tween years. Cue Advertible, a “native-as-a-service” programmatic vendor, as put by co-founder and CEO Tom Anderson.

Mozilla acquires Anonym

Mozilla Acquires Anonym, A Privacy Tech Startup Founded By Two Top Former Meta Execs

Two years after leaving Meta to launch their own privacy-focused ad measurement startup in 2022, Graham Mudd and Brad Smallwood have sold their company to Mozilla.

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Comic: Ad-ception

The New York Times And Instacart Integrate For Shoppable Recipes

The New York Times and Instacart are partnering for shoppable recipe videos.

Experian Enters The Third-Party Data Onboarding Business

Experian entered the third-party data onboarder market on Tuesday with a new product based on its Tapad acquisition.

Albertsons Takes Its First Steps Into Non-Endemic Advertising, Retail Media’s Next Frontier

Albertsons is taking that first step into non-endemic advertising next week via a partnership with Rokt to serve ads to people who have already purchased groceries.