Ad Tech Madness Stokes Online Competition For Tournament-Starved Techies

Welcome to Ad Tech Madness, a no-holds-barred Twitter tournament where David finally has a fighting chance against Goliath.

Born as a content marketing stunt by Beeswax CEO Ari Paparo, Ad Tech Madness pits ad tech players against each other in daylong races for votes, and has captured pent-up desire for live competition and for elimination bracketology, without March Madness, the U.S. Open or the Olympic Games.

Day eight of competition on Monday saw the third major upset of the Ad Tech Madness tournament, when under-seeded Adobe eliminated The Trade Desk in the first round of the Buy-Side bracket. That followed the elimination of the Amazon DSP at the hands of AdRoll, and knocking off Google’s AdMob.

For those who haven’t tracked the tournament, we’re a week in and starting the round of 32.

“As with everything in ad tech, nobody gives a shit except other people in ad tech, who take it very seriously,” said Antonio García Martínez, a product exec at mobile analytics company

The Rules

The tournament began with 64 teams, representing 61 different companies. Google started with three no. 1 seeds, with AdMob, Display & Video 360 (DV360) and Google Ad Manager (GAM).

Four match-ups per day test eight companies’ ability to turn out voters for a Twitter poll published by Paparo. The bracket’s four quadrants are organized into Buy-Side, Sell-Side, Data and Mobile companies, each with seeds ranked one to 16.

As befits an ad tech tourney, the rules are: Do whatever it takes to achieve a meaningless KPI (in this case, votes for a Twitter poll), while accepting arbitrary rules and the vicissitudes of the internet.

The tournament started with a bit of backroom wheeling and dealing (aka cheating), as Paparo substituted Branch for the original 16 seed in the Mobile group.

“There may or may not have been a Venmo involved,” García Martínez said.

But calls of foul play matter as much as participation trophies in this competition.

“There’s definitely vote stuffing,” Paparo said. “But I think what’s more interesting is the companies that have rallied their troops.”

The games

Tuesday’s second round contests feature two heavy grudge matches, as Google’s Display & Video 360 DSP (1) takes on the Verizon Media DSP (9) in the Buy-Side bracket, and in the Sell-Side bracket Google Ad Manager and Authorized Buyers (1) goes up against Xandr (9).

LiveRamp (1), the only non-Google one seed in the tournament, faces Lotame (8) in the Data bracket, while Branch (16) hopes to continue its Cinderella run in the Mobile group with a match-up against InMobi (9).

García Martínez said that a key reason why industry titans have fallen to mere startups is the widespread opposition to walled gardens among ad tech Twitter types, the people who follow and vote in this contest.

That industry animosity certainly helped AdRoll take down the Amazon DSP.

“A vote for AdRoll is a vote for Humanity,” petitioned former AdRoller Peter Clarke.

AdRoll’s corporate Twitter account, with 28,5000 thousand followers, whipped the vote in the afternoon as it gutted out a win with 54% of 589 votes.

“Rollers past and present rallied to get us over the finish line,” said Kelly “Icebox” Eng, AdRoll group product manager. “We’ve always embodied and championed the underdog, and this past week was no different when we defeated Amazon DSP. To those we face in the upcoming rounds, MediaMath and then either Criteo or Adobe, we say ‘Bring it on.’”

It wasn’t the only hard-fought battle.

In the Sell-Side bracket, FreeWheel (4) overcame a seemingly insurmountable early lead by Beachfront (13) to finish with 55% of 854 votes.

When Terra Walker Mrkulic, FreeWheel’s director of social media and content marketing, saw that deficit, she sprang into action, drumming up votes on Slack, social media and by reaching out to people one by one. Many FreeWheelers dusted off old Twitter accounts or signed up for the first time to vote.

“It was fun to rally the troops for the first round win,” she said. And the company is looking forward to a matchup with OpenX (5) in round two.

The dark horse favorite going into this second round has to be InfoSum (14), the London-based data platform that smashed Comscore (3) and the rest of the field by winning 64% of 2,349 votes, by far the largest tally of the competition.

Winning in the Ad Tech Madness Twitter arena will require some combination of name recognition, the ability to turn out votes among employees and clients and unabashed skullduggery, according to García Martínez.

“It’s all in good fun,” he said. “But there is some company honor on the line.”

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