Platform CEOs Make Their Case As IAB Panel Seeks To Illuminate On Ad Tech

IAB ALMIn a panel titled “For the Good of the Ecosystem: Ad Tech in the Hot Seat“, the Internet Advertising Bureau looked to bring more clarity to the world of online advertising technology with a unique presentation format at its Annual Leadership Meeting in Miami. IAB President and CEO Randall Rothenberg admitted in his intro that he doesn’t totally understand what’s going on and he’s “in the biz.” Hence – the panel!

So, moderated by Upstream Group ringmaster Doug Weaver, the highly-anticipated session began with presentations by each of the ad tech chieftains on what their company does and where it fits in ads.

Participants included:

Rubicon Project‘s Frank Addante was the first “victim” and spoke of the company’s real-time trading capabilities that serves the publisher, yet has a buy-side component. A highlight included a question from new IAB Chairman Peter Naylor who asked if some publishers are calling RTB (real-time bidding) a race to the bottom, and given Addante’s presentation, “Are they stupid?” Addante turned aside Naylor’s slapshot and, of course, said “no.”

AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelly brought a “vampire hunting” theme to his presentation and made his business case around piracy. He asked that his fellow panelists on stage join AppNexus and stop serving ads to sites that are involved in piracy in any way. LUMA Partners’ Kawaja asked if AppNexus is sucking the blood of both sides (advertiser and publisher side companies and their reps) with the company’s cross-platform solution. O’Kelley said “no” and talked up the value that AppNexus looks to add.

MediaMath CEO Zawadzki preferred to take on the questions proposed by Weaver head on and suggested that everyone needs to “stop talking about QPS and start talking about moving product off shelves.” Among the highlights, Krux CEO Tom Chavez said he still didn’t understand what MediaMath did – he thought perhaps MediaMath did stuff similar to AppNexus’ real-time ad platform. Zawadzki responded that MediaMath is clearly on the side of the buyer.

Next, PubMatic CEO Rajeev Goel said his company serves both the buy and sell sides – and yet, clarified around the company’s mission statement – that his company “enables publishers to realize the full potential of their digital assets.” Peter MacDonald asked what Goel saw 2 years ahead. Goel said his company looked forward to “holistic” optimization across guaranteed and non-guaranteed inventory. Triad Retail’s Media asked about the end of the salesperson and whether things will get totally automated. Goel said “no,” but suggested it will require a new type of seller in light of more automation.

CEO Bill Wise carried his new company’s name, MediaOcean (DDS + MediaBank), to his presentation. He said he wants MediaOcean to become the caterpillar to everyone’s butterfly. “It comes down to plumbing,” said Wise. In response to a question from 24/7 Media’s David Moore, Wise discussed how cross-channel advertising will need to come together and said that addressability remains a significant challenge.

Investment banker Jordan-Edmiston’s Tolman Geffs asked panelists if any of the companies were profitable. Among the responses, Rubicon’s Addante said “yes.” MediaMath’s Zawadzki said that it’s still early with the opportunity that the ecosystem is serving. The NY Times’ Michael Zimbalist asked about the impact of Do-Not-Track regulations that is increasingly becoming a part of web browsers. PubMatic’s Goel said that anything that helps clarify the “rules of the road” of advertising will bring more dollars into the space.

A question from the audience about whether “viewable impression” methodologies can exist in a real-time bidded world. AppNexus CEO O’Kelley seemed to say “yes” and said it will be easier to solve problems as the ecosystem standardizes.

Regarding the services side of the ad business that ad tech innovation is driving, Rubicon’s Addante said there is education going on in the space as part of what ad tech companies do everyday. MediaOcean’s Bill Wise said things need to be made more simplified and there’s “too much science and not enough workflow.”

At the conclusion, each panelist identified his favorite quote from the panel. Bill Wise seemed to pick the crowd’s favorite: “If discrepancies were a company, it would be multi-billion dollar business.”

Weaver got the last word and said that the panel was a good start, but there is still plenty of work ahead in helping the ad world at-large understand what everyone is talking about in the ad tech ecosystem.

By John Ebbert

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