“Confessions of an Ad Tech Exec” underscores an unsettling feeling that’s been building up in me over the past few years. It’s quite possible that the online ad industry is on a dangerous path. It seems as though the industry has lost the plot in its attempt to become more like the financial industry. We know how that story ends. The first wave of online ad innovation has enabled marketers to buy and trade consumers like pork bellies. Marketers can now reach consumers anywhere: at work, in their living rooms, in their cars — even in their bathrooms. But when it comes to advertising, the Internet revolution has largely overlooked the most important piece of the marketing equation: the ad itself.
While marketers can now easily make ads in different shapes, colors and sizes, these adjustments are merely window dressing. The Internet’s impact on advertising can, and should, go beyond daytrading attention widgets and making superficial changes in ad presentation. Consumers don’t want more ads; they want answers. They want information that will help them make better decisions. Google isn’t just a prettier yellow page application; it is a shift in the way we gather information. Facebook doesn’t just change the format of a friendly conversation; it has changed the way we connect with our communities. Why should advertising be the exception? In order to live up to the promise of digital advertising, we need to transform the ad itself. Ads should speak directly to a consumer’s needs by understanding and relating directly to what the consumer wants — all in real time and all on a large scale.
The prevailing industry approache to addressing this issue are either pure art or artless tech.