Standards Launch Our Rockets


by Larry Allen

While digital advertisers tend to like shiny new things, standards on the things we already have are what really facilitates growth and innovation.

The digital advertising industry loves new and shiny. There was a time, not so long ago, when there was a new start-up for every possible life-altering consumer idea, every new feature that could bolt onto your ad serving system, and the latest whiz-bang reporting or data program to make the day-to-day just a little bit easier. And let’s not forget the myriad of new rich media creative companies giving you animated floating pointers on your screen – or what about the dancing cat jumping out of the instant messenger?

This level of innovation is still happening today, delighting the media buyer with the next “big” thing.  But some would argue that this fast-paced innovation holds us back from capturing more digital dollars, growing faster and most importantly, making it easier for clients to understand and see real results.

In no other industry does the CEO wake up one morning, walk into the office and announce, “Today, we are going to pivot and start selling ads in a new and innovative way!” The companies that do this often do so not because they are adopting an existing standard for buying and selling or because it is an organic way to grow the business, but because their revenues have flatlined, investors are screaming at them, and they need to quickly prove to the market that their technology “adds value” to the media experience and results that their clients are demanding.

I fully support the entrepreneurial spirit and don’t disparage that at all. I’ve been partial to quite a few companies that needed to use this tactic to cut through the clutter and showcase their capabilities. However, as our industry matures, companies must continue to show double digit growth year over year. But I would caution that growing 12-18 percent on a $150+ billion number is going to start getting pretty tough.

Enter standards: Over the last four years we have seen programmatic buying take off (now a $10 billion market) like a rocket ship. Why? Standards. We used programmatic as a way to avoid the noise, ignore the shiny and focus on media execution. Now many will rightfully argue that it also caused many new companies to enter the space, add confusion and complicate things with 17 intermediary connecting companies to enable an automated or audience-targeted buy. But the fact remains: because of programmatic, we have been able to focus on protocol standards, creative standards, video behavior standards, viewability standards and reporting standards.

These basic standards allow for a buyer and seller to dumb down the sales conversation, focus on what is actually scalable and possible and deliver a desired result while eliminating the shiny. Now providing faster, more efficient and scalable media is the core.

Media measurement is at a tipping point, and it’s going to be the next standard we crack. Once we have a unified measurement standard across all devices, game over! The rockets will be loaded and we can blast off for Pluto. Who has their bags packed for the next big wave?