We Sell Ads
“We sell ads.”
For all the time I worked in the adTech industry, with the billions of dollars of technology and industry at our disposal, it all boiled down to one line passed off at a conference:
We Sell Ads.
Just like what you can do by calling up your newspaper. You can buy an ad in your school's newsletter for five bucks and let everyone know about your garage sale.
Billions of dollars of industry and the reality is that we delivered campaigns, but the campaigns themselves didn't deliver anything tangible. At best, we would capture a fraction of attention/intention and pass it on to whoever bought the ad space.
I never saw most of the ads. They showed up as a bit of code plugged into a machine that sent it out to thousands of other websites and other machines - each passing along the code as fast as they could. They manifested as numbers in a graph. The same set of numbers can mean a dozen different things.
Most companies in the adTech industry tried to enable themselves with a better story - how we were serving ads and paying publishers who were powering the “independent web.” We were financing the creatives who were producing their art online. We were finding ways for brands to find and engage with their audiences.
Other companies weren't as glossy - they were just in it for the money. They collected their %30 commission for a few months and then vanished overnight.
We were all just selling ads.
You will see over a thousand advertisements across the web and on your phone today. I’m betting you will remember zero of them.
This is a multi-billion dollar industry with proprietary technology - to sell an ad.