Will Self-Serve Platforms Shape the Future of Adtech?

AdTech has fully embraced  real-time bidding (RTB) methodology aimed at optimizing the value of display ads for both advertisers and publishers. The issues around transparency and fraud have been abundant.

The RTB platforms responsible for 20 percent of the programmatic ad market when measured last year have helped maintain inventory value and streamlined sales on both sides of the buyer-seller relationship. Big players like Facebook and Twitter have optimized such opportunities.

These days, however, companies of all sizes are turning to self-serve models that counter prevailing issues with RTB, including its lack of transparency on the ad side, price erosions on the publishing side, lack of marketplace exclusivity and lack of guaranteed ad placement.

“When leading SSPs and DSPs start downsizing and shopping themselves around to potential buyers, and premium networks are sold at fractions of their previous valuations, it’s clear intermediaries are losing ground,” advises a Sparrowadvisors.com article from earlier this year. “For long tail, self-service platforms will be key to achieving necessary scale and capturing smaller advertiser budgets. As an intermediary, your go-to-market approach needs to adjust from addressing the needs of several high-profile clients to providing an easy-to-use, self-serve interface with built-in transparency and support.”

What does self-serve bring to the table?

Such platforms aren’t the answer to everyone’s prayers. Naysayers most often point to the lack of scalability for selling directly to advertisers. But Facebook and Twitter have already proven the right technology can make self-serve as easy to adopt as RTB, writes Todd Garland on Medium.com. And other big players including Pinterest, Snapchat and AOL are also moving to self serve.

“Automation tools have caught up to RTB-based exchanges,” he writes. “Today, if you can navigate an e-commerce sales cart, you can source guaranteed ad inventory on the Internet.”

A summary of other advantages:

  • The self-serve process is quick and transparent for both marketers and ad vendors, allowing for professional marketing campaigns conducted within short time frames.

  • The newer option counters disadvantages of regional category leaders, including GoogleAdSense’s “comprehensive application process and lack of customer support” and Facebook’s “walled garden approach,” common disadvantages reported in  the SparrowAdvisors.com article.

  • The process allows for both premium placement and the purchase of multiple inventory sizes. Delivery and prices can both be guaranteed.

  • For publishers, the system helps prevent price erosion. “We all stand to benefit if the next eight years of growth focuses on restoring the balance between publisher and advertiser by giving them both what they need the most: direct ad sales platforms built around self-serve principles,” Garland advises.

The next decade may well bring a greater do-it-yourself approach when it comes to media buys.

“Unlike the last eight years of advertising technology that focused on automated ad sales through bidding processes, the next eight years of industry growth will focus on returning balance to the sales process through guaranteed, self-serve technologies,” Garland predicts.

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