The Dougorithm, Two Years Later.

The other day I was asked about a recent speech I’d given in which I parodied the state of the ad-tech ecosystem.  In the speech (at an IAB Networks and Exchanges event) I tossed out a faux-algorithm which I called “the Dougorithm” .  In looking at the 5 minute video of that exercise (below), I was struck by two ideas:  how fast two full years had flown by, and how much had changed in those two years — not so much technically (though I’m sure that’s true — but in the power structure and the way we talk about the landscape.

Back in May 2011 I took the audience from the creation of the ad networks — the first “big bang” in our universe — through the invention of exchanges, the birth of demand side platforms, agency trading desks.  At that particular moment in time, the industry darling was the so-called “private exchange.”  Admeld had just been acquired by Google, in part because they had established a private exchange beachhead with many premium publishers.  Agency trading desks were on the ascent, ad networks were on the run, and publishers were going were going to march lock-step into the waiting arms of the holding-company trading desks.  Or so it seemed at the time.

Now it’s August 2013 and let’s take a fresh look at the landscape.

Ad Networks have not gone away. Well, OK, some of them have.  And those that remain are not just slinging undifferentiated banners and buttons.  As I’d said about a month before the “Dougorithm” presentation, networks would evolve and diversify.  Look around.  The big display names are still with us;  video, mobile and data driven networks abound.  The news of their death, it turns out, had been greatly exaggerated.

Holding Company Trading Desks?  Not So Fast!  The dominance of the holding-company level ATD  —  Cadreon, AOD, Xaxis and a handful of others — seemed like a fait accomplis in 2011.  But in the intervening two years we’ve seen a revolving door of leadership at those units, and a fragmentation of the functionality they offer.  Since the actual trading is driven by outsourced tech partners, anyone can play.  So look for ever more clients and brand-level agencies to become programmatic players in their own rights.

Private Exchange?  Can You Spell That?  Back then we thought “private exchange” was a thing.  Turns out it was just an action.  When’s the last time you heard anybody even say “private exchange?”  Every time a bell rings, a buzzword dies.  Speaking of buzzwords, “programmatic” was just being coined back in mid-2011, but at the core it’s really not that complicated — or useful.

Now bend your ear to the din of the ad-tech hype machine.  How many of words, phrases and concepts we hear today will be just as obsolete by 2015?

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