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Why Isn't More of Ad-Tech Vocally Supporting the Open Web?

Dave Morgan
Dave Morgan  |  Executive Chairman
Updated: Jan. 11, 2023
Published: Oct. 12, 2022

I love reading reports on our industry from super-smart Laura Martin, Senior Equity Analyst at Needham & Company. Martin sees developments in ad tech, media and marketing early in ways that very few others spot, and she presents her analysis with arguments that even fewer can challenge or refute.

She recently released her “Top 10 Takeaways” from The Trade Desk’s four-hour Analyst Day in New York City, a hotly watched event given the company’s strong stock price, high-powered growth and strong leadership position in the fast-growing world of CTV and digital ad-targeting data.

Martin's report called out the Trade Desk’s leadership position in digital advertising and connected TV advertising (the fastest growing sector in advertising) specifically, and the company's targeting data business, which is now growing faster than its platform revenue.

She noted the company’s position as the dominant demand-side platform for the “Open Web,” the multitude of mid-tail and long-tail publishers not controlled by the large walled gardens of Google, Facebook and Amazon -- and the strong advocacy of its CEO, Jeff Green, for strategies and technologies to create alternatives to the walled-garden behemoths for advertisers.

Of particular interest in her report was Green’s open question about why other industry leaders have been relatively silent on the Open Web issue. He voiced his surprise that after these many years of advocating for open-web capabilities in ad tech to counter the power of Google and others, he still felt quite alone publicly on the issue among other corporate leaders.

Here are my thoughts (supplemented by some recent conversations with others) on what's happened to Open Web advocacy in ad tech:

The Trade Desk buried several of them. Many of the strongest Open Web voices were the leaders of competing companies, who have either sold or been relegated to second- or third-tier market positions, where their voices no longer carry much weight.

Plenty of advocacy from identity data platforms. Companies like Criteo and LiveRamp may not be what Green is thinking about, but their CEOs, Megan Clarken and Scott Howe, respectively, have certainly been big advocates on this issue. But they also compete in the targeting data world.

We’re not where we should be. At the end of the day, Green is right: Ad-tech companies and ad industry leaders are quieter on Open Web issues than we should be. Maintaining balance and competition with the duopoly/triopoly of digital advertising is critical for the long-term health and success of the industry. Many will depend on us being noisier and taking stronger and more visible positions.

What do you think? Is there enough Open Web advocacy?

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An earlier version of this blog was originally published by MediaPost.