Ad - Interrupted
Even with privacy concerns, GDPR and a whole host of political dialogue, ad revenue is rising like never before.
There is this movie. Girl Interrupted — starring a fiery young Angelina Jolie, Winona Ryder and Jared Leto. Loved it.
Many years later I bought this domain “adinterrupted” — mostly tongue-in-cheek with my conflicting thoughts around digital advertising and monetising models. The sheer admiration for the technology that drives it and the cringe-worthy horror of the morality that surrounds it.
For me, the parallels always have been quite similar. Any “interruption”, however much we hate it has its roots in some “permission” that we ceded away — mostly for our “convenience” and “self-serving” needs at that time. The rest we ceded in the “dark arts of UX and UI” without being patient enough to “read” and understand.
“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” So now probably we are beginning to understand the price of privacy we have to pay for the convenience that we derive from the internet. The beauty of having Amazon Prime deliver avocados to our doorstep 2 hours after ordering it — has a price.
From avocado’s being stored in the nearest warehouse, to location knowledge, to riders being available — there is a whole domino effect of a supply-chain that needs to kick in seamlessly in the background. The rider tip does not entirely cover this cost. And every player needs their margin.
Same goes for clothes we order from Zara.
For years search has been considered the gateway of the internet. It still is. But with the birth of content and API sharing platforms along with the rise of marketing automation and ad-tech, the playing fields are far more levelled. The ability of display mediums to ride on discovery algorithms has created new revenue streams without substantially taking over market share for search.
Cue entry for video, banners, interactive media and gifs galore.
Traditionally, any new disruptive medium ends up taking away market share from the incumbent. However, in the internet world, it’s a bit different because each platform has created its own value eco-system based on inherent consumer habit.
Most sharing platforms and marketplaces continuously leverage our browsing behaviour to help us discover more of the things we like and thereby attract creators who can build those things. The more we use, the more signals we leave behind, the more data there is for platforms to leverage and creators to create. Subsequently, the value that we derive from these platforms increases the more we use these platforms — thereby forming a virtuous loop which is addictive, beneficial and a tad bit creepy at the same time.
Hence what used to start from search ten years ago, can now be gently “prompted.” Only now someone is making money when we search as well as when we idly browse because we have not traded our engagement on search with our participation on display. We engage with both because of the perceived value each provides.
And this is fundamentally why a lot of top “tech” companies today are basically publisher and media eco-systems who are harnessing data lakes powered by APIs and inbuilt search systems. Case in point Amazon — we search inside Amazon, to find the “products we need” only to be prompted for more “products that we might like”. Our journey can be entirely self-contained without needing to switch to a traditional search engine, based on the requirement.
The API’s are the nerve centres which define the value of traded service between two platforms for the same consumer. It is in these data transfer protocols that regulation needs to do its job, but it has to be granular for each consumer and for the services s/he is giving consent at that time and for that scope.
The scale of managing this can be daunting. However, the idea that a self-serving consent form will solve for this is a bit misplaced. It is misplaced because even if we do not sign the consent form now (because of self-righteous indignance and social media “pontificatory”) — we will; the day we need that service, and then we are back where we started.
Before the brouhaha — in the same place.
Like most things in life, money drives decision making in businesses. DAU and MAU’s will push more “tech” platforms to aggregate their media inventory, sharpen their ad tech arsenal and open up more of their content API’s so that service providers can reach out to their walled garden traffic. This would drive more integration between CRM and AdTech solutions thereby bridging the gap and blurring the lines between the organisation, publisher, tech enabler and service provider — because, in reality, everybody is using the other for a benefit, thereby giving rise to this ubiquity or singularity of purpose.
$ and value.
Marketers will harness ad-tech data with CRM and publisher data to produce content experiences that are the same across multimedia platforms and sharing API’s. These will run across device ID’s and IP protocols thereby making form consent quite innefective at times. StartUp fanatics will scrape through search and intent data to come up with new products that we have subconsciously asked for with our product usage or neglect. Discovery and search algorithms will keep “prompting” us to click on those new experiences we “want to need”.
If there is anyone or anything to blame here, it’s not technology, ad-tech and privacy/ or lack thereof. Regulation will improve over time as it always has.
It’s the human habit of wanting more. We are just finding it difficult to accept that we got played.