“After the maturation over the past decade it is hard to see where to innovate and where display goes from here. There’s nothing as exciting and as transformative as RTB or Exchanges on the horizon…
I’m grateful for Patrick Smith’s Twitter feed today for pointing me in the direction of Jonathan Mendez’ neat history of the display ad over the last decade.
Pat and I have shared a number of beers on this subject over the years and as a reporter on BuzzFeed (UK) he and his colleagues might have more reason than most to rue the failed promise of RTB and programmatic as the publisher slashes a third of its UK workforce on the back of the global pre-eminence of Google and Facebook in the digital advertising space.
The rise and rise of whom Jonathan charts in his blog piece as, one by one, the two tech giants eat their rivals in the advertising technology space. Up to and including the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft.
“It also seems certain display will never die. It will always have billions of dollars flowing through its pipes,” he writes.
“But whom it supports and what it supports in the future cannot be known. In 2007 Yahoo and Microsoft were supposed to rule display for the next decade. They were going to be “The Duopoly.” Both are essentially out of the business.
“Google was Search and AdSense. Now it dominates display. Facebook was not even part of the conversation. Now they are Google’s largest threat to dominance.”
‘Whom it supports and what it supports in the future cannot be known…
I’m calling BS on that.
It can be known – if you know your history.
In 2015 I got an email reply from the US anthropologist and archaeologist Joseph E Tainter. I’ve reprinted it above.
The process of ‘complexification’ underpinned his scholarly work on the collapse of complex societies.
It also underpinned Clay Shirky’s seminal 2010 essay on the collapse of complex business models. Including that of the newspaper industry.
Tainter and I agree.
The current adtech-publishing ecosystem is just another complex society.
Complete with its own language, culture and reward structure. One that increasingly concentrates money, talent, power and energy in fewer and fewer hands.
Once you accept that the adtech-publising ecosystem is this ‘huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change’ (Shirky), then you can foresee what happens next.
“When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse.
“Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification.”
What does a collapsed adtech ecosystem look like in practice?
How about one that doesn’t allow Wall Street to win at the auction game? You rip the complexity that costs the likes of Buzzfeed and The Guardian up to 70% of their ad revenue out of the system…
‘Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge.’ (Winston Churchill).
Rightly, Jonathan’s review of the last ten years ends where the next ten years is about to start – with GDPR.
“The lasting legacy might just be the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Last year the EU has passed laws protecting the collection and use of personal data collected on the Internet. Enforcement begins in a few months. Right at the start of the next decade of display ads…”
Complex societies collapse when members of that society ask themselves a very simple question: ‘What the fuck is in this for us any more? Why are we still a member…?’
It’s a question that member governments of the European Union have clearly come to ask themselves as Google, Facebook, Amazon et al fleece them tax-wise and harvest their citizens data at will.
And now, of course, use the depth of that individual data to swing democratic elections. In the direction of Wall Street, not Mold.
If anyone thinks that the Duopoly and their pals in the IAB have nothing to fear from next May’s legislation, I’d read this from Dr Johnny Ryan at PageFair.
Rip enough ‘resources’ out of the hands of a government(s) – in particular that little thing called ‘trust’ – and they too will ask the same question that societies have done through the ages. What the fuck is in this for us any more?
And if the answer is fuck all apart from political chaos and instability, then they will only hasten the collapse of that complex society.
Demand explicit consent off every company in the whole complex, interlocking system before they start to earn a living off the data of any individual EU citizen.
Including Google, Facebook. And Trinity Mirror. And WalesOnline.
When Facebook went to war on Google+ in 2011, Mark couched it in terms of Rome versus Carthage.
‘Carthago delenda est – Carthage must be destroyed,” was his quote in the story from Vanity Fair.
But if you know your history, Mark, Rome fell too.
A victim of its own greed and… complexity.
And what happened when Rome collapsed?
We built again. Bottom up, simply and (hyper)locally…