After 25 years of 'problems and friction', MediaMath wants to reset digital advertising

MediaMath asks the industry: “If you knew everything you know now, how would you design it?”

MediaMath is leading a group of 16 companies to clean up the digital advertising supply chain with a renewed focus on consumers and advertisers.

Joe Zawadzki, MediaMath’s chief executive officer, told The Drum that the initiative – dubbed Source – represents a return to the focus on end points “as opposed to the focus on the plumbing and the connections” in the middle of the supply chain.

“That is what Source is intended to represent, to get closer to the source and create a better connection between brands and consumers [after] having learned a lot over the last two decades.”

The companies claim to be building Source upon three key pillars: accountability, to create a fraud-free supply chain and give advertisers a transparent view of the fees paid to each intermediary; addressability, to deliver targeted ads across all digital media; and artificial intelligence, to help infuse campaign reports with relevant data.

MediaMath laid some of the groundwork for Source earlier this year at Cannes, when it announced partnerships with White Ops and Rubicon Project to fight fraud and improve visibility into the digital supply chain.

Jeremy Steinberg, global head of ecosystems at MediaMath, said the ultimate goal of Source is to make addressable advertising easier.

“We're hearing all these problems and friction points from our customers around lack of clarity on how much they're paying for, what they're buying,” said Steinberg. “You have challenges on understanding the consumer across screens, and bad data leads to challenges with optimizing their efforts to drive business growth and a better consumer experience. This is about making addressable advertising easier.”

MediaMath is embracing cross-screen addressability just as regulators are putting up privacy protection roadblocks that make it harder for advertisers to track users across screens – a core competency for developing consumer profiles and then sending that consumer a targeted ad on any of their devices.

European advertisers and publishers are already grappling with the continent’s General Data Protection Regulation. In the US, California will institute the California Consumer Privacy Act on 1 January, putting similar limitations on consumer data collection.

Steinberg said Source’s plan is to “lead with” privacy, and that MediaMath has “a bunch of irons in the fire” when it comes to balancing privacy and cross-screen addressable advertising. Ultimately, though, solving for privacy will be a collaborative effort.

“You have to design a supply chain to support where the industry and privacy regulation is going,” said Steinberg. “You work with key partners to help solve it. I don't think we have all of the answers, but we're pulling in partners now and we're going to be adding in partners later to help answer this need.”

The companies currently involved in Source include: Rubicon Project Telaria, Acoustic, Akamai, Business Insider, Crackle Plus, Havas Media, IBM Watson, Inscape, IRIS.TV, News Corp, Octopus Interactive, Oracle Data Cloud, Publishers Clearing House and White Ops.

MediaMath is apparently in discussion with Google and Amazon on joining Source, but the company has yet to approach Facebook.

“Nothing [is] holding us back from talking with Facebook except for time,” said Steinberg.

Zawadzki said MediaMath’s plan is to first recruit more partners, and then quickly introduce a scaled technical solution that can handle billions of impressions that need to be delivered in a matter of microseconds.

“It's really hard to make thousands of companies all [change] at once, so go the other way: find the companies that are willing to do that at the enterprise grade,” said Zawadzki. “If you knew everything you know now, how would you design it?"

“These companies are prepared to change their business model, prepared to define new technical standards," he continued. "[We’ll] basically build that as a microcosm of what the world should look like, show people that it works better and then aggressively recruit everybody else to be part of that as opposed to the old thing. That's basically our thesis plan from now to the end of 2020.”

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