The AdTech industry is nuts. There is a lot of money flying around, tons of companies constantly entering and exiting and getting acquired and going bankrupt, a gazillion acronyms, and a minimally regulated wild west environment where anything and everything goes. Despite all of this complication and chaos, I truly believe that anyone can understand and thrive within it, if they have access to the right information and put their mind to it.
I started my career as an analyst at Advertising.com before programmatic advertising was ‘born’. At “Ad.com”, we were running a programmatic business without knowing it. We had advertisers come into our network with different buying metrics (CPM, CPC, CPA), budgets, and prices (bids), who would all participate in normalized CPM real-time auctions to buy digital audiences and ad impressions. While it was called an ‘ad network’ at the time, it was actually just a DSP with limited self-service capabilities. It was ahead of its time and we were growing like gangbusters. And it was a lot of fun. We felt like pioneers.
I tell this story because at Ad.com, we took a lot of pride in understanding the nuts and bolts of the technology, the business, and the industry we were operating within, and I believe that was critical to our success. I was surrounded by people and a culture that fostered learning. And that’s when I first got to thinking about the philosophy / theory / education of it all. While it seemed complicated and intimidating initially, I was able to learn quickly by applying simple math / economics / business concepts to this industry that sat between marketers and publishers to help solve for the placement of digital ads in front of consumers. So why, on the surface, did it SEEM so hard? And why has this the perpetual reputation of the industry?
Fast forward 12 years, while so much in the industry has changed, its perception of being complicated and chaotic hasn’t. And what I’ve realized is, the industry thrives on over complicating itself. That is the one constant. It’s how new companies with no real value are able to get traction. It’s how marketers end up using over 60% of their budget on the technology that is supposed to power the advertising vs. 40% of their budgets on the actual advertising itself. It’s how a consultancy like LUMA Partners built a massive business by producing glorified logo soup charts (disclaimer: we love LUMAscapes). It’s why there is still no simplified and effective education resource widely available to industry folks that so badly need it, now more than ever.
So when I launched U of Digital, I set out with a single mission in mind: make digital marketing a better industry by providing credible, digestible, and applicable education. And within 10 months of launch, through conversations, engagements, and significant partnerships, we now know that this MATTERS – to agencies, marketers, technology providers, publishers, and most importantly, to individuals and their careers. With this proof of concept now in hand, we’re kicking things into high gear. We’re building more educational content, we’re growing the U of Digital Expert Network faster, we’ve streamlined the website design and experience to make it easier to learn, and we’re trying to get the word out. That it doesn’t have to be that hard.