When we sold our previous company, AdGear, to Samsung in 2016, the “new” ad tech ecosystem seemed pretty established. Back then, one of the most interesting trends was the emergence of connected TV, which is why working with Samsung made a lot of sense.
Samsung's vision of building an ad business was very compelling, and we spent the following 3 years helping build Samsung Ads. That business has seen tremendous growth and by all measures, both Samsung Ads, and AdGear within it, have been a huge success. After 3 years, we (Yves Poiré, Vlad Stesin, Bosko Milekic), have started exploring some new directions that we found attractive.
Although we played around with many different ideas, there is one problem that we feel compelled to solve and are really excited about. Chrome's announcement on the imminent phasing out of third party cookies marked the beginning of a new age in ad tech. Having lived through the traditional ad serving era, then the transition to programmatic/RTB — what we're about to witness is as big of a change as the transition to real-time bidding, and it is as exciting.
It feels like there hasn't been a better time to start an ad tech company in the past 10 years. Like many huge changes, this one is not really that sudden. GDPR, CCPA, various regulations in various geographies, public outcry over Facebook's use of data... This is not new but it's been accelerating for a while now.
There are many reasons why we find this exciting:
- There is a need to mitigate the need for non-anonymous consent with the privacy that is sought by the user. There is an inherent tension that has to be addressed.
- It's really compelling to imagine a world where the rudimentary "API" of third-party cookies is replaced by a real API designed to prevent the pervasive online tracking of individuals, the privacy sandbox. We assume that over time, this will apply to mobile and other devices too.
- Digital identity is the larger battlefield. Of course there are the big tech companies you're logged in with. But we believe that the Internet will play out with many identity frameworks woven into one ecosystem. That was the path with RTB, and we feel that it will be similar with identity.
- We like the idea of various publisher, marketer and user systems (i.e., browser) talking to each other through a net of privacy sandboxes.
Here are the challenges we find compelling:
- If consent is really required from consumers, the ramifications of managing that consent bit across various touchpoints is huge. CRM, CDP, DMP, publishers, data platforms, media platforms — they all need to be in the loop. It's huge.
- Publishers will have to play carrot vs. stick, requiring some form of a login in return for giving access to the content, either blocking access entirely or providing more reasons for users to login (ex. contests etc). How will that play out? Will we go back to the 90's with "punch the monkey" type approaches? Will it be more respectful? How will people really care and what does it mean for independent publishers?
- Non-web environments also need to implement identity and consent, and translate that identity and consent for other platforms to understand. How long will it take before this happens?
- Advertisers managing consent and effectively having traceability over targeting any specific member of the audience. How can that be presented to the end-user in such a way that they care?
It may seem a bit odd to start a new company in the midst of one of the biggest pandemics the world has ever seen, but it makes sense to us. First, we feel the responsibility to start rebuilding, together, with many other people around us. There is a lot to be done. And second, this pause allows publishers and marketers alike to rethink the way they do things, and sometimes even challenge the incumbents. That’s what makes this timing so appealing.
We're really excited to build a new team and build new products again!