Can we make “Authentic Web” a thing?
Sometimes you feel like you have one of two options when it comes to ad tech: you’re a radical proponent of the open internet, whatever that means, or you’re in the pocket of Big Tech, you like walled gardens and hate anything ‘open’. .”
What if we could agree on more nuanced terminology?
The existing jargon that we tend to rely on in ad tech is outdated and neither fit for purpose nor supportive of healthy speech. It gets even more confusing when a high profile person like Jeff Green, CEO of The Trade Desk, reiterates his commitment to “the open internet,” while leveraging Walmart’s demand-side platform, Walmart Connect, which could easily be considered a walled garden.
Let’s face it: the “open internet” includes a lot of good stuff, but also a lot of bullshit. And it is doing a disservice to responsible media owners and content creators to bundle them with nefarious operators who pirate content and operate solely to siphon off legitimate advertising dollars through arbitrage.
At the same time, we cannot continue to refer to “walled gardens” as something inherently bad or monopolistic. The fact that we have significant antitrust issues related to multiple walled gardens does not mean that the walled garden model is inherently flawed.
Watch advanced TV and retail media. There are many large-scale players in both spaces opting for a “walled garden” model to prevent data leaks and inventory abuse, which is often the right move.
So let’s rally behind an umbrella term that encompasses what’s worth fighting for, and I have a guess: let’s call it the “real Web” – or maybe even the slightly more stylish GenWeb.
In my view, the GenWeb includes any digital media owner, platform or other connected operator with “advertising real estate” who behaves responsibly. Here are some examples of what I would consider fundamental criteria for the authentic web:
- Real audiences that organically engage without forced viewing or arbitrage tactics
- Effective ad formats and attention results that drive incremental growth
- Strict compliance with laws and regulations and proactive ethical conduct
- Clear information for the end user on his rights and how his data is used
- Measurement and reduction of CO2e emissions related to advertising technology where possible
- Transparent ownership declaration and end-to-end accountability across the ecosystem
- Original and officially licensed content only, as in no pirated or plagiarized material
- Free from harmful misinformation, hate speech and otherwise harmful content
- Safe for children and other vulnerable groups
- You had the idea
Ad technology is fantastic in its ability to allow businesses to deliver value to users “for free”. It can support equal access to quality journalism, for example, which is essential to the proper functioning of a democracy.
The promise of ad tech was and is to create an efficient infrastructure that allows small operators to earn ad revenue. This remains a very valid ambition. Ad technology can also help create and sustain a fairer, more competitive playing field that supports entrepreneurship and innovation.
However, if we are not careful, the “open internet” as we know it (or rather as it is) will cease to benefit from advertising technology due to the actions of opportunistic parties at best. and downright malicious at worst.
To say the ad tech industry has existential reputational issues is an understatement.
So let’s separate the wheat from the chaff. We do what we do to preserve and grow the real web. This includes many different types of ad-supported businesses, with advertising opportunities accessible through a myriad of different ad-tech-based buying avenues (both “walled” and more “open”).
Whether it’s display advertising, app, online video, advanced TV, retail media, DOOH or even (pardon me) the metaverse – if it truly conducts itself, it’s worth the hard to fight.
But, for God’s sake, let’s stop knowingly including the chaff in discussions about the future of ad tech by using the term “open internet” as an umbrella term.
To note: I couldn’t be less valuable as to the actual terminology we end up using. Authentic Web or GenWeb is simply a first stab at something to spark discussion. I hope this additional clarity and nuance will allow us to reset our collective aspiration for what ad tech can – and should – become.
All comments are welcomed. Please share your views! And for more on this topic, you can listen to episode 295 of the AdExchanger Talks podcast: Fighting FOFO in the programmatic supply chain.
“Data-driven thinkingis written by members of the media community and contains fresh insights into the digital revolution in media.