Meta Ad Servers & The New Tag-Based Paradigm
I am officially declaring this the Summer of Jargon for digital marketers. It has been a non-stop deluge these past few months of acronyms, technical terms and other associated gobbledygook. I figured that before the summer is officially over, I would throw a few more terms into the mix just to keep it lively: Smart Ads and Meta Ad Servers.
“Whoa! Really Matt? You had to throw ‘meta’ in there, the most overused tech term of the decade?” -the reader
Well, yes, I did. And rightfully so as you will see when you read on. But let me first start with the idea of a Smart Ad, then we can tackle the meta monster.
A Smart Ad by definition has intelligence. This can mean intelligence along many dimensions, but at a fundamental level a Smart Ad must adapt to its surroundings and work across the Internet. You see nowadays, the Internet is really complicated — there are tens of thousands of device types, hundreds of operating systems, and now an app ecosystem in addition to the traditional web. In order to deliver a creative payload in this environment, an ad must adapt the payload for each end-user so the marketing message comes through as intended.
To enable Smart Ads, a new approach is needed so that intelligent decisions can be made in real-time leveraging cloud-based computing power, as opposed to the old way of relying on client-side plugins such as Flash for rendering ads properly. This leads me to the Tag-Based Paradigm mentioned in the subtitle, which is a key enabler to the Smart Ad.
The old way to build ads was to create a single set of files for each ad, be that a .SWF file in the Flash days or a .HTML file in more recent times. This meant that any intelligence needed to live within the file itself, or rely on a player as mentioned before. Whereas, if a tag is used to replace the files, then the ad unit becomes a pointer to the cloud where intelligence can be added. With this new architecture, the cloud replaces the client-side player and decisions can be made in real-time about what creative payload to deliver to each individual user — a truly powerful concept.
So now to address the meta monster mentioned earlier…a Meta Ad Server is a software layer that sits on top of a standard ad server and adds additional intelligence (i.e. the “Smart” in Smart Ad). A typical campaign managed by a media agency using an industry-standard ad server such as Doubleclick Campaign Manager (DCM) is a good example for this discussion. In this scenario, the campaign is setup and trafficked employing various datasets, targeting types, and media types in DCM. A Meta Ad Server such as Addroid is used by uploading Addroid ad tags to DCM and serving the ads based on DCM rules. When the ad is called by each user on a unique device, first DCM applies its rules to decide which ad to serve the user, and then the Meta Ad Server applies its rules on top. If correctly implemented, the result is a precisely targeted ad with a creative payload that delivers the advertiser’s marketing message.
In closing, I don’t expect the reader to memorize all of the jargon discussed in this post, but I would urge all readers to think differently about the Internet and the way ads are delivered. A Smart Ad is an effective ad.