The Joyous Journey from Open Pubs to Closed Ecosystems

Dec 12, 2019 • Aaron Goldman

Last week we announced that 4C surpassed $2 billion in annualized advertising spend running through our Scope platform.

Sure, that milestone is a validation of our data science and marketing tech but it’s also a testament to the power of the closed ecosystems in which we operate.

To punctuate the trend and portend the future, I think it’s worth taking a personal trip down memory lane.

When I first got into media in the late 90s, banner ads were just sprouting up. At the time I was working for the Daily Illini Newspaper and we had just built an online edition that was essentially a digital version of the print publication. We carved out ad space and sold it on a reserved basis through insertion orders.

After graduation I took a job with L90, one of the first online ad networks. There we delivered scale by aggregating thousands of open publishers into single buys. Banners, emails, pop-ups, pop-unders – you name it, we packaged it.

In 2002, L90 bought DoubleClick’s media business and rebranded to MaxWorldwide but still operated an ad network model. Not long thereafter, some of the savvy DoubleClick folks started Right Media, an ad exchange that traded impressions via automated auction.

From there, the programmatic paradigm took hold, giving brands and publishers a way to generate value from a plethora of open web ad inventory – in the process, effectively divorcing audience from content. Retargeting and contextual platforms also perpetuated this phenomenon.

Over time, private marketplaces were created to help buyers cherry-pick the placements and segments they wanted from large publishers and exchanges.

Then came the rise of the walled gardens, with multiple platforms owned by single entities luring advertisers through consistent and persistent first-party data deployment. This combination enabled audiences and content to be reunited and dynamic creative enabled mass personalization for unbeatable ROI.

Now, as other media companies look to replicate the success of the walled gardens, especially in the convergent TV space, we expect closed ecosystems to take hold where brands can plan, buy, and measure premium cross-channel inventory against precise audiences with measurable business outcomes.

I think back fondly to my Daily Illini days – which also happen to be when I first started working with 4C CEO Lance Neuhauser – as the world wide web was a wide open frontier. Meanwhile, 4C Co-Founder, Chief Scientist, and Chairman Dr. Alok Choudhary was busy at Northwestern University doing research with big data that would enable us to foresee the future of media now manifesting in closed ecosystems.

OK, it’s time to find the other kind of open pub…

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