Industry Perspectives

Brian O’Kelley at IAB: The AdTech Renaissance is Coming (Part 1 of 2)

Blog Post
The AppNexus Team

This is Part 1 of a two-part recap of Brian O'Kelley's speech on the AdTech Renaissance. Check out Part 2 here!

At the IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting last month, AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley delivered an optimistic speech on the future of adtech. O’Kelley believes that adtech is on the verge of a renaissance that will benefit all parties—publishers, advertisers, and of course, consumers.

An impending renaissance might seem like a bold claim for an industry that’s always changing. What makes right now different from any other time? Here’s our breakdown of why O’Kelley thinks adtech is on the verge of a renaissance -- on Thursday, we'll tell you how he thinks we’ll get there.


Why is now the beginning of the adtech renaissance?


First off, let’s get on the same page about the term “renaissance”. Many in our industry (and beyond) tend to use the word as a generic term to refer to any kind of big change, but that’s not the case here. O’Kelley believes that adtech today is in a situation analogous to that of Europe in the 1500s, when the continent was on the verge of the historic Renaissance.

That comparison might sound like a stretch at first, but hear us out. Let’s consider some of the key characteristics that made the Renaissance so historically significant.

  • Increased trade. New trade routes between Europe and the rest of the world enabled the more efficient transport of goods and capital around the world. Trade connected people in faraway places and created lots of new wealth.
  • Humanism is a school of philosophy that places importance on the human experience. It came back into vogue during the Renaissance and sparked renewed interest in art and literature (which could itself be funded by the increased wealth mentioned above).
  • Scientific revolution. The Renaissance also saw great advances in science. As people began to question old beliefs, they developed the scientific method to test new ones. Their experiments led to new discoveries, which could then be spread to the masses thanks to the newly invented printing press.


Those three concepts are also playing a big role in both the present and future of adtech


Take trade routes, for example. While our industry’s transactions take place across the Internet rather than waterways, we’re developing more efficient, transparent ways for publishers and advertisers to buy and sell online ad inventory. Buy-side and sell-side tools are consolidating onto central platforms and allowing members to transact using metrics that reflect inventory value better than the traditional currency of impressions.

We’re also seeing more humanism in advertising. Brands are recognizing that it’s not just about getting their message in front of people as often as possible. They need to craft ads that resonate with customers on a human level. Nowhere is this clearer than in native advertising. For example, GE’s award-winning podcast, The Message, became one of the most popular on iTunes. Sure, it’s a piece of advertising, but the story is so good that people choose to consume it as stand-alone content. Other companies will be able to get similar results as native ad content becomes easier to distribute across the open web.

Finally, technological advances are moving adtech toward a renaissance more than just about anything else. Machine learning is enabling marketers to deliver more personalized ad content to every consumer, optimizing for the channel, format, and time most likely to drive conversions. As this process improves, it creates a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone: advertisers get better results, which means better monetization for publishers, while internet users get more relevant, impactful ads that lead them to learn and discover.

That sounds like a great future. But how will this renaissance actually happen? Check out Part 2 to find out!


Want to learn how AppNexus has already moved the marketplace in the right direction? Click here to download our white paper.