Martin Kihn wrote an article titled What the Past Says About the Future of Ad Tech (Jan 4, 2023). Kihn is SVP Strategy, Marketing Cloud at Salesforce.

« On the Netscape homepage was an early “live cam” (updated every few seconds) of a fishtank. It sat on the desk of a 24 year-old engineer named Lou Montulli… And Montulli of course – as everyone who has followed me since my Gartner days knows – invented the browser cookie. »

« by 1996, DoubleClick was dominant, and when it acquired on-premise rival NetGravity in 1999, it was super-dominant…  Its hyper-charismatic, raven-haired co-founder Kevin O’Connor threw out business plans that were too cautious: “How does that lead to total domination?!” »

«With almost every premium publisher in its network, DoubleClick had a cookie on all our browsers, and so read much (not all) of our etheric adventures.

« It was only when O’Connor acquired Abakus to insert real names and addresses into the pseudonymous cookie profile did USA Today, and then everyone else, raise a hand. But this was in 2000-01, when we all had other problems. »

« There was one outlier, a brave ad network that took a principled stand against dropping third-party cookies on browsers, for privacy reasons. It was a sortie that did not connect. In the 1990s, WebConnect was most definitely on the wrong side of history. »

« Ad dollars flow to places with more information, not better ethics. »

« Retargeting is the killer app for digital ads… In the 2000’s, ads targeted based on specific things we did in our browsers got at least 3X better engagement than non-retargeted ads, however we measured. »

« Slowly at first, and then with more persistent vigor and rage, the ad-that-followed-me combined with a generalized uptick in paranoia to create a climate of conspiracy around the ad business. »

Web surfing for the cultural elite assumed the soundtrack of a horror film. Yes, they probably do know what you did last summer.

« In the long run, it is more profitable to be gentle with your superpowers. »

« Everything changed in 2018… Mark Zuckerberg… appeared in front of two Senate committees…  For the first time, we started to look at our phones with suspicion. Our apps were watching us too. »

« By no coincidence, 2018 was also the year that digital ad spend overtook offline – that is, digital won – and the share of the triopoly (Google, Meta, Amazon) exceeded 80/20, including search. »

« Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and the App Tracking Transparency framework (ATT) »

« One, Apple’s specific tactics aren’t as important as its heuristic decision to make data collection contingent on an explicit opt-in by the user. We need to say “Yes.” Which makes sense until we ask the logical question: “Yes to what?” And we’re caught in the sepulchral eddy of the Privacy Paradox, which states that it’s almost impossible to make an intelligent decision about whether we do or do not want to “opt in” to collection of … what? … for what purpose? … and by whom? »

« Two, nobody wants untargeted ads. Trust me on this. We might romanticize an experience of anonymity, but I challenge you to live it – as I did, — disable your trackers, obscure your I.P., use a VPN, and just look at the ads you’re served up: a late-night-cable-TV hodgepodge of personal pizza, car caddies, weight loss lies and class-action lawsuits.»

« And it seems very safe to me to say that we are in desperate need of new ad formats. »

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