Rethinking the ad server

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Scott Rafer dropped by the SAY Media office the other day and got me thinking about two things that I had not previously connected. Scott is good at this.

We were talking about closed loop systems like Bit.ly and how this data, inside the conversation management platform like SocialFlow would change marketing. Brands would understand the connections between conversation and action, this type of activity would grow beyond community management, complementing acquisition and brand marketing. Or at least that was what I was thinking.

The context for me was our ongoing struggle to innovate advertising delivery at a pace that kept up with media innovation. You would expect ad form to follow media form, but media has changed so quickly and become so fluid, advertising has not kept up. Our AdFrames platform was a small step in addressing this problem. Ads were designed to fit in any size, maximizing publisher flexibility, putting emphasis on performance over form.

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The complete disintegration of banner form is the logical evolution… a world where the advertising is deconstructed into a set of assets (content, images, video, links etc) and rules – a brand API. Publishers could innovate around the API to integrate experiences, manage performance and augment advertisers data set with their own (for a bit more on this, below is a presentation I made on a similar idea a couple of years ago at our event 7 Minutes to Reinvent the Internet). We are seeing the beginning of this with text ads – search and twitter.

More broadly however, the connection between two worlds - conversation management and message delivery – is, I think, the inevitable direction of modern ad serving. Combine the messaging flexibility of a brand API, semantic analysis capability of a conversation management platform, the message delivery pedigree of ad server. Give it a feedback loop. Measure impact beyond the immediate interaction (ie earned media).

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This seems like the future of ad delivery inside the socially connected borg mind. Gabriel DeWitt, SAY Media’s ad serving guru, agreed but strongly suggested I stop calling it an ad server. He thinks Content Delivery Engine is a better description. Content Delivery - social, content rich, interactive experiences, cross platforms. Engine - lightening speed, keeping up with the flow of conversation. Ok.

Troy Young - president, SAY Media