Blog: Seeing through the ‘buzzword dust storm’

Ignore hot topics like programmatic, viewability and big data at your peril, warns The Rubicon Project's Julian Mossanen.
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By: Julian Mossanen

When I think back to a time when I read Dr. Seuss’s classics like The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I’m reminded about how the words seemed to wind about in amusing circles. Sometimes, however, words can give you a headache, as is the case with marketing jargon in the ad tech industry.

We hear it all the time, whether it’s a marketing executive trying to play up the “next big thing” or a sales rep trying to tell you why their product is right for you. The satirical show Silicon Valley has a segment where startups presenting their ideas at TechCruch Disrupt all end up saying different variations of “making the world a better place.” While obviously a parody, the scene illustrates how we end up feeling when we hear the same terms over again and again.

When that happens, the word itself loses all meaning, and the value behind it, which is often valid, is swept away in the “buzzword” dust storm.

The problem is that many terms that people inevitably chalk up to being jargon are actually important. When people start ignoring them because they assume that the context is just mindless promotional talk, they risk missing or dismissing a crucial piece of news or information.

Let’s take a look at some of today’s common jargon and examine what is actually important about these terms.

Programmatic: Advertisers are predicted to spend $14.88 billion on programmatic or automated ad buys in 2015 in the U.S. alone and the technology is expanding into mediums such as television, out-of-home and even radio. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people dismiss an article or discussion because it was about programmatic. While the potential revenue it can bring in is reason enough to pay attention, the technology itself has the capability to fundamentally change advertising, and not just in digital. Automation is actually shaking up the TV advertising industry now, which has enjoyed a seemingly unbreakable system for the better part of the twentieth century. Tuning out talk about programmatic is like closing your eyes and hoping the road ahead of you only goes straight.

Viewability: Viewability metrics have been making waves because of recent studies that show that marketers have been wasting a lot of money lately. The IAB responded recently by establishing viewability standards for video ads, which has resulted in every “independent marketing specialist” coming out of the woodwork and saying they have the “best tools” for ensuring maximum viewability, for the right price, of course. This makes it easy to roll your eyes at the topic of viewability, but the issue has actually sparked a lot of substantial debate over what the real value of viewability is. The truth is, your campaign shouldn’t rely on viewability metrics alone. In order to ensure the highest quality possible, success needs to be based also on behavioral metrics, such as how long visitors are staying on your site or how many visits it takes before someone makes a purchase. These are things you might not realize if you’re just dismissing the discussions around viewability as “jargon talk.”

Big Data: This one has been around for a few years and has admittedly been thrown around like a beach ball at a country music concert. From 2010 to 2013, Big Data was the “it” thing to be talking about in tech. Again, it’s popularity caused every “marketing entrepreneur” who knew their way around Excel to call themselves a “Big Data evangelist” and try to sell you a million “analytics” tools that only really serve to make a pretty spreadsheet. The ability to effectively process and analyze big data, however, is important. After all, the data itself had been stored long before Big Data was ever a term, but technology wasn’t able to do much with it. Now, however, all that has changed, and it’s led to a staggering number of innovations, including programmatic.

These are just a few examples of common “buzzwords” that are actually important. Whether its because they generate useful discussion or are part of a larger progression into the future, if you want to be successful in the ad tech industry, you have to recognize that it’s the source of the buzzing that you need to be wary of, not the words themselves.

Mossanen is regional vice president, Buyer Cloud for the Rubicon Project.