Navigating Ad Tech Turbulence: Strategic Steps for Marketers

Out of chaos comes order. At least, that’s the hope for a group of marketers who’ve been hit by one ad tech disaster after another.
Publish Date
June 3, 2024
Industry Trends
Emily Hill

Out of chaos comes order. At least, that’s the hope for a group of marketers who’ve been hit by one ad tech disaster after another.

First, Forbes was caught selling ads on a shady site built to game ad spending (Adalytics, 2023). Then, Colossus was exposed for misrepresenting traded IDs (AdExchanger, 2023). Now, marketers worry these issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Some are already taking action.

A programmatic advertising head at a global agency mentioned they are considering cutting out 60% of their partners. This translates to around five out of the dozen supply-side platforms (SSPs) the agency works with, focusing on those they can trust for delivering the best in fees, digital advertising inventory quality, transparency, brand safety, and overall performance.

What began as a panic-induced cull quickly turned into a full-blown supply-path optimization (SPO) exercise. This kind of shake-up is crucial for media agencies to ensure they’re partnering with the most reliable and effective suppliers, especially since header bidding makes many SSPs offer similar inventories.

Moves like this underscore the growing concern among ad execs about the safety of their programmatic advertising dollars. Cutting budgets earmarked for programmatic ad campaigns is their go-to panic button, but it doesn’t guarantee that the issues will disappear. Real change needs a comprehensive overhaul, not just budget cuts.

Forbes was dropped from this exec’s ad buys the moment Adalytics exposed its made-for-advertising site. Similarly, the exec cut ties with Colossus as soon as the mismatched ID issue was discovered. These cuts, however, come with their own challenges.

Key Challenges in the Ad Tech Landscape

  1. Impact on Ad Spending: Will cutting these sites and vendors cause major blowback to ad spending?
  2. Vendor Verification: Why didn’t ad tech vendors identify Forbes’s shady practices? How will sites be certified and verified to prevent future issues?
  3. Transparency in SSPs: What exactly happened with the Colossus ID misrepresentation, and why?

These ad execs have more questions than answers but feel compelled to act.

One ad tech exec noted that misrepresentation of IDs by Colossus highlighted a major flaw in ad tech: the supply side can choose any ID for the bid request using their preferred methodology, and the demand-side platform (DSP) has to trust it’s accurate (Digiday, 2023).

This lack of transparency is a significant issue. Since the Colossus issue broke, there have been other instances suggesting cooperation between SSPs and other intermediaries to mismatch cookie IDs.

Steps Toward Restoring Trust

Jay Friedman, CEO of Goodway Group, advises clients to use various analytics platforms rather than relying solely on verification companies. Some marketers have taken this advice to heart, using both approaches selectively. The sentiment from marketers largely is, “Why are we paying for verification if analytics can provide good information and enable valuable decisions?” (Marketing Land, 2023).

Despite ongoing issues, many marketers are still not fully aware of or engaged with how their money flows through ad tech. This could change if more findings like Adalytics’ keep making headlines. However, financial pressures and misaligned KPIs often prevent substantial action.

The Path Forward

The ad tech industry must rebuild trust from the ground up. Key steps include:

  • Enhanced Verification Processes: Demand better verification to ensure reliable inventory and clear accountability.some text
    • Implement independent third-party audits of ad inventories.
    • Utilize blockchain technology to track ad placements and ensure transparency.
    • Regularly review and update verification standards to keep up with emerging threats and practices.
  • Transparency: Insist on transparency in how Supply Side Platforms operate and handle IDs.some text
    • Require detailed reporting from SSPs on how they match and handle IDs.
    • Establish clear protocols for SSPs to follow in case of discrepancies.
    • Advocate for industry-wide standards on transparency within data management platforms
    • .
  • Regular Audits and SPO: Conduct regular supply-path optimizations to ensure only trustworthy SSPs are engaged.some text
    • Schedule periodic reviews of all SSP partners to assess performance and reliability.
    • Use data analytics to track SSP performance and identify any inconsistencies or red flags.
    • Develop a standardized checklist for evaluating SSPs during SPO exercises.
  • Education and Awareness: Increase marketer awareness about ad tech intricacies to make informed decisions.some text
    • Organize workshops and training sessions on ad tech transparency and verification.
    • Create comprehensive guides and resources on best practices for using analytics and verification tools.
    • Foster a community of practice among marketers to share insights and experiences on navigating ad tech challenges.

By focusing on these areas, marketers can navigate the chaotic ad tech landscape more effectively and work towards a more transparent and trustworthy ecosystem.


Connelly, E. A. (2024, April 4). Forbes Caught Stuffing Digital Ads on Clickbait “Ghost” Site | Report. TheWrap.

Joseph, S. (2024, May 30). Marketers take drastic measures as ad tech snafus erupt. Digiday.

Nexxen. (2023, October 3). Why SPO is about efficiency, not cutting back on effective technology. Digiday.

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