As Crowded Ad-Tech Market Heads for Shake-Out, Flite Hires VivaKi SVP to Position Products for Buyers

By Erin Griffith , written on March 16, 2012

From The News Desk

The ad-tech landscape is messy as hell. I'm fairly certain the entire universe of display advertising was built in the most confusing and complicated way possible so that buyers and sellers would throw their hands up in frustration and pay someone else to figure it out. There's even an emerging industry of middle-ware to help execs navigate the landscape.

But more layers is probably not the answer. The hundreds of startups clogging up the digital advertising industry are due for a shake-out, but until that happens, media buyers, advertisers and publishers need some guidance on what to buy and who to buy it with.

Today Flite, which runs an ad platform, scored a coup in hiring a John Lowell, a SVP of Analytics and Development with VivaKi, to help develop Flite's products in a way that makes sense to those its selling to. A group of target customers that, up until yesterday, included Lowell. Instead of trying to figure out what media buyers want, the startup is bringing a media buyer in-house.

At ViviKi, Lowell lead data and optimization efforts for the company, working with accounts like Procter & Gamble and Bank of America. During his five years there, he came across many startups that were working on better and technology than the solutions a massive media corporation owned by a holding company was suited to build. The problem, though, was that the ad-tech startups had great solutions, but were disconnected from the real problems the media buyers really needed solving.

He decided he could make the most difference joining a startup himself, acting as a liaison between product and those actually using the product. Six-year-old Flite has made inroads with publishers but hasn't quite cracked the code on the big brands and buyers. Lowell plans to lend his expertise to that effort, with the goal is of simplifying ad buying and selling in the process.

The bloated ad-tech universe can be disrupted, he said, but not from within a large organization.

For further proof that ad-tech is the opposite of simple, have a look at Luma Partners' famous universe charts.

If you can gaze upon that without going cross-eyed, you can see that a lot of those logos play in several different pools--Doubleclick alone is positioned as an ad server for advertisers, an ad exchange in the center, and then again as ad server again on the publisher side.

And even if you think you kinda-sorta get it, nothing is ever as simple as "ok, so advertisers hire an agency, which hires a media buying platform, which uses a DSP that's optimized by a third party for creative and data, to list its ads on an exchange, which is sent to a horizontal or vertical ad network to find the right publisher using targeting, and then, boom!--an ad is served?" Wrong. There is no standard way of doing it. Pretend those arrows actually connect every company on that chart to every other one listed in some capacity.

So you can imagine how frustrating it is for agencies, media buyers and advertisers. My understanding is that they all want someone else to figure this out so they can go back to making and planning advertising. Flite and every other ad-tech company on the chart claims, or at least wants, to do that. Bringing someone from the other side of the table in-house brings that goal a step closer to reality.