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Why We Need Buy-side “Middleware”

How Ad Tech Startups and SMBs Strategically Invest in Training

There are a few terms that universally strike fear into the hearts of young agency staffers. “Campaign wrap-up report,” “quarterly business review,” “media-mix-model”, and “end-of-year billing /reconciliation” are usually high on the list.

Prepping data for these projects has long been an entry-level rite of passage. It often means that calendars need to be cleared and social plans cancelled to brace for many late nights huddled over excel spreadsheets, pivot tables and cold pizza from that day’s lunch and learn. After all, who else is going to match, organize and cleanup the reams of messy placement-level data from ad servers, DSPs, DMPs, media partners, verification tools, and search / social platforms?

Agency executives frequently express concern that their teams spend way too much of their day trying to wrangle data for clients. That’s because modern digital campaigns need to pass through half a dozen technologies – all of which add real value and are often necessary “platforms of record” for billing, reconciliation, or performance metrics – but that are nonetheless not designed to pass or normalize data between them in an automated way. Specifically, buy side reliance on this broad and often incongruous mixture of technology platforms creates complexity and confusion due to:

  • A lack of industry consensus on terminology and organizational taxonomies for client > advertiser > campaign > tactic > package > placement data
  • Little consistency when accounting for data inputs/fields pertaining to cost models, data currencies, or measureable events
  • Little collaboration between technology platforms to automate server-to-server connections in order to enable disparate data streams to pass quickly and freely between them

Agency holding companies have grappled with data automation and warehousing for years with varying degrees of success. It’s a complicated, time consuming, and expensive process that’s often done in silos based on their specific workflows or processes.

That’s why IAB’s Programmatic Council and Data Center of Excellence have determined that this problem requires a centralized, open source technical solution. Specifically, there’s a need to build a translation layer – or “middleware” – between primary buy side technology platforms. To tackle this, the IAB Technology Lab will soon be launching a cross-functional task force of engineers, software developers, agency ad ops / analytics leaders, and product managers to develop terminology standards and an open source code base that industry participants can use to help alleviate the pain points of passing and ingesting data between platforms.

I’m excited to help solve this challenging problem. If you or someone on your team would like to join the new Tech Lab task force, please reach out to me directly at [email protected].


Benjamin Dick