Advertising Guest Columns
3 mins read

It’s not your ad tech partner, it’s your partner’s partner

Listen, we know you’re a good publisher. We know you do your best to make good decisions and to partner only with the best technology vendors. But you don’t know who your tech partners are partnering with. If this sounds like I’m giving you the talk about the birds and the bees, I’m not. I’m only talking about the dangers inherent in choosing partners. You see, your partners also have partners, programmatically speaking.

Recently I hosted an online discussion with a select group of publishers about Ads.txt, data leakage, and GDPR. Those are separate topics, but I think it’s important to relate them – they all deal with tech companies’ partnerships.

For the people on the call, Ads.txt maintenance sounded routine – submit a Jira ticket to IT and it’s handled. That’s seems great, but the data says otherwise. A large number of publishers have mistakes in their Ads.txt file, and more importantly, these files don’t accurately reflect what is running on a publisher’s site. In spite of systems that are starting to manage this upkeep process, there are still discrepancies that affect revenue-generation (for buyer, seller, and all partners in between).

This is where things really got interesting. Data leakage is something I’ve discussed for close to 20 years. My feeling is people have resigned themselves to the idea that partners collect data on a pub’s users. It’s just part of doing business. Sure, there are some holdouts, but most sellers caved on this a long time ago and discussion about it became vacant.

Imagine my surprise when that part of our conversation was the most intense. Many publishers have woken up to the fact that data leakage is no longer acceptable. GDPR has added to the risk of letting data fly out the doors without controls. For all of its negatives, GDPR has provided publishers an opportunity to reassess what tech companies they work with – and reconsider the terms of that relationship. Domestically, California’s privacy law will also impact these relationships, and this law takes effect in only a couple of years.


But what a road they have ahead of them to fix all the leaks. According to Industry Index, the top 1,000 publisher sites average 89 active on-site technologies. That is a lot of partners to re-establish control over. Of the 89, 4.5 of these first-party relationships are sharing data with their partners. We call these piggybackers, because they don’t need a direct relationship with the publisher – they are happy to “tag” along (pun unequivocally intended).

Who are these 4.5 partners sharing YOUR data with? It’s time to sit down. The average number of piggybacking technologies was 54. Fifty-four!

It’s time to know who is partnering behind your back. You have to be more vigilant about tracking your leaks. You can’t expect to stay healthy if you’re letting everyone share your data.

Rob Beeler  @rbeeler

As Chairman of AdMonsters and Founder of Beeler.Tech, Rob has 20+ years in digital media and ad tech. He provides guidance to the industry through training, consulting, events and research.

Republished courtesy of Industry Index, who tracks the MarTech & AdTech ecosystem with monitoring and insights tools for data leakage, tech usage, and publisher ad ops.