The RampUp Low Down

I still don't know what happens at RampUp After Dark

I spent the week at LiveRamp’s RampUp conference, which is probably the best vendor conference out there for advertising and media. I write about the vibes at a data conference in the face of cookie deprecation and what was said and unsaid.

Vendor interview: Qortex

No, you’re not having a stroke, that’s how it is spelled.

Qortex is a video ad net with a twist, they serve native ads within the video content. Think overlays, but dynamically sized and timed optimally to the content of the video. This is incremental revenue to video publishers and —- the company claims — effective advertising for brands.

Watch the interview with Ari, free for a week before going behind the paywall.

Reminder: Vendor Interviews are always free for 1 week, then are subscribers-only. Subscribe for only $39/month.

Podcast: RampUp After Dark

rampup after dark

My bedtime was too early to experience the intriguing “RampUp After Dark”, but during daylight hours I sat down with CPO Kimberly Bloomston and recently acquired Habu CEO Matt Kilmartin to hear what the company is up to.

The short answer is: Databricks integration, Habu, and Google PAIR. Also, for the record, everyone is absolutely thrilled by the acquisition.

We also discuss IAS and Pubmatic earnings, big fundraising news for TVScientific and Vibe, and Ari’s newest white whale, Collective Audience (who?).

Listen to the pod now:

The RampUp Low Down


Attending a conference is rarely about what is actually announced, and more about the vibes. I spent three days at the excellent RampUp conference aggressively collaborating and trying to figure out where the battle lines are being drawn in this year of change.

Identity is a political horserace

In an unfortunate parallel, the United States is undergoing its Presidential primary season at the same pace the digital advertising business is jockeying for the lead in advance of the removal of cookies, and the outcome for both will happen in the Fall.

There are two main parties in the cookie race: Deterministicrats and the Sandboxistas*. They are on the road, doing stump speeches, trying to gain support, and putting out case studies. But with the general election still scheduled for the “second half of the year” there’s a vicious primary battle on the deterministic side between the candidates UID2 and RampID.

This battle was most evident in the name that was never spoken out loud at RampUp: “The Trade Desk.” If you were new to our industry and listened to the speeches and round tables you would be led to believe that the main use of LiveRamp data in programmatic is to enable Google’s PAIR, and that’s about as great of a solution as you could possibly imagine. DV360, as we were reminded, is the biggest DSP by volume, and they use PAIR. Who is the second largest DSP? No one knows, it is a mystery.

Before someone from LiveRamp PR slides into my DMs telling me how much they value their TTD partnership, and how I’m totally reading into things, let me lay out my case.

TTD and LR are both loyal Deterministicrats and basically agree about the future. They both believe in deterministic identity through hashed emails and other identifiers. They both shy away from probabilistic, though some of that may be for show. Neither is embracing the Privacy Sandbox (though TTD is “testing”). And they both want to convince their partners to move forward confidently into the post-cookie landscape. Cool, cool.

But their business models are different and incompatible. LiveRamp wants its RampID to become ubiquitous so they can charge for usage (technically, per destination pricing). TTD would be a destination in this worldview, so the fees would be a permanent “tax” on the identifier and make the DSP reliant on LiveRamp for the core fuel powering their business.

TTD, on the other hand, wants the UID2 to be free. They make money on activation of the identifier when buying ads. The more UID2 is adopted by marketers and agencies, the less money LiveRamp makes in the deterministic future. I would take it further and say that LiveRamp thinks UID2 is a major threat to their future and it is strategically imperative to win the “primary” by getting as many buyers and media companies to adopt RampID before we go into the “general”.

* Third-party candidates are running as probabilisticians and contextualites but no one expects them to win.

PAIR is the secret weapon?

If I’m going to be honest I hadn’t given Google’s PAIR more than a moment of thought in the months since it was announced. PAIR is, like everything from Google, overly complicated but actually kind of simple when someone who doesn’t work there explains it. PAIR is DV360’s way of using HEMs. Was that difficult to understand? No.

The LiveRamp folks just couldn’t get enough PAIR this week. It was in the keynote, there was a breakout session, they even let Stephen Yap speak publicly. Once again, let’s ask ourselves what is being left unsaid, so we can see through the politics.

PAIR has one big technical difference vs UID2, since each PAIR needs to be… paired… between a single buyer and seller and isn’t fungible across media properties. This seems like a limitation, but it is actually a hidden weapon driving adoption. Because each PAIR is separate, Google can’t leak publisher data or utilize it in any way except for the benefit of the individual advertiser being paired. Publishers shipping off UID2s, on the other hand, have reason to be concerned that the IDs can be pooled, re-used, or combined in opaque ways, thus re-igniting the information asymmetry they have been fighting for the past ten years.

I admit I may be slightly wrong in some of these specific technical points, and welcome reader corrections. But my general take is LiveRamp integration with PAIR is a way to create an alliance with both media buyers and sellers against TTD’s UID2.

Flattening clean rooms

The debate over clean rooms used to be whether they were platforms or products. Post Habu integrations, it turns out they might just be a feature.

LiveRamp is showing its customers the ability to take data and ship it off to one of many clean room solutions, ranging from Amazon, Snowflake, Databricks, or Habu, all on the same screen of the UI, and all seemingly without any care which one you choose. They make money on the number of destinations, they don’t really care who owns the destination.

Oh, except InfoSum. Let’s see what friend-of-the-pod and InfoSum COO Lauren Wetzel has to say about LiveRamp:

I’m loathe to predict exactly how clean rooms business models develop, but the one thing everyone seems sure of is that customers don’t want to move their data. And that lends itself to the technology getting embedded into other platforms.

Editorial note: Marketecture was not compensated by LiveRamp in any way for this coverage, we always disclose commercial relationships.

Reading list

  • Pubmatic with solid earnings, 14% YOY Q4 growth, with a total of $84.6 million in Q4. Stock soars!

  • IAS earned $474.4 million last year, up 16% from 2022. Stock crashes!

  • tvScientific raises $9.4m (Sir Martin’s S4, BDMI, others invest)

  • (Ari on the board) announces $22.5 million funding led by Singular to bring CTV to SMBs

  • Ciaran OKaine and First Party Capital launch “Bedrock” in the model of Beeswax and Appnexus. Shane Shevlin, formerly of IPONWEB and Google, will be the new Bedrock CEO. Launch announcement compares Ari to JFK.

  • Google gives more visibility over syndicated search ads, months after Adlytics expose

  • Google sued by European pubs, including Axel Springer, for anti-trust abuses

  • Recommended read: Wired on how the Pentagon uses RTB to target bad guys (but also how bad guys can target, um, anyone too)

  • Eric’s dream comes true: WaWa goes RMN! Get your hoagies in a PLA.


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