The Perplexities of Pixels


pixel_smallADOTAS – Earlier this month I met many of our colleges in the industry while attending the ad:tech conference in New York. I sat in summits and forums and private conversations which mostly revolved around super-intelligent, super-fast, super sophisticated technologies and business models, like real-time bidding, prediction algorithms, audience management and advanced targeting, all of which are geared towards generating more conversations for the advertisers.

But all these wonderful technologies eventually rely on a conversion being tracked, and that is done using one of the existing pixeling technologies (you can read about pixels, their origin, types and usage and why they are unreliable on my personal blog).

These technologies were conceived at the very beginning of the online advertising business and have almost not evolved since. When looking at the advancement and the development stage of the other technologies, the pixeling methods almost seem like from the middle ages (in geek terms, like using a 2,400 bps modems).

They are highly unreliable, often causing huge discrepancy and inaccuracy issues which influences not only prediction and optimization algorithms, but often payment and billing issues, not to mention trust issues between client and service provider. This is one of our industries’ greatest vulnerability points and we must pay more attention to it.

We would never agree to be billed by our credit card company with “roughly accurate” billing or by our phone company or even by any micro-payment site on the internet. We would expect perfectly accurate bills, and rightfully so.

Two questions must be asked: why has this area remained so undeveloped, and what can be done?

As for the first question, conversion tracking has not evolved as fast as the rest of the technologies in the industry for two main reasons:

The first one is that a big portion of the industry has not been deeply involved in measurement and optimization as the direct-response segment (where I come from).

For example, brand advertisers and agencies representing them, used offline-advertising methods to measure the success of a campaign and thus did not need to use conversion tracking, but now, with the adoption of the new optimization and targeting technologies like RTB, audience management and others, more and more players are starting to use conversion tracking as their primary measuring technique.

The second reason that conversion tracking has not evolved is that for it to change we need to create a new standard that all parties will embrace. The development of such a standard will not be easy as this standard cannot be promoted by any single company as it does not entails direct and immediate profit. Also, this standard will probably be more complicated to implement both on the advertiser side and on the platform side, a fact that will obviously cause some resistance.

So much for the problem and a speculation on its origin, and now remains the question of what can be done about it.

Well, unfortunately, I do not have a clear answer on that. I think a new standard needs to be developed (either by definition or de-facto) and the industry needs to adopt it. This standard should create a real-time, reliable and consistent reporting method that is not too difficult to implement. It can may be web-services or it can be any other reporting method that will meet this criteria (I am no expert on reporting methods) but I feel it really must be done.

What do you think?


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