Ari Paparo, CEO of Beeswax, is one of the most recognizable names in ad-tech Twitter, with his insightful (and often acerbic) commentary making him essential reading for those who want a cutting-edge commentary on the space (see below).
Ahead of the announcement that his company is soon to be purchased by Comcast-owned FreeWheel, he took the time to speak with Adweek on what he thinks mattered during the past 12 months.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Adweek: So, what really mattered in 2020?
Ari Paparo: The story for 2020 was: identity, Covid-19 and CTV, those are really the three things that were really important.
You started out with Google Chrome’s announcement [that it will pull support for third-party cookies in 2022], which was a shot across the bow on identity, even though nothing actually came about.
It’s largely vaporware to come in the future with no real time frame, it was enough to get people to make it the topic of the year. Then with Apple’s announcement in the summer [about severe restrictions to its mobile identifier in iOS 14], which was anticipated, it really spelt out that identity is going to be the most important factor moving forward for digital media.
Covid-19 obviously had a huge impact on people in a very short amount of time in March, April, and there was certainly some panic and some layoffs but most of those businesses were overly exposed to the travel industry, and many [in ad tech] had a very good Q3 and Q4.
We’ve seen CTV grow for the last couple of years but 2020 was certainly a breakout year, and this is probably related to the stay-at-home orders, and consumers moving away from linear TV sources.
After Google confirmed it would pull support for third-party cookies, and just before the global pandemic outbreak, the IAB announced Project Rearc to sustain ad tech in a post-cookie world. What’s your thoughts?
I think the industry is somewhat paralyzed by the confusing and half-baked proposals that Google keeps putting out [such as ‘DoveKey’ for its Privacy Sandbox scheme].
Effectively we have the largest web browser, giving us vague deadlines and vague technical solutions to really big important problems, and that just has everyone frozen because they’re not sure how to act.
You could make a very good comparison with Apple, who–despite being aggressively against our industry as a whole–as they have at least shipped products like their SKAdNetwork that we can at least use today. That gives people a lot more certainty, as opposed to floating proposals that may, or may not, launch in two years.
Although, Google is in a tough spot between regulatory concerns, privacy concerns and then business concerns, and so, I don’t envy them.
Since Google’s announcement in January, there’s been a spate of ‘independent ID’ initiatives outside of the Walled Gardens which one do you think is the most likely to lead the way?
I think it’s very similar to what we had with header bidding in ad tech a few years back. You had all these different companies that had their own solutions, but then Prebid happened, and that was open source, and then it essentially won.
So, I think it’s a very similar dynamic now, and you have The Trade Desk with UDID 2.0 which feels like it has a bit of an advantage, as it’s one of the few companies big enough to roll something like that out. Basically, there’s a bit of that jockeying going on, but if companies make their ID offerings interoperable then they should stand a chance.