Sekindo CEO Speculates on Elon Musk’s Assessment of Today’s Ad Tech

opinionThe following is an exclusive guest contributed post to MAW from Rotem Shaul, founder & co-CEO at Sekindo.

Tesla’s famous non-advertising strategy outperforms the biggest brand names’ multi-million dollar marketing campaigns. This is largely because Elon Musk, a pioneer in sustainable energy and the commercial space movement, has, in becoming a tech icon, also become a walking advertisement for his various companies. That being said, this non-advertising strategy isn’t possible for most companies to adopt, and increasingly, many are turning to ad tech to increase visibility online.

The ad tech industry is controversial — and for good reason. There are legitimate complaints about ads disrupting user experience and making the Internet a more distracting and crazy place.

So, what would Musk, the king of Silicon Valley, say about this new and oftentimes misunderstood ad tech world, to help things improve?

You can do good while earning a profit

The ad tech industry is not particularly known for doing good for humanity, like Musk. Many people believe that a company either exists to do good or makes money — think humanitarian aid organizations versus shady Wall Street sharks. However, it’s not that black and white. Musk proves that the two are not mutually exclusive.

Elon Musk is one of the 100 richest people in the world, with a net worth of $11.4 billion. Despite his riches, Elon is doggedly passionate about pushing the envelope in sustainable energy products (notably high-powered eco-friendly vehicles) to loosen the grip of our collective reliance on gas as an energy source. He is also pushing space exploration to the mainstream by making commercial space travel an option in the next decade or so.

Just last month, Musk released a follow-up to his well-known 2006 Tesla “Master Plan” called “Master Plan, Part Deux” where he discusses “accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That’s what ‘sustainable’ means. It’s not some silly, hippy thing — it matters for everyone.”

The ad tech world is a bit more mysterious (and controversial) and doesn’t have a prominent face to the industry as Elon Musk and Richard Branson are to space travel. Industries that do well financially shouldn’t be punished for doing so. That being said, they should be somehow contributing to society. Ad tech is demonized mostly for disrupting user experience in the online and especially mobile worlds. But that’s not the point of ads. Ads are meant to bring brand awareness to help businesses succeed. And small businesses and startups need this the most. Helping businesses succeed while making a profit, which the ad tech industry does, is a win-win.

This isn’t to say that the ad tech industry can’t be doing more for society — we can start with ensuring user experience isn’t used and abused in order to get views and attention.

The ad tech world needs to simplify things

The current state of affairs in the ad tech sphere is unnecessarily complicated. Even ad tech insiders note that “the industry seems awash in a myriad of buzzwords that do confuse prospective consumers.” Features such as header bidding, programmatic direct and real-time bidding are unnecessarily complicated and turn off the more traditional (and not so tech-savvy) publishing industry — the very industry that needs the money most, due to consumer demand for free content.

Elon Musk, despite the vast scope and technical breadth in which he works, seems to have completely simplified the otherwise complicated worlds of clean tech and commercial space travel. He makes it simple because his values are clear: innovation from a “first principles” perspective, in order to improve the current reality. When one thinks of Elon Musk, they immediately think of electric cars and space. What comes to mind when the Average Joe thinks of ad tech? Pop-ups — or maybe questions marks — because the ad tech industry hasn’t simplified this world as much as Mr. Musk. Maybe we should try.

Advertising technology kicks ass (and it’s efficient)

The advertising world’s technology is pushing the envelope just like Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity. The use of AI has revolutionized the industry as ads are becoming ridiculously targeted and relevant to consumers.

Just as Musk’s vision (correction: reality) of autonomous self-driving cars, the ad tech industry has made autonomy a reality with programmatic advertising. “Programmatic is extremely efficient and unparalleled in its ability to pair rich audience data with ad inventory and targeting,” says eMarketer senior analyst Lauren Fisher. Humans, don’t fret — we still need you; yet the efficiency, targeting and higher ROI (due to saving time and money) is what counts.

Trading wisdom

It’s essential that different industries learn from each other. The ad tech industry has a lot to learn from entrepreneurs like Musk, in a variety of fields. Not everyone can work 100 hours a week like Musk, but we can gain insights from him about value-driven innovation to improve the state of affairs — whether it’s lessening our dependence on oil or helping companies succeed in the world.