Without Change, There is Seldom Opportunity

Without Change, There is Seldom Opportunity


Without Change,
There is Seldom Opportunity

Why AdTech’s Great Resurgence is Upon Us


Without Change,
There is Seldom Opportunity

Why AdTech’s Great Resurgence is Upon Us

Craig Aron

SVP Growth and Strategic Business Development
Craig joined Bidtellect in late 2014 to build out its Supply and Partner ecosystem. Craig now leads all business development, partnerships, and strategic initiatives for the company working closely with the executive team and key stakeholders. Craig brings over fifteen years’ experience operating and building Startups as an early employee creating enterprise value through scaling strategic partnerships, developing effective GTM strategies, and helping steer overall corporate strategy.

The Reports Of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

If you look at current public market valuations, the recent IPO’s and SPAC’s, funding rounds, and the flurry of M&A activity in the space today, you can say AdTech is having a moment. At the time of writing this, publicly-traded AdTech companies have a combined market cap of over $160B compared to $5B just four years ago. This would be surprising to you if you had read the headlines of AdTech’s demise as recently as February 2020, when nuclear winter was declared and most investors and outsiders wouldn’t touch AdTech with a ten-foot pole.

Despite all of the positive macro conditions, there is a doom and gloom narrative that persists. Uncertainty looms around the deprecation of the third party cookie (3PC), which has been the enabling mechanism to target, transact, and measure digital advertising since its inception. Much has been written and pontificated that the extinction of cookies will further strengthen the walled gardens and the platforms that own first-party data through a direct relationship with the consumer (i.e. YouTube, Amazon, Facebook), and weaken everyone else in the ecosystem. There’s some truth to the first part of that statement, but this thinking is significantly discounting the second and third-order effects that will drive the next wave of AdTech innovation.  

With vaccination rates increasing and pent-up demand from the pandemic, economic forecasts are strong. Combine that with a continued low-interest-rate environment, Venture Capital and PE funds flush with capital to invest, and an increasing number of companies that are transitioning their businesses online: you have a perfect storm of conditions that are resulting in bright forecasts for digital Advertising.

AdTech Gets Fit

Instead of mourning the loss of the 3PC, the industry should be celebrating. We ate too many cookies over the years, and now it’s time to shed some weight. The 3PC has been overused and has led to inefficiencies across the ecosystem. It has become more and more ineffective over time as data integrity diminishes and the underlying infrastructure has become bloated. More importantly, utilizing 3PC’s for digital advertising was never going to be sustainable long-term without the consumer as part of the value proposition. 

Now the industry gets to start anew without the shackles of the past and build a mechanism that enables privacy by design that better articulates the value exchange of the content-driven internet to the consumer. 

The loss of the third-party cookie is a structural shift for AdTech and is analogous to inevitable paradigm shifts in computing and every other major industry. These shifts don’t have to be technical by nature, but they open the door for new technology developments, which then enables startups to disrupt incumbents, and ultimately leads to more startups and increased competition, and further innovation. 

Take the current state of streaming, for example. Faster internet speeds certainly paved the way for Netflix to distribute content directly to the consumer, but the structural shift was the ability to deliver high-quality content on-demand to a growing subscriber base. Both the existing distribution and business models were upended, enabling today’s streaming wars.

There are Two Ways to Make Money

As Jim Barksdale famously stated, unbundling and bundling are the only two ways to make money in any industry. The AdTech industry has been bundling for the past several years, as consolidation has occurred across buying and monetization platforms and the service offerings that enable them. With AdTech’s foundation being ripped out from under it, we are seeing core parts of the ecosystem begin to unbundle. 

The tools of the past that enable targeting, measurement, attribution, and optimization may not be sufficient for the future. With uncertainty also looming around the regulation of Google’s ads business in addition to the unproven nature of FLoC and their post-cookie solutions, Advertisers are starting to question the “all eggs in one basket” approach. Just look to the thirty-plus identity resolution solutions that have already emerged as the industry grapples with the future of addressable media.

With the crumbling of the cookie, the walls of the big tech platforms will become more impenetrable and fragmentation will increase across the space. The core tenant of consolidating on a unified buying platform, controlling reach & frequency, is being disrupted and will drive Advertisers to engage with complementary and alternative solutions to fill in gaps and deliver against their desired performance outcomes. 

It’s Time to Build

One of the original builders of the commercial web, Marc Andreesen, penned a call to arms to all startup builders and investors across every industry as we confronted the pandemic: to start building the future that we all want to see. 

As structural change is upon us in AdTech, innovation is spreading across many areas including but not limited to, identity and privacy management, creative, content creation, attribution, optimization, and non-user-based solutions.

New ways to engage consumers will be imagined and new business models will be born.

The building has just begun. It’s an exciting time to be in AdTech.


  1. “Without change, there is seldom opportunity” Andy Rachleff
  2. AdTech Nuclear Winter (Feb 2020)
  3. It’s Time To Build


All Contextual Is Not Created Equal: Just Global and Bidtellect Talk Post-Cookie, Context-First Solutions

All Contextual Is Not Created Equal: Just Global and Bidtellect Talk Post-Cookie, Context-First Solutions


All Contextual Is Not Created Equal: Just Global and Bidtellect Talk Post-Cookie, Context-First Solutions

Bidtellect’s Jonno Burden interviews Just Global’s Kathryn Nassar on the cookie-less future: how to incorporate a contextual solution that keeps privacy front-of-mind and reaches performance engagement goals.

The Cookieless future has been one of the major discussion topics, not only within brands, agencies, and technology companies, but also consumers who are looking for a better experience as they discover and find new ways to use the internet – all while keeping identity protection at the front.  

Kathryn Nassar, Just Global

Kathryn Nassar, Just Global

Jonno Burden, Bidtellect

Jonno Burden, Bidtellect

Just Global, like most agencies, is thinking ahead. How are they going to be fully ready for a world where cookies no longer exist? What are they doing now?

I had a catch-up with long-standing partner Just Global to find out more on what they have planned to for 2021 and beyond.

Q1: How did the Cookieless future discussion start as a main initiative for Just Global?

Running media without cookies isn’t anything new to us or the industry, as there’s always been a significant portion of the population that’s unreachable through 3rd party cookies, whether because of the browser they’re using or their cookie clearing habits. In fact, many of the audiences we routinely reach are part of the groups that are proactive in taking the steps to exclude themselves from cookie pools already. That being said, the announcement by Google of their removal of 3rd party cookies from the Chrome browser certainly brought about a larger discussion within Just Global on how we can best arm our clients with solutions that will allow them to excel in the cookieless future.

Kathryn Nassar, Just Global

Q2: How has Contextual come into focus with these discussions?

That’s a great question! Contextual, for us, has always played an important role in the way we reach and engage with our audiences. With the disappearance of cookies and uncertainty in the development of replacement technologies, contextual targeting has become a focus of discussions as an alternative that we can scale up to continue reaching our audience in relevant environments. Contextual has proved itself over and over for many of our clients, and those who have yet to utilize it are now looking towards it for a way to extend reach into their target audiences.

Kathryn Nassar, Just Global

Q3: What testing are you doing around context as a tactic?

This is an interesting one, as we’ve tested contextual targeting in several different ways. We’ve tested contextual in combination with 3rd party audience targeting and as a singular tactic to see changes in performance. We’ve also looked at different kinds of contextual targeting such as keyword vs. category, and then similar contextual solutions head to head. One takeaway we see over and over is that having a great contextual partner (like Bidtellect) can affect performance significantly.

Kathryn Nassar, Just Global

Q4: Just Global  has a huge range of clients but the majority of your teams like to work with some form of Account Based Marketing. How are those teams getting ready with the changes about to come in?

Account Based Marketing is a key part of many B2B strategies, and encompasses a wide variety of tactics. While our 1 to 1 and 1 to few programs will remain relatively unchanged, our 1 to many programs will need to adapt to the cookieless future. We see this happening in a few ways, but come down to trackable environments and alternative cookie solutions. We’ll continue to utilize platforms and publishers that utilize logins to authenticate and target users in the first, and in the second we’ll test alternative cookie solutions as they become available.   

Kathryn Nassar, Just Global

Q5: Do you see clients moving to first- and second-party cookie data?

Certainly – first and second party data has always been the most reliable, and provides a huge amount of value to those who collect and store it in such a way that makes it possible to activate. That activation, however, will be where we see the largest challenges in the future. Without cookies, we’ll need to rely on alternative audience targeting solutions. This is where solutions like contextual targeting (and Bidtellect), which don’t rely on cookies, will benefit advertisers. 

Kathryn Nassar, Just Global

Q6: How have you found it working with a Context first DSP?

While we’re audience first in many cases, having strong contextual partners like Bidtellect helps us ensure that we’re not only reaching our target audiences, but in a way that encourages engagement and provides value to prospects. To this end, a key benefit of a context first DSP is the context driven optimization. Advanced contextual optimization is one piece of the puzzle, but may prove to be a differentiator as context emerges as a cookieless solution. 

And of course it doesn’t hurt when you get to work with a stellar team like the one at Bidtellect!

Kathryn Nassar, Just Global

Q7: Where do you choose Bidtellect over an omnichannel?

Our approach at Just Global is to always use the right tools for the job. Aside from what media we’ll purchase, we also look at how we’ll purchase it during planning. In the past, we’ve worked with Bidtellect when native advertising was a central part of our strategy, regardless of targeting. With the addition of display ad units to Bidtellect’s native offerings, we’re excited to utilize Bidtellect for a wider variety of contextual programs outside of native. Part of this excitement stems from Bidtellect’s optimization technology, which differentiates the platform from others in the context space: using non-identity factors to determine the value of each auction according to advertiser goals and adjust bid price in real-time.

Kathryn Nassar, Just Global

Q8: What advice would you give to marketers out there looking to stay ahead of the curve on the Cookieless future?

The best thing you can do is test. Test alternative targeting methods and test different cookie replacements. While best practices will emerge, your brand and audience will have their own nuances. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, be one of the few who navigate their own path rather than waiting for everyone else to figure it out.

Kathryn Nassar, Just Global

Bidtellect’s 2020: What We Did & What We Learned

Bidtellect’s 2020: What We Did & What We Learned


Bidtellect’s 2020:

What We Did & What We Learned

Lon Otremba, CEO

It’s over, right?  2020 I mean.

At least it says so on the calendar. As humans, our natural inclination is to create “eras” that we can compartmentalize our experiences in, relative to time.  This is quite convenient when it comes to challenging times, as we naturally seek a point in time when things are past getting worse and are looking better. But it also happens when an obvious end-point on the calendar is reached.  When the year ends, we like to say “Well, that’s done, on to the next one.”  It doesn’t mean, necessarily, that whatever hell we lived through in 2020 is over, and not going to continue in 2021.  But it does mean that we can look back on the year and see how we did, what we learned, and what we can take into the new year to make it better.

Rather than make predictions about 2021, as we normally do at this time of year, let’s take a look back on what we learned in 2020, because nobody, I mean NOBODY, predicted this.

Like a great many companies, Bidtellect was negatively impacted by the effects of the COVID pandemic and the social unrest that erupted throughout the country.

For Bidtellect, the crisis really began to be apparent at the end of February.  A couple of high profile industry events in late February were impacted by no-shows and cancellations, as word of the virus began to spread and many people began to be uncomfortable with travel.  But the speed of the impact on how business was conducted was unprecedented.  It escalated from speculation about what was happening, to cancellation of travel and event plans, to cancellation of advertising spend, in less than two weeks.  

For Bidtellect, the impact was particularly dramatic.  At the beginning of March, nearly 30% of the ad spend on Bidtellect’s platform was from hospitality and entertainment companies.  By March 10th, ALL OF IT had been paused – along with other categories of advertising spend – as ad agencies and their clients assessed what to do next.  By the end of March, our revenue had dropped by over 40%. We clearly had a crisis on our hands. We had to react.

And we did. We did a deep and rapid dive with all clients to gather as much data and information as possible to formulate a plan.  We learned what the revenue impact would be on our company’s cash reserves and what we could expect about the timing of the ad spend returning.

We made a plan

We made a plan.

Or should I say, we made some assumptions (best guesses?) and then made a plan.  Within a week of the ad campaigns cancelling and pausing, we presented to our board of directors three plans.  The “high plan” was optimistic about the depths and timing of the ad spend return, the “low plan” assumed the impact would be far deeper and last far longer, and the “middle plan”, intended as the plan we would operate by, attempted to most accurately and soberly reflect what our clients and partners were telling us would happen.  We named this the “Crisis Plan” internally.  Importantly, the plan called for not laying any of the team off, but it did require temporary salary reductions. While it was a sacrifice, we were able to keep every member of our team.

Business handshake

We raised cash.

Our finance team, led by our amazing CFO, extensively modeled our cash needs through the pandemic, and we determined that we would need to bolster our cash reserves to see our way through the worst of its effects.   We then approached our investors with an ask for what we would need to raise.  They fully supported the company and we got the cash we would need, ensuring we would not be forced to take far more draconian measures to weather the crisis. 


We executed our plan.

Starting April 1st, every operating and financial metric and goal was reset to fully align with our crisis plan.   And we stuck to it.  We lived with it, ran our business to it, made decisions based on it, and reported all results against it.  We actually were able to restore the temporary salary reduction ahead of the timing of our plan because we performed so well.  The plan served us well.

Conference Call

We continued to develop our products and advance our technology.

A key aspect of our plan was that we insisted on continued investment in making our platform better. We felt strongly that if we slowed our product and technology work down, even slightly, we would have a much more difficult time ramping up in recovery.  Fortunately, we hit all of our benchmarks and our releases were all on time and successful.   


We changed how we sell.

As things unfolded, we quickly realized geography would become nearly irrelevant, so we reorganized our selling teams around relationships and brands instead of by region.  We had to find ways to move opportunities along and close business solely by remote, electronic means, since our team was not coming to their own offices and none of our customers and partners were going to theirs either. Given that all of our selling activity pre-COVID was largely centered on in-person sales calls and meetings, this was an enormous change.  And it is a process that continues to evolve to this day.  There were some positive consequences that emerged.  We started breaking a higher proportion of new business opportunities, because we focused on replacing categories like hospitality and entertainment (that we didn’t expect to return meaningfully at all until late 2021) with new clients in categories that actually saw increased spend as the crisis unfolded, such as e-commerce and financial services.  Finally, we saved a lot of money on travel and entertainment.  We gave up office space around the country (we can thank extremely fortunate timing with a couple of leases, particularly in NYC) and saved a lot on rent.

Work from home with kids

We over-communicate now.

On March 11th, we informed all of our employees that they could work remotely if they chose to do so. On March 17th, we closed all of our office locations and went 100% remote. Since then, we now have a prominent, underlying goal to continuously evaluate how best to work in a remote environment – and communication is key.  Internally, externally, with our board of directors, with our investors — we desire to stay closer to everyone than ever before. We encourage every person at every level of our team to over-communicate their needs, their goals, and new boundaries as they juggle working from a new environment with partners at home, kids in virtual school, etc.  And we still do.

Looking back, when we made our plan for operating through the crisis, the success of it all depended on the assumptions we made at the beginning about what the rest of the year would look like.  Where was the bottom? Would there be a rebound?  How long would the worst effects last? What would the slope of the recovery look like?   We examined and collected a lot of data, and tried our hardest to make our plans as informed as possible, but in the end, we couldn’t wait for better visibility.  We didn’t have the luxury of time.  We had to act.

How did we do?  I would say we did very well.  We finished the year within 2% of our plan on gross profit, 1% better than on operating expenses, and we were profitable each of the last 6 months of the year.  And we did all of that without any layoffs or reductions in our team.  We continued to make significant advancements to our technology and products, and we had zero turnover in personnel.  Moreover, everyone made sacrifices for the long term health and success of the company and it paid off.  We made it through.


Here’s to 2021