Ad Buying

Bringing Transparency to Vendor Capabilities through Crowdsourcing

Garrett Gan260The digital ad ecosystem is fraught with fragmentation, transparency issues, and not to mention a cornucopia of vendors that all seemingly can hit and exceed your performance goals, all while reaching your target audience, across any screen, in the right context, at the perfect time they’re ready to convert.

But let’s be honest here. There definitely are a handful of vendors out there that are actually able to- but can everyone truly deliver on that promise?

The reality of the matter is that there are many solid vendors that can perform, but it’s just that there are too many to dig through, to find these diamonds in the rough. It would be an impossibility to speak with every single one of these vendors: to qualify, curate and test their performance against a client’s goals– not to mention that it would require an almost unlimited budget. Sometimes more of a good thing really isn’t better.

If only there was a place where all their data was laid out in a taxonomy which described their actual capabilities, without all the marketing hype, so we could sift through which vendors would truly be the best fit for your clients’ needs. There are tools out there that help with this, in the publisher realm, such as ComScore and Quantcast, but it’s lacking a little in the Ad Network, Affiliate Network, & Demand Side Platform space.

Programmatic claims to solve for this fragmentation, although I think many of us in media are starting to realize that it isn’t going to be the panacea it promised us it would be. Fragmentation will always exist, as long as the barriers to creating an ad company are low- not to mention that all digital consumer companies typically monetize through some form of digital advertising.

There has been a cambrian explosion of choices in the last decade, and I only see it getting worse, before it gets better. Even with the huge growth of RTB, many clients are still wary of the lack of inventory transparency and black box targeting used by these demand side platforms, which is only further evidenced by GroupM announcing it’s plans to completely ditch open ad exchanges by 2015. Publishers are pushing back, and leaning more heavily on native advertising and custom executions, to defend their direct sales channels against the inventory commoditization that is a consequence of open exchanges.

So where do we go from here? If programmatic isn’t the answer, and there is now a constellation of vendors to choose from, where do we even begin?

That’s where comes in. We’ve built out an exhaustive database of ad vendors (networks, publishers, blogs, platforms) and their capabilities, contacts, marketing collateral, ad specs, as well as reviews written by other marketers on their experiences running with them. These vendors keep their own data up to date, so that media planners and digital marketers can truly discern who does what, with reviews from other marketers, giving them social context and proof on whether or not that vendor may potentially be a good fit for their clients’ needs.

If there is a fit, media buyers can use the contacts database to reach out, and get a more in-depth and personalized pitch on how partnering with that ad vendor will help them better achieve their clients’ goals. This way, technology isn’t eroding away at the personal relationships that advertising has been built upon, and everyone benefits from increased transparency in the marketplace.

There isn’t going to be a perfect solution out there that will solve everyone’s marketing challenges, but I’d say rectifying the fragmentation, and transparency issues is definitely a good first step.

Garrett Gan is the Founder & CEO of, the largest crowdsourced database of ad vendor data in the world. With over 50,000 ad partners and counting, Thalamus houses the most comprehensive dataset of ad partner capabilities, contacts, marketing collateral, ad specs, and marketer reviews, for vendors across the globe. Outside of building Thalamus, Garrett enjoys global pilgrimages such as the Camino de Santiago, shorter walks on the beach, and consuming an almost unhealthy (is there another kind?) amount of fast food.