Many would say brave mavericks building a business in the headwinds of the triopoly (i.e. Facebook, Google and Amazon) is madness, and if the headlines are to be believed, none of us will come out of the battle unscathed.

Commoditization is more prevalent than ever, and it’s believed by many that the triopoly is the answer to every marketer’s prayers. Reality is, it’s not in anyone’s best interest for one, two, or even three players to dominate the industry. Having fewer players in one ecosystem limits choices, and ultimately, the push to innovate. 

Independent ad tech, aptly named the 20-percenters, are in a position to support advertisers in ways the triopoly can’t. While not everyone in this group is thriving, those in the ecosystem that specialize and work out how they can help solve real business challenges for brands at scale will succeed. 

Huff and puff and blow the walls down? Not quite 

The marketer’s role today is complex. The CMO’s responsibilities now stretch beyond the traditional notion of marketing, with ever-growing accountability for revenue and business growth. But how can they expect to achieve these objectives within the walled gardens when the triopoly is known for grading their homework, limiting access to consumer data and only reaching and learning audiences within one environment? 

Marketers need to be able to work both within the walled gardens, as well as outside of them. The consumer journey is fragmented across the connected landscape and brands that put all of their eggs in one basket are missing key signals of intent from consumers.

Beeswax and IPONWEB are perfect examples of 20-percenters providing marketers with services the 80-percenters cannot. Unlike traditional DSPs that offer one-size-fits-all models, they offer custom solutions that empower marketers to control their data. LiveRamp, 20-percenter solving challenges in identity resolution is another example.

To better support brands, the 20-percent needs to collaborate in order to make fragmentation issues like identity management more seamless across technologies and data sets, helping to break up the 80-percent dominance and expand technical capabilities to companies that are working together to make the landscape more effective for advertisers.  For example, identity consortiums such as Digitrust and the Advertising ID consortium are working toward solving this problem. 

Marketers have no choice but to work on both sides of the garden, so it is the responsibility of the open side to collaborate and create efficiencies that will shift spend away from the closed ecosystem. 

Gateways of opportunity for the 20-percenters

The current state-of-play finds the major players caught in a device war, fighting to be first in line to the consumer so they can control the ecosystem and consumer intent data. With the consumer journey becoming increasingly cross-channel, we are entering a time when capturing the data that’s going into user behaviour and leveraging it to inform content is key. But this war between the walled gardens inhibits this, leaving behind a path of opportunity for independent technology, content creation and services to be the facilitators.  

The heightened competition pushes innovation and creative thinking, enabling the independents to be strategic partners and solve real challenges for consumers, agencies and brands.

This opportunity is only widening with the convergence of TV and digital, and the evolution of consumer engagement with voice and visual search functions, creating even more valuable insight into consumer appetite. The collision provides the 20-percenters with a route to access better data and engage consumers through addressable media and content in an environment that the 80-percent doesn’t mandate.

It’s a consumer world and we’re just living in it

Today’s consumer has more control and influence than ever before. Brands that listen to consumers’ wants and seek out data that aligns with this will keep up. 

This data needs to come from multiple consumer signals, not just the 80-percent, especially since the black box nature of Google and Facebook prevents brands from fully understanding consumer behaviour and making informed business decisions.

Those that utilize transparent, independent technology and data partners discover they’re able to move the needle quicker, as they strive to bring in new customers, inform product and audience strategy, and improve customer engagement. 

The tide is turning

Although the industry has a few dominating players, remember that we’re still in the teenage years, and things change rapidly. Google may have dominated search for many years, but with the emergence of voice and visual search functions, the entire search sector is changing. This constant pace of change makes way for the 20-percent to disrupt the current state of play. Ultimately, the companies that drive change and influence consumer behaviour will be the ones to break this ratio.