Why MediaMath’s collapse epitomises martech’s age-old nightmare

The reasons for the programmatic advertising pioneer’s shocking demise this summer– whose clients included PepsiCo, Adobe, and Sony – are still being debated, but one thing is clear: the unorganised division of tech stacks was incurring significant waste, costing the company millions.

With data coming in from so many different sources — Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and now AI — vital information is getting lost in a sea of information. Something needs to be done and fast. Apeksha Mishra at Investis Digital highlights how content tagging via metadata can make the most of existing investments while driving sustainable growth. This is taxonomy.

MediaMath used to be the crown jewel of martech stacks. As one of the first pioneers in the martech space when it hit the market in 2007, the demand-side platform (DSP) promised to revolutionise the industry. 

However, just 15 years later the company finds itself filing for bankruptcy, with promising acquisition discussions with tech titans such as Verve Group and Amazon collapsed. 

It is a devastating development for those who have built the company, but mostly the staff who suddenly find themselves without employment. While it’s not the easiest of markets right now, commentators are united in their judgement - a series of poor leadership decisions has ultimately led to MediaMath’s downfall.

Coupled with its inability to keep up with the sheer speed of programmatic evolution, its gamble on mergers and acquisitions (M&As) failed to reap any significant rewards. 

While it isn’t possible to pin the sad collapse on any one decision or shortfall, when peered through a broader lens, the company represented the perfect example of the complexity that is plaguing the martech ecosystem right now.

Same same but (not) different

Companies follow the same recipe in terms of communication: they speak through content and listen through data. 

But increased platform availability and their failure to seamlessly communicate is muddying the waters. And this situation isn’t being helped by the fact that we are living in a period of unparalleled technical innovation - with new channels being added every day. 

From Facebook and LinkedIn to Instagram and the newly-released Threads - audiences are being targeted in every way across every format. 

In an attempt to keep up, businesses desperately added to their tech stack. The result has seen the martech marketplace become an incoherent mess. Dense and disconnected tools are a dime-a-dozen. And rather than bringing everything under one roof, the myriad of available systems are often difficult to integrate. 

Brands have resorted to throwing content at the wall, hoping something will stick. However, the lack of affiliation means that it’s just white noise. Attempting to cover all these bases - particularly during this turbulent economic climate where resources are already stretched thin - leaves messaging and content becoming increasingly diluted. 

This disjointed ecosystem isn’t just a financial pitfall. The martech sector’s carbon footprint doesn’t make for pretty reading. One ad campaign that achieves 1m impressions has the equivalent carbon emissions as a roundtrip between London and Boston

Leaders should be placing greater emphasis on sustainability. Putting environmental impact at the heart of advertising strategies is the only way to sort this mess out. And this means going back to the beginning and looking at the way we organise, classify and analyse data. 

The next stage in the evolutionary martech chain

Picture the scene: a consumer wants to learn more about Kurt Cobain. A quick Google Search will provide millions of results, ranging from his skills as a guitarist to the unfortunate mental health problems leading to his untimely death. 

The point is that there is an abundance of content out there. From a marketer and advertiser perspective, this translates to an ocean of information at their fingertips. And all of this is a disconnected disarray, held within their own little siloes. 

This is where leveraging a taxonomy-based approach can pay dividends. Marketers can easily categorise results and create a rounded, more meaningful picture of the information they need to effectively connect with audiences. They can instantly start-off on the front foot. 

Yes, brands typically have several data streams and platforms churning out ‘useful’ information and metrics. But taxonomy enriches this data by clarifying what it is and how it performs. And whilst it may sound like a drastic change to the status quo, none of this means you have to start from scratch - or even get rid of your existing tech stack.

Combining systems already in place and bringing them together under one roof empowers you to extract their maximum value. Building a single ecosystem ensures platforms communicate with one another whilst demonstrating how information flows between them. 

On a more granular level, this unified approach highlights where brands can deliver hyper-relevant and personalised experiences to their target audiences. And all of this data combines to drive campaign performance, both in the short-and-long term. 

Not only does this help bridge the existing gulf. Identifying where the waste is being created is the first step to developing effective ways to stem the flow. The reality is that businesses already have the necessary systems in place - they simply need the glue to hold them all together. 

Beige is the new black…

MediaMath’s demise should be a wake-up call for the wider industry. Complex tech stacks need to give way to greater simplicity. Developing a clear vision is paramount. And this starts by shifting the focus onto a taxonomy-based approach. 

Simplicity used to be the anathema to martech specialists. But ‘the more the merrier’ doesn’t apply to this space any longer. MediaMath’s demise illustrates that consolidation is the future. 

Taxonomy is a bit like broccoli. It may not be the most exciting food on the plate. However, no one can argue against its contribution to a well-rounded, healthy diet. And by integrating taxonomy into their martech strategies, brands can cut through the chatter and listen to who they need too most: their audience. 

By Apeksha Mishra

Worldwide Chief Product Officer

Investis Digital (iDX)