There are no serious spoilers in this post, so if you're not yet finished with season two of "Stranger Things" - or if you've not seen the Netflix show at all - you're safe. I'm giving nothing critical away by telling you that the core of the story revolves around a dark, frightening dimension that's a reverse-mirror image of our world; a place that's slimy, cold and gray and full of dark corners and scary things. It's called "The Upside Down."
Over the past decade we've all been part of the invention and growth of programmatic advertising. While there's no question that data-fueled automation and process reform are hard trends that will continue to grow and develop, it's also true that - just like the scientists on "Stranger Things" - our blind devotion to technology may have blown open a passage to a dark version of the internet. Let's call it "The Programmatic Upside Down."
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The internet we describe and sell to advertisers is filled with great articles and creative videos, all being eagerly consumed by attentive customers. It's a well-lit world with laws and crosswalks and predictable ROI. But along with the rest of us, marketers are now seeing that our sometimes-myopic devotion to technology for its own sake has meant that their brands and messages sometimes end up in The Programmatic Upside Down.
The Programmatic Upside Down is a cold gray place of fraud and bots, of risque content, hate speech and fake news mills. It mimics the shape and structure of the internet we describe, but it's in no way the one that marketers would willingly buy into.
The good news? It's that 2017 brought its existence into focus with unmistakable clarity. We can see it and we can understand why it's happening and what's feeding it. Collectively we all now have a mission: we must now devote our business models, our technology and - most importantly - our people to shutting off access to The Programmatic Upside Down. Devotion to purity of supply and quality of data are a good start. Embracing the oversight of qualified third-parties to police us is also critical.
And perhaps most important is that we fully realize that there is no longer a convenient, situational middle ground: you're either part of the solution or part of the problem. There's no time to waste: The Demo-Dogs are already on the run.