Sometimes it's all about the presentation

I’ve recently been shopping around comparing online ad serving platforms for our clients at work. I’ve worked with a couple of these systems before and most of them are generally the same with very little differentiation when it comes to the underlying feature sets that the vast majority of customers will actually use. Yet the price differences between these platforms is immense.

Basic, no frills ad serving platforms like Mojo Adserver go for a fraction of the cost of the two industry giants (DART from Doubleclick and Atlas from Aquantive.) And Mojo itself isn’t exactly dirt cheap. I recently had a conversation by phone with a Doublclick sales rep and she basically ended up laughing at me when we started talking about price. Even though her 401k likely quintupled in the wake of Google’s acquisition of her company, I still feel a bit vindicated knowing that their platform (with pricing starting in 5-figures) will now likely be given away for free.

But back to my original point. Why are DART and Atlas so much more expensive than a similar product like Mojo AdServer? Because they’re pretty. That’s actually over-simplifying it a bit, but it doesn’t really miss the mark either. DART is basically the industry gold standard and because of that they can charge a premium. With all that extra income they can then turn around and make nicer-looking reports that basically tell you the same thing a more basic chart or spreadsheet could convey. Atlas (which Microsoft just bought) takes that slick look to an even higher level with eye-popping reports that are sure to impress executives and professional marketers alike.

Why am I boring you with this post? Who knows. Perhaps this is a test to see who’s still reading. But I know what prompted it and that’s probably the real reason why I’m writing anyway.

I was at Publix earlier tonight doing our family’s grocery shopping (yes, yes, I know - what a rocking way to spend a Saturday night.) As I was in the produce section trying to figure out what exactly constitutes a good plumb tomato I witnessed one of the many small things that keeps me coming back to that store. I heard a rumble of thunder and suddenly a spray of water began misting the lettuce and other leafy greens.

Ahhhhhhhhh. So calming. So satisfying. So reassuring. I could stay here and listen to this forever (especially since we’ve forgotten what rain looks like.) But it’s basically just window-dressing for a simple maintenance operation. Yet in this instance, I appreciate the cheesy show and consider it some sort of bizarre added value to my overall shopping experience. And it’s one of the many little things that makes me willing to pay a premium by shopping at Publix instead of less-expensive grocery stores (although a lot of cheaper grocery stores now have these systems as well.)

As with all things, I suppose it just varies depending upon your priorities. When it comes to grocery shopping, I'm willing to pay a premium for a pleasant shopping experience. When it comes to ad servers, I don't see the need (and thanks to Google and Microsoft's posturing I may no longer have to.)

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