In a typical display of the media's lack of understanding of advertising exchanges and their struggle with the rapidly changing online advertising industry, Clifford writes:
"The major appeal of exchanges is that with some analysis, advertisers can buy ads one by one, and track the performance of each ad. This contrasts with ad networks, which roll up broad audiences for advertisers (often using the exchanges) through their own sales forces."
Not quite. Tracking by ad unit has been there with ad networks and ad exchanges.
What advertisers do is buy ad placements on websites not just ads, and then run their ads - banner ads, for example - in those placements. Advertisers can then track the individual ad placements performance along with whatever ad or ads they run in those placements.
Now, some ad exchanges do allow you to buy individual placements on single sites (such as Right Media and DoubleClick), but others such as contextual advertising exchanges (ADSDAQ) offer a different value proposition and continue to aggregate traffic similar to ad networks but offer exchange modalities such as the simultaneous double auction for inventory by both publishers and advertisers.
The article gives the sense that there's a "one by one" purchase and delivery of ad placements. An average Joe reading the article they must wonder, "Is there some guy looking at this web page, too, and making decisions to show me ads every time I view a new page?." We suppose, to a degree, this could be true. Robust advertising exchange technology does make decisions in real-time. But, in reality, inventory is still rolled up and the effective matching by technology is made in the ad exchange.