Rocket Fuel once was one of the best performance marketing companies in the world. Its core story was “give us your ads dollars, and we will use our AI-powered black-box to give you results.”

But they underestimated the fear of too advanced technology. Rocket Fuel’s tech approach was right on point: if you have the customer and platform data, and you have the A.I. algorithms to analyze it, you can serve the right ad to the right people at the right time, and that will boost performance.

Some people claim the reason why they failed was that they used each other’s customer data. Or because their business model was obscure. To be honest, these -bad- practices are common not among advertising agencies, but also in the recruiting business.

To me, the main reason why they’ve failed was that they lack generosity. Rocket Fuel thought they were superiors, privileged because they have a power no other humans had. So they didn’t teach their customer on how their platform works, how they are getting results, and why they charge what they charged.

It did not fail in their story, or in their technology, it was a fail in their core values. They were Google, but without the “don’t be evil” mantra.


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Leo Celis