A Marketer’s Take on Ad Tech

Discussions in the ad-technology sphere can quickly go into the weeds, where you’ll find a DSP arguing with another DSP over whose RTB is really RTB. But how does a marketer make sense of the incredibly complex landscape represented by Luma Partners’ Terry Kawaja’s famous ecosystem slide?


“It can be a little bit intimidating,” admitted Marleta Ross, director of global prepaid interactive at American Express, during a talk at yesterday’s IAB Networks & Exchanges conference. “I put the onus on the tech providers to explain.”
That’s a problem for a marketer with a million things to do other than meet with the latest and greatest ad tech vendor in an overcrowded space. Ross painted a picture of clients that don’t fully trust their agencies to fulfill the role of arbiter but at the same time reluctant to fully wade into the messy world of cobbling together tools that often, to be fair, sound like they do the exact same thing. What’s more, audience targeting through exchanges is the current bright shiny object but there remains the issue of it delivering the scale a marketer like AmEx needs.
The key for a marketer, Ross said, is to stay focused on big strategic goals. In her case, it’s the sale of prepaid cards to a wide audience. The tools have changed, she said, the goal hasn’t. Yet often, ad-tech providers aren’t focused on exactly how they can help her achieve her goals better or more cheaply. “Remember what my objective is,” she advised.
Internet marketers are faced with a quick-changing ad-tech space that still has trouble nailing basics, such as attribution and the value of data. On the latter, Ross values her own data the most and hasn’t found third-party data sources worth the cost. Retargeting, a hot area in ad tech, works great, she said, only there’s a nagging problem. “How many of these customers would have come to me anyway?” she said.
The other issue Ross returned to several times is the complexity of the landscape. It is on the one hand a sign of the digital marketing world’s dynamism but on the other the source of many headaches for marketers. The agency, Ross said, should be the one to sort through this, although she said agencies tend to have their own relationships with providers. The bigger problem is sorting out just what one company does that’s different from another.
“It appears everyone is starting from scratch and doing the same thing,” she said. “I have a tough time finding the differentiation.”
That’s no surprise in a space where, at last count on the Kawaja slide, there were 12 logos each in the ad verification and DSP buckets. There are clearly more companies out there than the market truly needs, creating an excess of confusion.
“It seems like you look just like this one, then it’s everyone grabbing for share,” Ross said.

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