AdTech is a critical part of running digital marketing campaigns for every successful advertiser / brand.
If you’re looking to get in on this while it’s still relatively fresh, this guide will give you everything you need to know from AdTech basics to its benefits and how your brand can use it to better deliver your marketing message to the right audience, at the right time.
What is AdTech?
AdTech is short for “advertising technology”. It’s a grouping term used for the different tools and software advertisers use to do things like:
- Create, deliver, and improve digital marketing campaigns
- Target and reach a particular group of customers (audience)
- Get the greatest return on the advertising investment
- Track, measure, and analyze performance results
Typically, AdTech tools will be ad servers, demand-side-platforms (DSPs; for advertisers) and supply-side-platforms (SSPs; for publishers), ad “networks”, and agency “trading desks”.
Simply put, the #1 job of AdTech is to help advertisers buy ad space more efficiently by helping publishers sell ad space more efficiently, and vice-versa.
This is done using programmatic algorithms.
In advertising, programmatic means automated… and an algorithm is just a set of rules and conditions that are followed by a computer program.
This all streamlines the buying and selling process for digital advertising and helps you manage advertising campaigns much more easily by allowing you to perform a lot of actions that would’ve been impossible just a few years ago, like hyper-targeting for a particular ad or audience, super granular reporting, etc.
How Does AdTech Work?
To understand how AdTech works, you first need to know who the players are, the methods, and the tools responsible for simplifying things and the individual stages.
AdTech’s key players are categorized into 2 main groups:
1. Demand-Side-Platforms (DSPs)
If you’re an advertiser looking to run ads, then you first need to buy ad space.
A DSP is like a marketplace you’d go to buy everything at the best possible price. Think of these as the Costco and Sam’s Club of digital media.
As an advertiser, these ad space marketplaces will provide you with the best opportunities to place your ads in front of the right people at the lowest cost.
Remember, the job of a DSP (demand-side-platform) is to make sure your advertising budget goes as absolutely far as it can because the more successful your campaigns are, the more you’ll return to “the marketplace” and run more successful ad campaigns.
In the same spirit of helping you run only the most successful campaigns, DSPs are also interested in helping you measure ad campaign metrics, gathering customer behavior insights, and tracking your return-on-investment (ROI).
DSPs make it easy for you to use data to develop better and bigger campaigns.
As an advertiser, you use AdTech to create full-funnel strategies using collected insights and programmatic software.
What’s a full-funnel strategy, you ask?
A full-funnel marketing strategy means tailoring different marketing messages to each particular stage of purchase a customer is currently at.
So instead of focusing only on sales, it considers the entire 360-degree customer journey and tries to nurture relationships at each stage depending on where that particular person is on the “buying spectrum”.
Full-funnel strategies are the secret big successful brands use to build better brand experiences and ultimately, brand loyalty.
Ogilvy and Draper Daniels, who the character Don Draper was inspired from, taught the biggest ad agencies in the world about this years ago and they’ve been doing it ever since in print and TV ads.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to get any guarantees with print ads, outdoor media, TV commercials, product placement, etc. because the audience and data is, at best, professional guesswork.
Through a DSP however, we know we’re getting highly vetted, hard data and we can see this with every successful ad campaign.
2. Supply-Side-Platforms (SSPs)
If you’re a publisher or website owner with a great audience and looking to run other people’s ads on your site (or network of sites), then you already know it’s impossible to get yourself in front of advertisers who will potentially want to advertise on your site(s).
Moreover, it’s more than a fulltime job presenting yourself in a way that’ll be impressive to prospective advertisers… and forget about what it’ll cost to build, manage, and run a business development and sales team for this.
It’s literally a whole separate business for you — one that’ll take you away from your core business and thus detract from the things that made you a great publisher with a great audience.
I know. I worked for two big publishing companies that collectively managed every major magazine title and got billions of hits to their websites and even they had problems “selling themselves” to potential advertisers.
Even with the incredibly targeted audiences we had from the top fashion, travel, sports, and automobile magazines, it was still incredibly tough to get out there AND look attractive enough so big advertisers would spend their millions in ad budget with us (they did eventually but it cost way too much in the end).
A supply-side-platform (SSP) changes all of that.
If the marketplace is like Costco or Sam’s Club as I wrote earlier, these web properties are the products.
Expertly organized and displayed and structured in a way that attracts all the potential advertisers, big and small, because of its efficiency.
An SSP is essentially the other side of the same marketplace we discussed above.
Its where website owners go to sell their ad space with very little effort and this massive cost savings of not having to sell their ad space themselves, is passed along to the advertiser in the form of much, much better ad prices (which means greater reach for the advertiser that then translates into better performance and repeat ad buys; win-win).
Remember, the job of an SSP (supply-side-platform) is to make sure you, as a publisher or website owner, are getting the best pricing for your ad space without losing your shirt.
The goal is to match you with advertising partners that not only value your property and audience, but also enhance your brand and keep users on your site(s) by offering solutions your audience desires.
In the same spirit of helping you run only the most successful campaigns, SSPs are also interested in helping you place ads, measure audience engagement, and other valuable data helping you to generate added revenue through digital assets.
AdTech follows the 2 basic methods below:
1. Programmatic Advertising
Programmatic advertising uses automation to buy ad inventory from all over the web, social media platforms, mobile networks, apps, and video channels.
It uses learning algorithms (i.e., it recognizes patterns and over time self-optimizes so it’s always hitting goals despite shifts in the marketplace) and workflow automation to reach specific target markets, considering consumer factors like buying patterns and demographics.
All of this is to make sure your advertising budget isn’t wasted chasing after people who won’t relate to your brand and are not likely to do business with you.
As a result, you get a more focused reach, experience greater transparency, and benefit from real-time analysis (and full ongoing optimization on your campaign results; I wrote post dedicated specifically to the challenges and benefits of programmatic advertising).
2. Omnichannel Marketing
Omnichannel marketing uses technology to reach your prospects where they are, be it on the web, a mobile device, social media, or video channels.
I actually refer to this as omnipresence because your helpful / encouraging message or solution is always there, in wait, for when your audience shows up and needs you.
Integrating appropriate brand messages into the online and offline touchpoints keeps your target market engaged throughout the sales funnel (ala full-funnel marketing from above).
With AdTech, you know your digital marketing efforts are perfectly aligned with other forms of advertising across multiple platforms, supplying your target audience a consistent experience across all formats.
Below are the most common tools used in AdTech:
Demand Side Platforms (DSPs)
Demand-side (DP) platforms like Simpifi,
AppNexus Xandr, and SmartyAds allow you to buy ad placements at very, very competitive prices (think wholesale pricing versus retail pricing).
You can tap into a very diverse ad inventory using a single window, saving you time and the hassle of reaching out to individual publishers that may not be right for you and won’t share any information that may be bad for your brand or ad message.
Supply Side Platforms (SSPs)
SSP publishers use these platforms to stay on top of the demand for ad slots, decide minimum pricing, manage inventory, and coordinate with advertisers.
SS platform examples include Google Ad Manager, OpenX, and AerServ.
Ad Servers and Networks
Ad servers like Atlas and AdButler automate ad placement, allow you to easily add your ads to websites remotely, and collect performance data for you.
Alternatively, ad networks combine ad inventory from different publishers (i.e., websites).
For example, Google DoubleClick Ad Exchange and InfoLinks give you a list of features so you can find your ideal customers on their managed properties.
Agency Trading Desks
Typically for media agencies that buy ad space, these “trading desk” services help you plan, buy, and manage ads across platforms for your brand(s).
Tips to Improve Your Ad Campaigns w/ AdTech
- Use first-party cookie matching, cross-device solutions, and integrated advertising platforms to aggregate audience insights and reduce data loss.
- Choose respectable vendors that prioritize quality ad inventory and anti-fraud solutions.
- Piggybacking off my earlier tip, make sure you’re paying attention to invalid traffic (IVT) rates and act quickly (most agencies are fine with the “acceptable KPI benchmark” for IVT of up to 20% however I’m of the opinion that anything over 3-5% is unacceptable and make sure my campaigns are optimized accordingly).
- Work with advertiser and publisher platforms that supply correct and coherent reporting for performance.
- Adopt innovations that enable real-time campaign activation to help reactively capture customers without delays.
- Seek partners that supply comprehensive solutions and ease collaboration across the agency, client, and internal teams, ditching silos that prevent the alignment of campaigns.
- Highly overlooked but very important, always opt for the clean, good-looking, and minimalistic dashboards / interfaces because they make it easy on your eyes to find what you need and save you many minutes that add up over the course of a week, month, year, etc.
- If possible, use one single interface and avoid complex and fragmented workflows involving redundant tasks that waste time.
- Focus on telling compelling stories through your ads to set up meaningful connections with your audience that addresses their fears, the solution, how you’ve helped others, and how you can help them as well.
- Stay informed on ad channels with expanding AdTech options like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
- Work through self-service options to enjoy more control over your optimizations and manage your time when managing digital marketing campaigns.
- Make real-time adjustments in your campaigns and intended audiences using AI but don’t be overly dependent on it because assuming AI can replace people is dangerous.
- I know it’s boring but do not ignore MarTech (marketing technology) Customer Insights when looking for digital ad space through AdTech.
You need to watch the reporting every day.
If I could only give one piece of advice that would be it. If you’re not monitoring performance daily, you’re losing money. Period.
If I could give only 2, I’d say get comfortable with analytics. Especially the data and analytics collected through artificial intelligence (AI).
AI will do wonders for your campaigns and it’ll similarly get you your life back because you’ll be able to do things that are impossible and not feasible enough to do in a hyper-fast way (just be careful to not do what most people do and start over relying on AI to make the decisions that you need to be making yourself).
Remember, bad things happen when you fall asleep at the wheel (it even happens with the most advanced AI used by Tesla).
With AdTech, you can undoubtedly reach your audience(s) quickly and efficiently… and with its new updates, it’s obviously the most powerful resource for you if you’re looking for effective ways to reach specific people (with specific needs at specific times, locations, etc.).
Keeping my tips top of mind, there’s virtually -0- limitations on how far you can get with the right partnerships (and perfecting your ad campaigns, measurement, data analysis, etc.).
When Ivan is not running ad campaigns, he’s helping people get more customers with bespoke interactive chatbots (i.e., virtual assistants for your website that turn prospects into paying customers).