The goal of all ad tech companies is to provide digital marketers with the tools to reach their audiences more effectively, and to ultimately increase sales in the process. But as the demand for these companies grows so does the number of players competing. As a result of fierce competition, many of these firms—ranging from DSPs to ad exchanges to DMPs—are looking for ways to distinguish themselves by creating their own special offerings.
Digilant, although categorized within the industry as a DSP/DMP hybrid, (an advertiser-facing, demand-side platform that facilitates real-time bidding for advertising inventory from publishers and aggregates data), defines itself as something broader, citing the competitive intelligence it seeks to provide clients.
“People talk about right user, right time, right ad in the right place. But what I would say has been missing is also paying the right price,” said Edward Montes, the company’s CEO. “Some think this is about pushing price down as low as possible. Our notion is offering lower-price and higher-price options when it’s the right user.” Digilant considers its superior service its value-added offering, citing the ability to assign values to every attribute of an ad, from the time of day it’s delivered to the domain where it’s served—all matched to the user’s interests.
AppNexus, an ad exchange(an online advertising marketplace that enables publishers with unsold inventory to sell it at dynamic rates to media buyers), does business for major publishers, including eBay, and for advertising clients like Deutsche Telekom, and Orange. AppNexus’ value-added offering differs from those on the demand side. It believes it can win by training media buyers to use their ad management platform to analyze and bid for ad impressions on their own.
“Teaching people to fish is better for the ecosystem than selling fish,” said Brian O’Kelley, AppNexus CEO.
Omar Tawakol, CEO of BlueKai, a leading data management platform (DMP) that combines analytics and database technology for the purpose of managing and analyzing first- and third-party data sets, said that BlueKai adds value by making sense of consumer behavior through data.
Despite the different value propositions brought to bear by each sector of the ad tech marketplace, all are focused on understanding the relationship between consumers’ online and offline lives, and on how the two intersect at the point of decision.
The fragmentation that exists among display, video, Facebook, mobile, and other types of advertising, including offline, creates new challenges for ad tech players. “If you are going to be smart about customers you have to solve the fragmentation problems, or there is no way you can treat the customer as a single, consistent customer,” says Tawakol.
Reflecting the trend of the “one-stop shop” approach is Accordant, an agency trading desk. (Agency trading desks are the audience-buying divisions of advertising agencies.)
Accordant has DMP and DSP capabilities, with a reporting and analysis layer to help interpret how things are working. It points to its ability to use databases to access various segments, e.g. “soccer moms,” to find the “golden” signals in the immense universe of available data.
Christina Beaumier, vice president for product development at Xaxis, WPP’s global audience-buying company and trading desk, described a similar goal. “What we are really doing is taking a fairly uninformed impression and layering on data and insights on top of it, so the marketer is not limited to buying impressions from Yahoo’s auto page, but capable of buying impressions for people actually interested in buying a car,” she explained. Turn, another example of a DSP that incorporates a DMP, described its added value as the ability to tap deep audience analysis that can, for example, look at shopping-cart data, see a pink sweater there, then offer matching pants. Turn also offers tools for additional analysis and reporting and lets its clients buy other kinds of data.
“Our data management system pulls [it all] together so you can see trends, the big picture of what is happening with your customer,” said Paul Alfieri, Turn’s VP of marketing. “We want to follow all the breadcrumbs and put them in one place so you can analyze what is happening properly.”
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More: The Evolution of Ad Tech