Ad Tech  – which now seems to be a 4-letter word – has become a catch-all for many different types of companies and it seems like the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater. There is and will always be a very important role for technology to play in advertising. What there is no longer a role for is companies that masquerade as tech but really just provide a managed service (aka ad agency) or media arbitrage (aka ad network) model. 

In an era of ad avoidance and fraud, brands are requiring transparency and efficiency from all partners. Every penny of their budget that does not go towards reaching their consumers (via real media inventory) is being scrutinized and eventually will be cut. For too long “ad tech” has been a place where many pennies have disappeared under a technology line item but were really going to cover people costs or greedy margins.

Meanwhile, mar tech (marketing tech) is a category that continues to thrive, largely because these companies own the customer record via CRM at the core of their stacks. In a world where cross-device consumption is the norm, the companies that can help brands bridge the gap and connect with their audiences across screens will continue to earn their keep. But, while most mar tech solutions are able to connect the dots between channels and devices, they’re not able to activate advertising in real-time to deliver bespoke brand messaging.

As such, it’s time for a new category to emerge with the transparency and transactional capabilities that brands need to succeed. This is media tech and it differentiates from ad tech by including content solutions for owned assets and earned exposure, but stops short of providing full CRM like mar tech. The winners here will be companies focused on true software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions for cross-screen media activation. They will also boast advanced data science that powers integrated analytics and predictive optimization.

This is how we’re building 4C and we look forward to continuing to deliver value within the advertising technology marketplace long after the ad tech moniker is gone.

Update: before everyone else jumps on the Media Tech bandwagon, here are the key criteria a company must meet for inclusion in this category…

  1. Solutions for both advertising and content – Media = Advertising + Content. Therefore Media Tech = Advertising + Content Technology. No we’re not talking about “native” here, rather functionality for both paid and unpaid media placement. Without content, it’s just Ad Tech.
  2. Real SaaS – Just because a company has a UI that clients can log in to doesn’t make it SaaS. True Media Tech platforms are self-service software with the end customers doing all the hands-on-keyboard work.
  3. No position taken in media inventory – Media Tech companies do not act as a principal in any transaction nor do they buy/(re)sell ad impressions. Media costs are passed through directly to the advertisers and tech fees are paid separately.
  4. Transparent fees – In the long-term, Media Tech will be priced like other pure software platforms on a license or subscription basis. In the short-term, it may carry variable costs tied to advertising volume. But regardless of the model, Media Tech fees will always be transparent to the client with no mark ups.

Ad Tech posers need not apply!

Furthermore, among Media Tech companies, there are some key attributes that differentiate the various solutions:

  1. Cross-screen Capabilities – It’s all about reaching the right person at the right time in the right place with the right message, right? To do that, you need a Media Tech platform that works across TV (again, both advertising and content ie, paid commercials and unpaid programming) as well as digital and mobile devices for seamless cross-screen marketing.
  2. Analytics + Activation – It’s not just enough to analyze data across channels and screens to see what’s working, you need to be able to take action on it. This means having APIs into key sources of media inventory for real-time delivery.
  3. Data Science – To make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, you need a Media Tech platform with advanced algorithms and predictive models to optimize outcomes, ideally leveraging social affinity data.
  4. Global Scale – If you operate in more than one country, you need a Media Tech partner that has international features and customer support.

Rest assured you’ll find these 4 keys at 4C!