Viewpoints: If Not 'Ad Tech' Then What?

Digital marketing has expanded well beyond the realm of paid media, yet the old label "ad tech" persists as a blanket descriptor of this maturing industry. Are we good with this?

We asked a handful of execs to answer the question: If the phrase "ad tech" did not exist, what would you call the space and why?

Here's what they had to say:

Chris Paul, GM, AOD, Vivaki Nerve Center

I would call it Interactive Relationship Marketing, or IRM, because you know we love our TLAs in this space. If we boil it down to its core concept, technology is the conduit that allows buyers to voice their preferences to sellers before anyone sees or places an ad. Buyers who take advantage of this real-time exchange of information give sellers a chance to decide if it's worth advertising to the buyer in that moment, and if so, decide which product or service to promote.

This makes the advertising system sophisticated and smart, relative to the blunt broadcast model. The permission-based, real-time interchange of information that enables the system also suggests a relationship component. In the future, I see a frictionless system that improves the value of communications for all parties, with the kind of care and discretion you'd expect from a good relationship.

But we shouldn't ignore the other technological innovation that's changing the ad game. Today, people can organically share a seller's message to their social graphs through posts, Tweets, YouTube uploads and more, declaring that they found value in the seller's message. This shows how social media has amplified the power of good old fashioned Word Of Mouth – the undisputed king of purchase influence. Which means, theoretically, IRM + social is the most efficient marketing mix available today.

Dave Morgan, CEO, Simulmedia:

I don't think we would or should rename "ad tech," even though it now covers a breadth of technologies and activities which extend far beyond what we historically saw as classical advertising - the placement of commercial message on or within media. Yes, ad technologies now manage, impact or plug into a very wide range of communication, marketing and customer service activities, everything from media advertising to promotion to direct marketing to promotion to social media management to public relations to product management and development. However, all are focused on helping enterprise create and grow customers. All are focused on maximizing the creation and growth of those relationships. That has been what advertising has been about for hundreds of years. "Ad tech" may not be a perfect term, but it is the best term.

Bill Mungovan, Director Product Marketing, Ad Solutions, Adobe

If "ad tech" didn't exist as a term, I'd call the space something like "interconnected optimization technology."

Ad tech is evolving and it's becoming increasingly more interconnected. It's no longer enough to gain efficiencies solely in paid search, or just in display, or only in managing your on-site experience.  We now need to consider how each of these technologies is connected to gain efficiencies across all channels spanning all disciplines within a marketing organization. I'm not just talking about attribution and optimizing ad spend across channels, although that's a major component of what marketers need to be able to do. I'm referring to connecting the performance of your individual marketing channels – paid search, display, social, etc. – with your analytics and with your web experience management as well as your overarching brand strategy. And we need to be able to do this on a global scale.

Marketers currently use upwards of 10 or even 20 different pieces of technology to measure, manage and optimize their campaigns. Adobe sees an opportunity in breaking down those silos and connecting the dots – ultimately bringing major efficiencies to marketing organizations worldwide.