The Truth Behind The Adtech, Martech Shotgun Wedding

The marketing world is getting worked up about the convergence of adtech and martech. Much of this discussion revolves around the differences between them, the divisions between practitioners, and has a misplaced (but understandable) focus on technology.

The convergence has been described as an uncomfortable marriage or “shotgun wedding” – as if forced through by disapproving parents.

This seems wrong. Advertising has always been part of marketing — and to many businesses outside the tech world, it still is. Marketing involves physically hawking your wares to individuals: getting to know your customers, making a sale, and keeping them happy so they buy again. Advertising is one piece of this puzzle.

To market something, you don’t need to advertise, but to advertise is certainly marketing.

What separated adtech and martech?

Part of the problem has been digital advertising’s inability to fit in with digital marketing’s one-to-one framework. Modern marketing seeks to treat the customer as an individual, building up information in a database and incrementally moving a prospect up the funnel.



Early digital advertising couldn’t contribute to this because targeted users were largely anonymous, or the technology didn’t exist to link one user account to another. This caused digital advertising to be banished from the suite of digital marketing tools.

Now, the two are getting back together again.

Why are they coming together again?

It’s not a push driven by converging technology, mergers or even user demand for consistent communications from brands. It’s the magnetic pull of social networks – and social data – that has allowed the two disciplines to be reunited.

Social networks presented marketers with a ready-made, data-rich set of prospects – a world where every individual has a traceable history of the things they have said and done, the things they like, and who they are. Social networks also introduced a new two-way mass communication system that could replace emails and traditional communications.

This was a marketer’s dream. They no longer had to collect customer data themselves – or pay for it – then build up the database over time. Instead, every customer came with a pre-completed data set.

Then came social advertising, the collapse of organic reach and pay-to-play social media. Marketers wanted the data and the new communication tools. Advertisers wanted the data for better targeting. This put advertising and marketing departments in the same place, using the same technology, the same native ad placements, and the same conversational techniques to reach the same customers.

Does social advertising use marketing techniques to convert, or is marketing paying advertising fees to show marketing messages? The answer is, it doesn’t matter if the chicken or the egg came first.

Trying to draw a line between adtech and martech in the social space isn’t really possible. Yes, they are different things, but if you look at the whole landscape, a big chunk of the adtech world operates inside martech.

The destination for all brands

If we imagine the objectives of a customer-centric brand as a journey, what is the desired destination? It isn’t just to know who your customers are – but to maintain a genuine, seamless relationship with them, without inconsistencies. You know them, they know you, lines of communication are open, everyone is happy. It’s also a place where anyone within your organization can access the customer-centric data they need to fulfill their goals.

To get bogged down in the adtech vs. martech discussion is like obsessing over the specifications of your car’s engine when you didn’t even bring a map. It’s not about how you get there, it’s about where you are going.

If this division between adtech and martech exists in your organization – and you have marketing and advertising leads that don't get along – is that really beneficial to your company? Or, if you employ a tech solution that has separate platforms and logins for advertising and marketing technology – is that really going to push your company forward?

Both sides are stuck in their ways. Adtech giants are desperately trying to  cling onto their market share, and martech traditionalists are clinging onto the idea that organic is pure. Agile social experts who use the best tools available rather than staying within their divisions – and the organizations they work for – will leave both behind.

If these divisions are real to you, then I would argue  you are working with the wrong people and using the wrong technology. Customer-centric technology doesn’t care if it’s advertising or marketing; it only cares about reaching the customer and making them happy.




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