What Ad Tech Means For Publishers

Historically, ad tech has been a dirty word for publishers, translating to lower CPM’s, lack of control and fraud among other things. Instead, publishers have been more focused on the marketing-technology stack, or martech, and the ability to message one-on-one with “known” audiences and engage with existing users.

Ad tech’s focus has been on finding new ones.

But the publishing industry is now beginning to see these two universes converge.  More advertisers are mandating that spend must be run programmatically, meaning that publishers have to embrace AdTech to remain competitive.

Ad tech vs. Martech

Ad tech has traditionally been associated with prospecting unknown users and deployed in channels that are reserved for unauthenticated visitors. You don’t log into video. You don’t always log into publishers when you click through a Google result to an article. Ad tech uses cookies, cross-device methods, machine learning and AI.



There’s a massive amount of data, and there is ample computing power spent to say: “I think this is Joe Smith, and I want to put an impression in front of him that matches what he likes” (right place, right time, right message).

Martech leverages marketers’ one-to-one relationship with a known person in channels where people log in, like email or social. Accuracy is paramount. There is high fidelity and low fraud. Unlike ad tech, the technology is battle-tested, enterprise-grade and in authenticated environments.

Coming Together

Bringing the two together means that advertisers and publishers can do one-to-one marketing in all of those environments, including the open web. The opportunities are limitless between ad tech and publishers. Much has been made about reaching quality audiences in well-lit, brand-safe areas.

Publishers can implement technology that allows their partners to reach and engage with audiences across their own properties wherever they go. Publishers have so much data about what their audiences do offline, the content they consume, the purchases they make. Harnessing that data to give advertisers the ability to insert themselves in the conversation with prospects is exciting.

Benefits For Publishers

Implementing ad tech has never been easier or more effective in helping them monetize inventory. It also gives them new ways to engage with agency partners and clients. One of the biggest advantages is giving publishers the ability to ingest advertiser data and utilize it for targeting known users across their inventory. This has the advantage of reducing waste, increasing performance and personalization of advertising.

According to eMarketer, 45% of B2B marketers said data targeting reach into specific audience segments was important in deciding which media partner publisher to choose. Another advantage for publishers is the ability to increase CPMs for their inventory.

Many publishers are implementing header-bidding solutions in an effort to give advertisers more access to better inventory across their sites. eMarketer also found the top two reasons publisher have implemented header solutions include: increased CPMs (48%) and increased yield (31%).   

What Is The Downside?

There are also reasons to be cautious for publishers. Ad tech is built on a fee structure that does not always benefit the publisher. Ad tech needs to make its margin, and that means removing budget from working media dollars. 

Both sides need to grow their business while doing what is best for their clients. The more transparency both publisher and ad tech vendors can offer their clients, the more likely the clients will be willing to pay for media that is truly valuable.

For publishers, implementing ad tech platforms can also be expensive. It can involve huge upfront costs, ongoing maintenance fees, minimums involved in working with partners and hiring the right personnel to make the platforms work well.

The more information a publisher is given about who the advertiser is trying to reach, the better able they will be to identify and deliver impressions against those audiences. Advertisers need to be comfortable paying a premium to have a one-on-one conversation with that audience in relevant contextual environments.

While scale is important, it’s more about reaching the right audience within the right context.

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