The State of Ad Tech In 2024

Is ad tech innovating, maturing or simply being adopted more?

As the upfronts pass and summer officially arrives, I find myself surprised at how many companies -- giants like Amazon, Netflix and Disney -- are making announcements about new ad tech they created and are integrating into their platforms.   Seemed as if the companies  were trying to become par with Google on a broad base, or to leap into the specific area of retail media.  Most of what I read was not completely new, but could be considered new to these companies, and therefore these updates achieve critical mass quite quickly.

All that being said, is there really innovation still happening in ad tech?

Retail media seems to the area of focus for most of ad tech, but what is being adopted feels like nothing more than better targeting, better packaging and better analytics.  Sometimes technology is creating new inventory, sometimes it’s fixing the customer journey to be more streamlined and cleaner.  Sometimes it’s about creating shop-ability and click-ability in existing inventory.   Does this mean that ad tech is no longer innovating, and it is simply focused on broader adoption of existing technology?



The landscape is now dominated by a few players (those mentioned above, plus The Trade Desk, Meta, Snap, and Microsoft) with a second tier of players fighting for what’s left.  For a technology to be widely adopted, you have to be partnered with one or a few of the companies mentioned above.  You can go it alone, but after a certain point your growth will cap out and your opportunities will lead you to partnering with one of those companies.

To me, this suggests the industry is very much matured, and growth is about saturation.  A company will grow as the entire market begins to use its tool, and that is where things get interesting.

When a tool is at critical mass and is widely used is when it is at its most vulnerable.  Innovators and start-ups love to disrupt a mature business.  Disruption is what happens when something becomes stagnant and a fresh new mind can see the solution to a problem in a whole new light.

When Infoseek, Lycos and Alta Vista owned search, Google and Teoma came along, and Google won, supplanting almost everyone else in the industry.  When Google owned the market based on data and its ability to activate search data to build profiles of people in marketing to buy things, Amazon woke up and realized it had even better shopper data and created a megalithic ad business in a much shorter time than it took Google to get to where it was or is. 

Even start-ups without those deep pockets can identify and disrupt a vulnerable business when that business is considered too big to fail, and too large to be nimble anymore.

So, the answer to the question is that ad tech is mature -- and while the current slew of technologies is being adopted more broadly, it is also vulnerable to disruption.  That disruption can come from anywhere, and as a marketer or an agency, it is your job to try and stay ahead of that curve. Don’t get complacent.  Don’t become fat and happy and rest on your laurels.  You need to keep pushing because it feels like an opportunity is approaching

1 comment about "The State of Ad Tech In 2024".
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  1. Tim Messier from Mile Marker 1 Advisors, May 30, 2024 at 5:56 p.m.

    Fortunately for the industry, ad tech innovation is increasingly spread over classic tech and the more academic, and perhaps subtle, elements of ad tech. While the tech innovation might seem to have slowed, it hasn't yet matured and will only benefit from more the collective momentum of the industry as a whole. 

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