Marin Software's official blog

Once Upon a Time: The Story of Ad Tech

Greg Kunkel
|
October 10, 2013

It’s hard to believe that, when compared to other media like print and TV, the World Wide Web is still the new kid on the block. I still remember laughing at my Dad, a software engineer, some 20+ years ago when he told us one day we’d all be watching television through our computers. How short-sighted of me…

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Like any other form of mass media, stoking the fire of growth are a whole lot of ad dollars – $503 billion of them if you believe ZenithOptimedia’s forecast. Much of what we enjoy doing on the Internet carries a price tag, which providers have to fund through fees or advertising. Since people like “free” things, advertising often gets the call. Television and radio followed a similar model, and print was the first to pioneer it nearly 200 years ago.

In 1993, right about the same time my dad predicted we’d all be crowded around a computer watching our favorite shows, Tim O’Reilly and Global Network Navigator sold the first clickable Web ad. Banner ads made their debut a year later followed GoTo.com’s (acquired by Yahoo) first search advertising keyword auction in 1998. Google and Adwords arrived a few years later.

We’ve come a long way in the last 20 years, and while what the Internet may bring next remains a mystery, we can be sure advertising will play a role. In fact, by 2015 ZenithOptimedia predicts Internet ad spend will rank second only to television. In the US alone, advertisers will spend over $130 billion.

The initial response to the rise of digital advertising is to cast bets on the doom of print and radio. Fortunately, as TechCrunch points out, the mediums appear to be surviving. Remember, a print publication typically has an online version funded largely by advertising – it’s where a lot of those retargeting ads pop up.

It’s important to remember that the rise of digital marketing is accompanied by the rise of the Ad Tech industry. Unlike print and radio ads, digital advertising can be measured with a solid degree of accuracy, and if it can be measured it can be optimized. Enter the Ad Tech industry and management platforms like Marin Software.

I’m sure buying a television ad is a lot easier today than it was 50 years ago, but for the most part the process still requires a lot of human interaction. There’s a good chance someone from Fox is playing golf with someone from Coca Cola this week in anticipation of Super Bowl XLVIII. The Internet, though, moves too fast for golf-course deals. Hence the rise of ad exchanges, retargeting, and programmatic buying and accompanying Ad Tech companies like Criteo and RocketFuel.

And, the only hope an advertiser has of placing an ad on one of those mobile devices we carry with us wherever we go is through some form of digital advertising, whether that’s an in-app or browser based ad. As mobile continues its meteoric rise, Ad Tech will be right there capturing all the impressions, clicks, and conversions.

Further down the road, I suspect we’ll see the Ad Tech industry start tying television viewership to digital marketing revenue. At which point, Ad Tech won’t be connected just to Internet advertising. Already we’re seeing signs of this, with CRM data, call tracking, and offline conversion data being pumped into ad management platforms, expanding the platforms’ roles from simple bid management duties to determining customer life-time value and more. Given the rate of innovation, it’s only a matter of time till Ad Tech plays a central role across all advertising channels.

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