The Next Frontier for Programmatic Ad Tech

By Jeff Hirsch

Programmatic ad tech has certainly come a long way. Some might say it's come all the way — all the way, that is, to reaching the initial goals we set out to achieve. Back when the industry began taking shape, it did so with focused purpose: to build the tech infrastructure and business processes to enable highly efficient media buying in a digital world. We've climbed that mountain.

Now that this infrastructure is in place, we're faced with an intriguing question: What's the next peak to conquer?

That's where things get exciting. Now that we've built the tech components, business models, and workflows to enable efficient programmatic media buying, it's time to move on to the next challenge: We need to leverage what we have created to add more tangible value, even beyond dollars and cents, for all constituents.

As programmatic ad tech moves into this new value-add evolution of the ecosystem, we're going to see a lot less time spent on labeling components (SSPs, DSPs, exchanges, etc.) and a lot more time spent breaking down barriers to solve new problems, everything from big-picture challenges like sustainability to emerging opportunities like CTV.

So, as independent ad tech pivots from efficiency creation to value creation, what does that mean for partner selection? Let's take a look at the criteria becoming most important when evaluating companies in the space.


Regulators are beginning to give us a glimpse into what happens when the same entities that control ad tech on both sides of an ad buy also control the inventory being bought. In short, there's reason to question whose interest is truly being served in any given transaction. That's not sustainable.

Going forward, publishers and advertisers need partners whose loyalties are clearly understood and whose interests are aligned with their own. Ad tech vendors should be media agnostic and incentivized to deliver the strongest possible outcomes for buyers and sellers alike. Only then can they deliver true value to their customers.


Technology should be built to meet the needs of the ad tech customer. Customers shouldn't have to adapt or sacrifice their needs to bend around the limitations of their partners' technology. That's why broad integration and interoperability — across platforms, identifiers, data sources and partners — will be guiding principles in the next evolution of ad tech. Publishers and advertisers can accept no less on the road to a value-add tech ecosystem.


Along with interoperability, publishers and advertisers must ensure their ad tech partners prioritize transparency within their technology, operations and communication. The era of black boxes and opaque fees is ending. Today's advertisers need to understand where their money is going, and today's publishers need technology that can feed granular details on placements and outcomes back to their clients.

Moving into the value-add future of the supply chain, the need for transparency goes beyond mere insights into "what happened." Advertisers and publishers should also be given insight into "what could have happened." It's one thing to understand your ROAS and know that your ad dollars are driving outcomes.

But what if those outcomes could be 20 percent better if applied in a different way? That's the level of transparency and insight that customers should be seeking from their ad tech partners.


Finally, the supply chain of the future needs to be one that prioritizes control. We all know that the needs and capabilities of advertisers and publishers differ greatly. So why do we expect them all to be able to make do with the same rigid set of programmatic tools?

A value-add programmatic stack puts the control in the hands of the publishers and buyers to determine what makes the most sense for their businesses and campaigns. This control should be present at two levels: Customers should be able to control which technology components constitute their supply chains, and they should also be able to choose to work with the partners that best align with their brand values around transparency, efficiency, responsibility, sustainability and other core business tenets.

The next evolution of programmatic is upon us, and that's good news for publishers and advertisers alike. As we go beyond mere efficiency to solve new challenges and deliver new value within the supply chain, partner selection will be paramount.

By prioritizing independence, interoperability, transparency and control within this process, publishers and advertisers can ensure the latest in programmatic capabilities are being leveraged to the greatest extent possible to deliver on their business needs.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Jeff Hirsch is chief commercial officer at PubMatic.