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Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity. He is a best-selling author of 20 books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has over 2 million social media followers, 1 million newsletter subscribers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.

Bernard’s latest book is ‘Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That Are Redefining Organisations’

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What Is MarTech and AdTech – And What’s The Difference?

2 July 2021

Is the difference between MarTech and AdTech as simple as knowing the differences between marketing and advertising? It’s a good start, but there’s more to the story. Both rely on technology that enables better personalization, automation, analytics, and reporting, but they exist to perform different functions.

What is MarTech?

Today’s marketers increasingly rely on MarTech, technologies that help streamline, and scale marketing activities. These tools help companies plan and execute marketing campaigns, monitor and record the results of marketing initiatives, adjust tactics based on the insights the data reveal in real-time and for future campaigns. There are more than 8,000 MarTech solutions in existence now, and it continues to grow.

What is AdTech?

AdTech is the umbrella term for the technologies that help advertisers and ad agencies create, run, manage, and measure online advertising campaigns. Companies reduce waste in ad spending, thanks to AdTech because it allows them to target a very specific audience.

What are the differences between MarTech and AdTech?

Since some marketing and ad functions seem to intersect, it can be confusing to know the difference between MarTech and AdTech. Let’s compare some of the ways to differentiate them.

  1. Paid versus unpaid media

In general, when paid media is involved, AdTech will be as well. MarTech is typically deployed with unpaid media, such as in social media or email campaigns. This distinction can become blurry when MarTech is used to manage channels you would often define as AdTech, such as paid ad-campaign capabilities on social media management tools.

  1. Audience

When a company has formed some kind of relationship with a person or another brand, they will use MarTech to continue to nurture that relationship. At some point, they have collected some data such as name, email, and some identifying information such as purchase history so that they can communicate one-to-one with that entity. AdTech solutions are more of a one-to-many approach and help get organizations to get noticed by those who haven’t interacted yet and are unknown to the brand.

  1. Platforms used

MarTech and AdTech platforms are created to support the specific functions for each. Therefore, the capabilities of a platform and what it’s designed to do can offer hints to determine if it’s MarTech or AdTech. For example, AdTech uses demand-side platforms to run advertising campaigns and purchase ad inventory and sell that space. MarTech uses platforms such as customer-relationship management (CRM) systems and social media management tools. The key tools included in a MarTech Stack address every stage of the marketing cycle, from attracting to understanding the target customer.

  1. Billing

Another way AdTech and MarTech are different is in the way they bill. Since AdTech automates the process of buying and targeting ads, typically, the companies that build those tools bill by charging a commission such as a markup on the media spend with a minimum. MarTech solutions are usually billed a flat rate per month as it typical with SaaS models. This is another area that is becoming less distinct between AdTech and MarTech as more AdTech providers are exploring other revenue models, including SaaS.

  1. Users

You can also look at who uses a tool to help determine if it’s AdTech or MarTech. For example, advertisers and ad agencies use AdTech, while MarTech is often deployed by in-house marketing teams. Again, this distinction isn’t always clear as many ad agencies provide more than just paid-advertising services.

Examples of MarTech

Let’s delve deeper into MarTech by looking at some examples that are in use today that have transformed the marketing function.

  • SEO: Content-optimization tools to increase search engine rankings. These include Google Analytics, WooRank, and MozBar.
  • Web analytics: The tools that allow marketers to see who has visited a website, what pages were looked at, and for how long and then report on those help marketers improve the effectiveness of websites. Google is the most well-known web analytics tool, but there are also other analytics tools offered by KISSmetrics, Piwik, and more.
  • Social media management: Marketers use social media management tools to schedule and post content to social media channels and track the reach of the content to the audience. This can also include social media listening tools. Commonly used social media management tools include Hootsuite and Buffer.
  • CRM: A company’s customer relationship management tool tracks sales and marketing contact history with its customers and prospects. It’s often integrated with other MarTech to support the overall marketing function. These companies offer CRM products: Salesforce, Pipedrive, HubSpot, and more. 
  • Email marketing systems: Whether integrated with the CRM or not, email marketing systems are a critical MarTech tool for most companies to communicate with their target audience and then track the performance of email campaigns. Some examples of email marketing systems are Constant Contact, HubSpot, and Mailchimp.
  • Content management system: This is a tool that helps a company manage its content resources across multiple platforms from the website to landing pages to blogs. You might be familiar with some of the content management systems that include WordPress, Joomla, Magento, and Squarespace.

Examples of AdTech

There are many technologies deployed to support advertising initiatives. Here are just a few:

  • SEM: Search engine marketing platforms exist to purchase ads to help websites appear in search results. The most well-known is Google AdWords.
  • Ad server: The technology that knows what ads to serve on a website and where and then tracks the performance of those ads, such as clicks and impressions, is the ad server. These are third-party technologies such as Google Ad Manager, OpenX, and Smart Ad Server.
  • Supply-side platform (SSP): This AdTech helps publishers sell their ad inventory efficiently and effectively by automating the process. Google, Rubicon, Right Media, and more sell SSP products.
  • Demand-side platform (DSP): This is the opposite side of the supply-side platform, where media buyers can purchase ad inventory from various SSPs through one interface. You can find DSP platforms available through Google, MediaMath, and other vendors.

MarTech and AdTech make marketing and advertising functions more automated, streamlined, and efficient.

Where to go from here

If you would like to know more about , check out my articles on:

Or browse the Early Tech Innovations to find the metrics that matter most to you.


Data Strategy Book | Bernard Marr

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