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Ad Tech vs. Marketing Tech: Understanding the Difference

Andreas Rivera
, writer
Sep 13, 2017
Image Credit: AfricaStudio/Shutterstock
> Marketing

Has your company invested in the right platforms to engage your customers

Articles, webinars and discussions on marketing can spur some confusion when referring to advertising technology and marketing technology (sometimes shortened to "martech"). Columns argue about which industry to invest in, which is superior to the other and where their futures lie. The straightforward difference between the industries of ad tech and marketing tech is the difference between targeting the audience you don't have and targeting the audience you already have, respectively.

Ad tech is made to build your brand and draw in the unknown customer to your business. It works on a larger scale, casting a net on large numbers of people to get them interested in you. Marketing tech is more intimate, covering the group of people who are already customers and fostering their continued business with you. Both require analytics to be successful, and specialists debate which one should be a priority for businesses. They are two sides of the same coin, to be sure, and businesses need to at least implement some form of both.

Ad tech

Ad tech is commonly seen as platforms and tools to not only advertise online, but to target ads to make them more effective, build your outward brand to attract any potential customers to you, and to track the effect this all has on your revenue. At the same time, ad tech is utilized by publishers who want build revenue by selling advertising opportunities. It helps publishers optimize their advertising platforms and gives them analytics for tracking revenue and ROI.

Examples of ad tech

    • Undertone is an ad tech company that helps you design cross-platform advertising campaigns. The company guarantees quality ads with high viewability. With high-impact ads that briefly encompass the screen as well as interactive, user-controlled ads, Undertone's goal is to make your business stand out. This company also has a strong focus on mobile advertising.
    • AdPushup is an ad tech company for publishers who want to balance their own user experience and optimized placement of ads on their websites. This platform allows you to segment and personalize different ad layouts for different audiences. The ad script itself is optimized for fast-loading ads that don't slow down your site.

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Marketing tech

Martech takes the more personable approach to reaching customers. Tools and software under the marketing tech approach use direct methods of fostering good relationships with those who have been identified as a company's target audience – past customers or those who have expressed interest in becoming customers.

This specifies another clear difference between ad tech audiences and martech audiences. Martech audiences have opted into interactions with your company in some form, while ad tech audiences are mostly unsolicited, targeted by their demographics and available consumer data.

Examples of marketing tech

      • Salesforce is a customer relationship management (CRM) platform that delivers vast amounts of data and analytics so you can build intricate profiles of your customer base and have better interactions with them. Its suite of products can improve your audience profile and your customer service. Like all CRMs, it's a data-gathering tool for all aspects of the customer interaction process.  
      • Buffer, on its surface, may seem like just a social media manager, but for businesses, it's a marketing tech tool to help you become closer and more accessible to your customers via social media. A growing subcategory of marketing tech is social media tools that allow you to better support customers and gain a positive reputation. Buffer's Reply platform is a customer service-oriented social media manager that lets support representatives filter customer questions for multiple social media platforms and assign them.  


Ad tech and martech are both essential tools for a successful business, and there's a lot of crossover and synergy between the two. For martech to be effective, you need a large base of current customers to market to and service. Advertising is a way to field interest from large swaths of individuals it targets, and once they express interest in your company, that's when martech takes over to further engage them.

Ad tech cannot function optimally without data, and marketing tech can provide vast amounts of data. Building a profile of your most likely customers, you can target your ads using search keywords and frequently visited websites. Many ad tech and martech companies and products are already converging to form all-in-one platforms where data from ad tech could be used for martech and vice versa, so that is something to watch for.

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Andreas Rivera
Andreas Rivera
Andreas Rivera graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in Mass Communication and is now a staff writer for and Business News Daily. His background in journalism brings a critical eye to his reviews and features, helping business leaders make the best decisions for their companies.
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