One thing is clear about the current ad tech landscape: there are a lot of players. The LUMAscape does a great job of illustrating this fact. From agencies that serve brands on the left, to the websites where people consume their favorite content on the right, an ad trying to get from point A to point B could be asked to pass through or be filtered by many platforms.

Source: LUMA Partners, 2016 – download the LUMAscape here.

It seems like technology can and should be lending a hand in simplifying this connection. This is why there is so much discussion around “the full stack” – having all the pieces of the technology infrastructure value chain necessary to connect advertisers to consumers efficiently and effectively. It is arguably one of the driving forces behind all the consolidation activity over the past few years. But what will it take to be a winner?

Programmatic technology platforms that rise to the top will clearly need the following:

Scale: Volume across devices and formats – including mobile and video, display, rich media, video, native, influencer and in very short order programmatic TV, digital out of home and even AR and VR inventory. This type of cross-screen, cross-format access gives advertisers – as never before – the ability to truly optimize their campaigns so that they are not only reaching the right consumers with the right message, but also so that they have the ability to focus their campaign dollars on those channels and media that provide the greatest value.  

Unique Inventory: While almost no one can truly lay claim to “unique” inventory except perhaps the publishers themselves, the platforms that rise to the top will need to have the ability – through differentiated data targeting or direct publisher relationships – to offer audiences that cannot be found elsewhere and that give advertisers an edge in reaching new consumers at scale.

Integration: Once scale has been achieved, end-to-end integration is critical – cutting out as many of the middle-men as possible. Through platform consolidation, there is an opportunity to streamline this process, ensuring efficiency and cost savings with every transaction.

Looking forward, however, there is another component that programmatic technology platforms will need – creative innovation.

Platforms need to continue to push the boundaries with creative. There is a call for going beyond display, but it can’t stop there. A ‘winning’ programmatic platform is going to be one that adds value to advertiser campaigns by giving them more options programmatically – a 1-stop shop to serve all campaign goals, and creative to back it up.