What it is: A stack is the collection of products, services and technologies. Taken together, the layers make up an entire solution to a client’s needs. For example, Google’s advertising stack includes a demand-side platform, ad network, ad exchange and soon supply-side platform and data exchange.
How it Works: An ad technology provider’s stack enables it to build out products and services that meet the needs of its clientele. As those needs change, companies either employ new technologies to adapt to industry demand or acquire other companies, as Google did with AdMeld, to add capabilities. Companies without a sufficient technology stack to provide core services end up dependent on third-party technology providers, as do their clients. This means less control, and sometimes less transparency, for clients in their relationships with the technology vendor.
Why it Matters: Technology vendors’ desire to build out their technology stack is fueling industry-wide consolidation. This means that advertisers, in theory, get a comprehensive product range as well as more interoperability with other platforms. This has led to the birth of new hybrid models of online ad service, incorporating ad exchange, ad targeting and third-party analytics, built on the stacks of ad technology vendors.
Assessment: There is no doubt that the ad tech industry is heavily fragmented. There are many providers who are FNCs — features not products. Consolidation, in the form of the stack, is inevitable from big players like Google, Microsoft, AOL and even others like Adobe, IBM and SAP. Clients may end up with an industry featuring a few providers incorporating most ad services.