Online ad vendors have a problem: They can’t stop confusing their customers. For agencies and marketers it’s often impossible to figure out exactly what it is the companies pitching them actually do.

Vendors often blame agencies for a lack of understanding and training around new technologies. But that’s on the ad tech companies. They often use intentionally vague language in order to cast as wide a net as possible in the hope of catching some new business. It can pay to seem all things to all people. And if you’re not doing this, that’s a problem too.

“There’s so much noise in the marketplace, it’s out of control,” grumbled one ad tech vendor, who asked to remain anonymous. “For CMOs and agencies it’s impossible to figure out what’s real and what’s not. There’s so much nonsense being thrown around. Getting someone’s attention and getting them to test is near impossible in the middle of all this.”

One mid-level agency buyer said vendors could do a better job of articulating what it is they’re selling and why they should buy it, because it’s often unclear. “It’s difficult to tell what you’re actually going to get,” she said, “Or if it’s even something we should be thinking about.” Vendors often make vague claims about “platforms” or “proprietary audience targeting technologies” to get through the door at agencies, regardless of the fact  the people they end up pitching might have little use for their offerings.

At the client level the situation is worse. It’s near impossible for CMOs and brand marketers to figure out which technologies and products might be of use to them. “They don’t stand a chance,” the ad tech vendor added.

With that in mind, Digiday asked a handful of digital media and ad tech companies to describe, as succinctly as possible, what their companies do, and why marketers should care. We then asked a senior agency executive to do the same for each company to see how closely their definitions aligned. Here’s what we learned:

MediaMath
Matt Spiegel, svp of Americas: “We develop digital marketing technology, and combine it with industry expertise to help marketers talk to individual users at scale. Our marketing operating system allows agencies and advertisers to plan, execute, optimize, and analyze marketing programs across the digital landscape.”

Agency exec: “It’s a full-service DSP.”

eXelate
Khurrum Malik, CMO: “We’re a smart data company. We take big data and make it smarter to enable better marketing decisions. We source our own data through our network of publisher partners, and we use it to help move marketer outcomes like increased awareness or a lower or more effective media spend.”

Agency exec: “It provides data on online purchase intent.”

Criteo
Greg Coleman, CEO: “We have figured out how to make display advertising perform like search. We expect to be measured and compared to search.”

Agency exec: “It’s a retargeting solution.”

AppNexus
Brian O’Kelley, CEO: “We build technology that allows sellers to hold auctions to sell advertising. We have bidding software that lets agencies and marketers bid for that inventory, and an ad server that tracks everything people do around serving an ad. We provide all the technology you need to participate in an online ad transaction.”

Agency exec: “It’s a platform for buying RTB advertising. They don’t use the word exchange but that’s how we view them.”

Triggit
Zach Coelius, CEO: “Triggit provides retargeting on Facebook.”

Agency exec: “It’s a DSP that emphasizes Facebook’s Exchange.”

Rocket Fuel
Eric Porres, CMO: Rocket Fuel is a technology company that has developed an automated decision-making platform that leverages artificial intelligence, big data and predictive modeling to address the need from marketers to improve advertising ROI. By reducing big data’s complexity, Rocket Fuel liberates marketers to do the most inspiring and insightful work of their careers.

Agency exec: “a DSP that does it all for you. Strategy to buying. A place to outsource if you want someone else to handle it.

Yieldbot  
Jonathan Mendez, CEO: “Yieldbot extends your search campaigns into a new real-time consumer intent channel that performs as well as search.”

Agency exec: “It matches offers to consumer needs.”

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