Emerging TechnologyAIFive ad tech upstarts to keep an eye on

Five ad tech upstarts to keep an eye on

Whilst ad tech funding for start-ups is at an all-time low, here are five up-starts to keep an eye on.

While the dominance of a handful of companies, namely Google and Facebook, has been attributed to an ad tech slowdown, ad tech upstarts are continuing to bring interesting new solutions to market.

Here are five non-public, independent ad tech players to watch.

Integral Ad Science

Founded in 2009, Integral Ad Science bills itself as “a global measurement and analytics company that builds verification, optimization, and analytics solutions to empower the advertising industry.”

Put simply, Integral Ad Science is in the business of helping advertisers and those who work with them assess the quality of the advertising they’re buying or selling.

The company’s technology looks at individual web pages and creates a dynamic score that evaluates viewability, ad fraud and brand safety. For example, Integral Ad Science has developed a suite of tools designed to detect ad fraud and runs a dedicated ad fraud lab that is focused on ensuring that ads are being served and seen by real people.

Integral Ad Science says it works with more than 2,500 publishers and 150 technology companies, offering broad scale, and since it doesn’t buy and sell ads itself, is capable of serving as a trusted partner to players in the digital advertising ecosystem.

Why it’s worth watching

Viewability, ad fraud and brand safety are three of the biggest challenges advertisers are dealing with in 2017 and if anything, all indications are that these issues will only become more important to digital advertising going forward. That should only serve to increase the profile of Integral Ad Science, which runs a business focused on helping address these concerns.

AdRoll

Retargeting and lookalike audiences have proven to be two of the most effective tools for many advertisers and AdRoll, through its Retargeting and Prospecting offerings, offers advertisers the ability to employ both at scale.

AdRoll claims to be the most popular independent programmatic advertising platform, with more than 35,000 customers in 150 countries. Through AdRoll, advertisers can access over 500 ad exchanges, including native inventory through popular platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram and Google.

The company claims that its display ad click-through rates (CTRs) outperform the industry average by two-fold.

Why it’s worth watching

AdRoll is one a dwindling number of large independent ad platforms, making it a hard-to-ignore player for advertisers looking to diversify from the duopoly of Google and Facebook.

There is a chance that AdRoll won’t remain independent forever. Following its IPO, there were reports that Snapchat parent Snap, Inc. was in talks to acquire them. That hasn’t happened – at least not yet – but don’t be surprised if AdRoll’s name resurfaces in M&A talks.

Appier

Taiwan-based Appier’s CrossX Programmatic Platform “uses AI to identify and buy the best audience for your campaign using AI algorithms that predict the cross-screen behavior of users minute by minute.”

The platform is capable of creating lookalike audiences and identifying high-value audiences whose members are more likely to download and use an app, shop, or engage in a particular behavior. It also applies AI to inventory management and bidding optimization.

Currently, Appier is focused on working with consumer brands, ecommerce vendors and game developers.

Why it’s worth watching

There’s a general consensus that AI is going to revolutionize digital advertising and Appier is one of the companies at the forefront of creating the technology to make that happen. While its platform is only currently available in Taiwan, Japan and Singapore only, having raised more than $80 million from investors including Softbank Group, expect Appier to expand globally in the not-too-distant future.

Smartly.io

The importance of Facebook and Instagram to advertisers can’t be understated and that means there’s no shortage of companies aiming to help advertisers get the most from their Facebook ad investments.

One of those companies is Helsinki, Finland-based upstart Smartly.io, which boldly proclaims that it’s “the best tool to acquire and grow customers online.”

One of the ways that the company aims to live up to its own billing is by using automation to cut out unnecessary tasks. Its Dynamic Image Templates technology is capable of “render[ing] up to millions of product images on-demand,” while its Automated Ads solution can be used to create and update ads automatically from a product feed.

Finally, Smartly.io’s Automated Post Boosting tool identifies organic Facebook Page posts that are performing well and can automatically pay to boost their reach, helping Facebook advertisers take advantage of their best opportunities.

Why it’s worth watching

Advertisers are increasingly looking for ways to automate their ad campaigns, and given that many advertisers invest significant chunks of their ad budgets and time to Facebook, Smartly.io is wise to focus on finding ways to automate Facebook advertising tasks.

GumGum

GumGum is a computer vision company that uses image recognition technology to serve targeted ad placements against images. The technology is capable of identifying what’s in an editorial image and displaying a contextually relevant ad in-image or in-screen.

The company says that it reaches 400 million visitors across more than 2,000 publishers and it offers a header bidding solution that is integrated with 60 DSPs.

In addition to its GumGum also offers brands the ability to use its image recognition technology to track and analyze brand-related images across popular social media platforms, and has a dedicated offering for sports sponsors and media rights holders that assist them in assessing the value of their signage and sponsorships across broadcast and social media channels.

Why it’s worth watching

Digital media is more visual than ever and that means that advertisers and publishers can’t ignore visual assets – images and video – if they want to maximize their opportunities.

Clearly, a growing number of companies recognize that and GumGum boasts that already, “the majority of Fortune 100 companies in all major verticals use GumGum to boost engagement.”