Three books to get you started in adtech space

Online Advertising Technology (adtech) space can be considered going through a consolidation phase. At the same time, it is also one of the domains in which one can expect niche players sprouting up continuously. If you are keen to understand about the domain, here are three books to get you started. Two of them are at an introductory level /holistic overview; third one goes slightly technical.

The Curious Digital Marketer 2.0 published by afaqs!

The Curious Digital Marketer 2.0 is a cool book giving a very high level view of all aspects of digital marketing. Its written by a group of authors from the industry. A very practical guide without much textbook type theories and definitions. It is written in a Q&A format with a good range of questions that will come to a marketer’s mind or someone just starting her career. It touches most aspects of digital marketing (baring any new advances post 2013, the publication year). The coverage ranges from display advertising to analytics to social media marketing. The beauty of this book is that it captures the essence of each channel as questions yet covers the practical aspects of them. Let’s take the first part of the book – display advertising. The questions in this part ranges from tools used to re-targeting to in-stream ads to audience buys.

As I mentioned, all these topics are dealt at a high level rather than going in depth. For example, the topic on re-targeting just stops at explaining what the concept is and doesn’t even talk about the vendors in this space or how a marketer can implement a re-targeting campaign. Another drawback I see is – it’s more India-centric; so someone outside the Indian geography may find few data points irrelevant. The book is also available at a reduced price in eBook format. I think it would have been more beneficial if the authors went a level deeper as well as touch upon topics like programmatic buying.

Overall a good refresher and ready-reckon-er for a digital marketing professional and worth keeping in your personal library! Now that we have a book capturing the essence of entire gamut of digital marketing domain, let’s look into another book going a depth further.

Targeted: How Technology Is Revolutionizing Advertising and the Way Companies Reach Consumers

Targeted by Mike Smith is a lively book covering specifically the online advertising piece from paid search to display to programmatic buying. What makes this book special is that author tries to get behind the details of how relevant ads are shown to an audience. The initial part of the book deals with paid search and specifically how the industry has evolved. I think, the crux of the book starts from the chapter of display advertising and ad networks. Like the chapters on paid search; the author starts with a brief history on how the display advertising industry has evolved over time.

The chapters I liked the most are those on Real Time Bidding. I think, the audience of the book is either those entering the domain or senior folks who wants to understand the concepts and value propositions of various players in the domain. Playing the devil’s advocate – it would have been better if the author concentrated more on the mechanics of advanced online advertising ecosystem rather than keeping a 100 feet height / evolutionary commentary. Overall a good a book and the author has done justice to explain powerful the technology is ingrained into the ecosystem to show the right ad at the right time to the right audience!

Let’s now take the last book for today which goes further in depth in terms of both the content and technical details provided.

Ad Serving Technology: Understand the Marketing Revelation That Commercialized the Internet

Ad Serving Technology by Gregory Cristal is one of the best books I read recently on digital advertising. Not only does this give a holistic overview of the underpinnings of ad tech space; but also gives an overview of the underlying technologies. There aren’t many books and literature on this complex domain makes the book even more attractive. The author does a great job of covering the basics of how display ads get displayed, how a trafficker set up the campaigns, and reporting capabilities.

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Just short of 600 pages, the book is roughly divided into four parts. The first one gives a good understanding of how the whole domain of online advertising, vendors, platforms and workflows work. The second part dives into campaign set up and trafficking. Then he discusses about reporting capabilities and analytics available in ad server. Finally, he very briefly discusses about the more complex vendors and topics like programmatic and re-targeting.

As the author rightly comments in the book; the online advertising industry is seeing changes so dramatic that a concept or thought today may not be relevant at all in near future. One personal example I could relate to was Facebook Atlas ad server’s come back. 2.0 version of the ad server has shown some promising capabilities and especially features like a closely knitted integration with Facebook campaigns make it attractive.

Now let’s play a devil’s advocate. One place where I felt the book fell short was its technical depth. I think, by trying to be an ad server agnostic literature; author has failed to give a full picture of set ups. For example, he covers in depth how to track other channels like affiliate, email or search in an ad server from a theoretical perspective; but didn’t show how an actual implementation will work. Another drawback I saw was, he was circling back again and again to the topics discussed already instead of giving more meat. Overall I believe the author has done justice to introduce the beast of ad serving domain in under 600 pages. These are they five things you will learn if you read the book —

  • Overview with some decent depth on online advertising industry
  • How to develop, track and analyze online advertising campaigns
  • How ad trafficking works
  • Reporting capabilities and attribution techniques prevalent in the industry
  • Brief overview of channels, vendors and upcoming (at the time of writing :)) changes in the industry and how it all tie back to an ad server

Two things I wish author could have done even better for reader are a provision of more robust examples covering the technical depth (since that’s what is lacking in most of the literature out there) and reduce theoretical circling in writing

Having said that, this book is a great asset for anyone in the in the industry. Some of the diagrams are very informative and easy to understand. I believe some playing around with ad servers after reading the book will give the reader a strong foundation in this domain to get your hands dirty!

Hope you find the reviews helpful and is looking forward to read them. Have you read any of these, what’s your take on these books…do they highlight the practical aspects of the industry well?

About Vijay Sankar 42 Articles
A techie turned business professional; presently living in Cochin, India. For bread and butter, exploring the domain of marketing attribution. I hold an Electrical Engineering degree from College of Engineering, Trivandrum and Executive MBA (PGPEM) from Indian Institute of Management Bangalore

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