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MBuy's VP of Media Operations, Meghan Grienenberger, discusses the 5 ad tech trends small agencies should embrace with caution

May 05, 2016

Know Before You Buy: 5 Ad Tech Trends That Small Agencies Should Embrace With Caution

by Meghan Grienenberger for Adotas

When you’re a small agency, you routinely work with limited resources, but clients still expect you to adopt the latest trends to achieve their goals.

This is an understandable expectation, but the reality is that the market is shifting so quickly it’s hard to keep up. Navigating the market can be tricky, which is why identifying the top trends is imperative. Below are five of the biggest trends that are here to stay, but do not necessarily make sense for small agencies.


Programmatic buying can be a huge challenge for small agencies. The costs associated with data subscriptions, technology and development investments, and staff to operate programmatic solutions are not always feasible. There’s an assumption that bringing more automation to more targeted transactions requires fewer workers. That’s not necessarily the case.

Although programmatic is not universal yet, its adoption is steadily growing. In fact, programmatic transactions are now a decided majority of non-search digital ad spend, reaching 52 percent of the market in 2015. As programmatic matures and becomes more effective, it will become more common and efficient. Ultimately, that will make it easier for small agencies to adopt it. Luckily for agencies looking to adopt in the meantime, there are affordable solutions that let them execute programmatic in-house or outsource the task completely to an industry expert.


A huge concern in mobile today is fraud. The current ecosystem allows for a lot of accidental clicks that don’t lead to conversions – an epidemic known as the “fat finger” syndrome. There’s also the more deliberate case of publishers and developers designing ads in ways that encourage inflated click-through rates. Depending on the cost model, the impact on campaign results and ROI can vary. There’s also a growing rumble amongst consumers that mobile ads are less fluid, less relevant, and therefore more disruptive – which can ultimately hurt a brand’s reputation.

It’s critical that we introduce higher standards in this space via creative trends like native as well as brand safety measures. Otherwise, you’re wasting your allocated budget.

Internet of Things (IoT)

This is a classic example of pure excitement racing ahead of function and usability. There’s a lot of talk about ad insertion into new and upcoming devices, but little application for actual execution. Leave it to the big players – with the big clients – to test IoT out with their budgets. The results will tell you if and when it’s time to enter the field.

Shifting to All Digital Media

This is simply false. Whoever says that you should shift your entire focus – and your clients’ budgets – to digital, is just plain wrong. While digital has made a lot of traction thanks to its immediacy and targeting capabilities, traditional media like TV offers more credibility. Even with the rapid shift to digital video, we’ve found that TV still offers a stronger ROI for brands.

It’s all about building a holistic media mix based on your goals, like complementing TV’s mass reach with a hyperlocal digital campaign. Diversify your portfolio without spreading your budget too thin and you’ll maximize your results.

Tech investments

We’re seeing more and more tech solutions coming to market. While many of these do indeed address needs, small agencies must be especially thoughtful when it comes to selecting vendors. You really have to trust your vendors to deliver the results you need, and also ensure pricing transparency so you aren’t getting charged more than you think. It’s easy to get excited about new solutions that you can add to existing systems and workflows. It’s critical though that they speak to each other in order to cut down inefficiencies and optimize performance.

Bottom line: consider your needs, budget, short-term and long-term goals, and then carefully examine the matching options.

It’s easy for bigger players to test and work out the kinks of the latest trends and tech. Small agencies can, and should, however, wait until the value is clear and adopting becomes more operationally feasible.

Being an early adopter is not always wise from a business perspective. Market research, business analysis, and careful examination are needed in order to operate as a successful small agency. If and when it makes sense for you to step into the field, make sure you’re prepared with the right solutions, data and people. That’s how you can win as a small agency.