Advertising in 2020 is way more than a billboard on the side of a highway these days. When it comes to catching consumer eyeballs, it’s personal. 

As consumers, we know it well. We can’t scroll to a news site, or any site for that matter, without a barrage of ads that may or may not be tailored to our interests.  And it’s true— thanks to advertising technology, advertisements are more targeted than ever.  

Adtech is a relatively new industry that has become part of the fabric of the modern world, and it’s only just begun. 

For consumers these days, the constant ads are the price of free, and so mostly, we accept it. After all, we aren’t paying for Google search, for Facebook, or to watch our favorite show on YouTube.

The internet-based services that have become so ingrained in our daily lives learn about us so that they can most successfully serve us ads and use those dollars to provide their services. This is especially true since the coronavirus pandemic shifted so many “in-person” norms to virtual experiences.

It’s a crazy world we live in, and for all of the unknowns, we can rest assured that advertising isn’t going away anytime soon. 

What Is Adtech?

Advertising technology (or adtech) is driven by what’s called programmatic advertising. If that sounds more like an AI algorithm than a sales team, that’s because it is. 

Programmatic advertising is “the real-time buying and selling of ad inventory through an automated bidding system. Programmatic advertising enables brands or agencies to purchase ad impressions on publisher sites or apps through a sophisticated ecosystem.”

And while we all gasp at how expensive Super Bowl commercials are every year, we don’t always consider how companies try to get in front of their target audience 365 days per year while consumers watch, click, and scroll throughout the day.

Programmatic advertising includes display ads, video ads, social ads, audio ads, native ads, and digital out-of-home ads. It’s at play whether we Google something random or tune into the season finale of our favorite show.

Consumer ad fatigue has simply led to more creative ways to grab interest. For example, native ads appear to be part of the media they appear on, rather than stand out like a pop-up or a banner ad. 

The Economist famously used programmatic advertising to tap into an entirely new audience. In one campaign, it generated 650,000 new prospects with a return on investment (ROI) of 10:1 and increased awareness by almost 65%. 

How did it achieve such success? It referenced subscriber, cookie, and content data to identify audience segments (finance, politics, economics, good deeds, careers, technology, and social justice), creating more than 60 ad versions to target potential customers effectively. 

No longer was The Economist considered a dry, intellectual journal by most. Instead, it had new relevance. What’s more, it had new readers. 

Adtech isn’t limited to the internet. For example, how many people have you heard at least consider ditching cable and just using streaming services? Meet connected TV, which is anticipated to grow to reach 204.1 million users by 2022 according to eMarketer. 

As subscribers to services including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus have increased, so have over-the-top (OTT) advertising dollars to the tune of $5 billion in 2020. These ads are typically highly personalized according to a viewer’s interest and cannot be skipped, but rather must be viewed to continue consuming content. 

Ads on our computers aren’t the only adtech at play. Digital out-of-home advertising includes the high-tech billboards, on-vehicle ads, etc. Where online advertising can feel nagging, outdoor advertising is innovating in a way that appears interesting and grabs attention. According to IBIS World, in 2019 billboard advertising revenue grew by more than $8.6 billion in advertising revenue.

Why Invest in Advertising Technology?

Lots of companies these days don’t necessarily run on our dollars, they run on our eyeballs, and our clicks. According to, “all major ad-supported tech companies are ad tech companies. They market advertising technology and use technology to support their advertising businesses.” This includes Facebook, Google, Pinterest, and Reddit. 

Adtech is the way of the future, especially as technology evolves and consumers become increasingly glued to screens. In addition to enhanced targeting capabilities, programmatic advertising gives companies real-time insights, enhanced targeting capabilities, greater transparency, and better budget utilization. 

Advertising is part of the fabric of our modern culture. Because companies can use platforms to serve us advertisements, we have access to tons of information and entertainment for no cost. As a consumer, it’s hard to ignore. 

It’s not just Google searches and websites that are ideal for digital ads. “In-game brand advertising is set to see tremendous growth in the coming years,” says Ajitpal Pannu, CEO of Smaato, an adtech platform.  “We are building up a strong foundation to support this new media channel.” 

COVID, interestingly, has moved more eyeballs on screens than ever before. And while advertising spending is down across the board as companies move to save money, adtech spending is bound to rebound, making now an ideal time to invest.

How to Invest in Adtech?

Advertising is by nature a very broad industry. Just about every company advertises in some way, and the technologies driving those activities are all over the map. Fortunately, a search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of ETFs and mutual funds to help interested investors access the growing adtech sector without having to invest in many different companies.

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The information and data are as of the September 14, 2020 (publish date) unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. 

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