The industry is simultaneously consolidating, and growing more complex. Ad exchanges, supply-side platforms and mobile ad networks are all reaching for scale and the latest ad technology. Increasingly, the lines between these entities are blurring.
These companies are all vying for advertiser dollars and making big promises about the data and inventory they can provide buyers. But the fractured landscape makes it difficult to determine which companies have the best set of offerings to meet mobile advertisers' goals.
Programmatic is growing at a fast clip in developed mobile markets like the United States, 56% annually by some estimates. Within mobile programmatic, real-time bidding, which allows for the serving of personalized ads to app and site visitors, is particularly influential.
The rise of programmatic is leading to a reshuffle of the entire industry. Many of this year's mergers and acquisitions in mobile ads can be traced to either the need for scale or the rise of data-focused programmatic ad trading.
Demand-side platforms and agency trading desks face a major barrier to their rise as engines for the demand side of the programmatic equation: media agencies and media planners remain locked into their comfortable one-on-one relationships with traditional ad networks.