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Many businesses rely on marketing software to reach and engage target audiences in the modern digital environment. There are two critical categories within this technology-based ecosystem: marketing technology (MarTech) and advertising technology (AdTech). Each category has a distinct but related role in your marketing strategy. 

Understanding the differences between MarTech and AdTech and how they overlap and complement each other is crucial to succeed in the business landscape. Not knowing the synergies or failing to separate the two can result in missed opportunities, inefficiencies, and less effective marketing strategies. In this article, I’ll cover the differences between MarTech and AdTech to help you understand the nuances of both.

What Is MarTech?

MarTech, short for marketing technology, are tools and software marketing professionals use to simplify, automate, and analyze marketing tasks and processes. A well-chosen MarTech stack can help you understand and engage with customers, optimize marketing strategies, and improve efficiency. 

These tools encompass a significant landscape, including solutions for content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media marketing. Customer segmentation and targeting are crucial components of MarTech, enabling your teams to tailor marketing campaigns to your target audience. These tools also help you track and measure your marketing effort’s performance to optimize future strategies.

Examples of MarTech Tools:

26.6% of budgets worldwide consist of MarTech, and they encompass many tools you can use to nurture leads and move them along your marketing funnel, monitor the success of your marketing strategies, and help you develop better relationships with your target audience. The following are some examples of MarTech-specific tools you can implement in your marketing department:

  • Web Analytics: MarTech tools can help you collect insights into your website and digital marketing efforts by tracking and measuring traffic, customer behavior, conversion rates, and more. These include analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics.
  • Social Media Management Platforms: Social media management platforms offer a centralized location where you can schedule, publish, and monitor social media content and allow you to manage multiple social media profiles, curate posts, analyze performance, and engage with target audiences. Social media management tools include platforms like Hootsuite and Buffer.
  • CRM: Customer relationship management solutions act as a database where you can collect, store, and organize prospective and existing customer information, track interactions, manage contact details, and get customer behavior insights. Some CRM examples include platforms like Salesforce, Hubspot, and Zoho.
  • Marketing Automation: You can automate your marketing processes and multifunctional campaigns across channels with marketing automation platforms that allow you to target customers with messages across websites, emails, and text messages. You can use tools like Pardot and Act-On for marketing automation.
  • Search Engine Optimization: SEO tools help marketing teams throughout various aspects of SEO, such as on-page optimization, keyword research, and link building, enabling you to identify keywords for content, optimize web structures and meta tags, and monitor search engine visibility. Tools under this category include Google Search Console, SEMrush, and Ahrefs.
  • Content Management System (CMS): Content management systems help you create, manage, and publish content throughout your website, providing a centralized place for creation and editing, removing the need for technical expertise. Platforms such as WordPress, Drupal, Webflow, and Joomla will help you facilitate content creation and publication.

What Is AdTech?

AdTech, short for advertising technology, focuses on technologies you can use to plan, target, and deliver advertising content. These tools are crucial for advertisers and help them reach target audiences across various channels. AdTech tools facilitate ad targeting, placement, and tracking across multiple websites and mobile applications. 

Those using AdTech tools use real-time bidding (RTB) to bid for ad impressions. They also consist of data-driven decision-making capabilities for ad placement and audience targeting while optimizing ad spend and maximizing campaign ROI.

Examples of AdTech Tools:

While every audience and campaign you develop using AdTech tools will be unique, some standard components and strategies go into an AdTech-based approach. The following are some examples of AdTech tools that can contribute to your digital campaign’s success:

  • Demand-Side Platform (DSP): Digital advertising can involve purchasing ad space from various media organizations, and DSP technology allows you to bid for open ad slots on a per-impression basis. Some tools that can help you achieve this include platforms like The Trade Desk and AppNexus.
  • Supply-Side Platform (SSP): Media organizations require a place to help them sell their open ad space inventory and use SSP tech to list their spaces on multiple exchanges in an automated and efficient manner. Media companies can use SSPs such as PubMatic and AppNexus to manage their ad space.
  • Ad Exchange: Businesses searching for places to buy or sell advertising space utilize ad exchanges, which serve as marketplaces for DSPs and SSPs and take the form of real-time auctions to allow companies to quickly buy and sell ad space. Ad exchanges such as AdX and Rubicon Project empower brands to buy and sell ad inventory.
  • SEM Platforms: Search engines such as Google allow advertisers to buy ad space for specific keywords they believe will gain their business search exposure, drive awareness, and attract new customers. Some SEM platforms include SpyFu, Google Trends, and
  • Data Management Platform (DMP): Marketing teams use DMPs to collect, manage, and analyze data for business intelligence by gathering first, second, and third-party data from various online and offline sources. You can use tools like BlueKai, Adobe Audience Manager, and Lotame to store customer information, mobile identifiers, and demographics to get detailed insights into multiple customer segments.
  • Programmatic Ads: Many businesses save time by implementing programmatic ads to identify audiences based on demographics and determine the best time slots to reach the most relevant people that fit their customer profile. Programmatic ad platforms such as DoubleClick by Google and Media Math will help you save time when choosing the best advertising time slots.
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4 Key Differences Between MarTech and AdTech

MarTech and AdTech are closely related, so many people often get confused. But, there are distinct differences between these technologies, which are essential. The following will explain these differences so you understand their functions and objectives.

1. Purpose

MarTech serves marketing teams by helping them manage and optimize campaigns. These digital marketing platforms focus on developing and growing leads, forming customer relationships, and improving conversions. AdTech focuses more on delivering ads to the proper audience. When using AdTech tools, you can identify the platforms and approaches to take while collecting data from every campaign.

2. Audience

When using MarTech tools, you can cater to a broader marketing audience, including customer acquisition and retention. Once you establish a relationship with a prospect, you can use MarTech to keep the relationship going. At one point or another, you’ve already collected the prospect’s data, including name, email, and other details such as purchase history, to create personal communications. On the other hand, AdTech tools target advertisers and media buyers who are reaching out to prospects who don’t know about them yet.

3. Platforms

MarTech encompasses various marketing platforms and channels, including social media, email, and content. These tools typically integrate into an organization’s internal marketing infrastructure to enable personalized interactions. AdTech focuses on external marketing platforms like display, search, social media, mobile, and video advertisements. AdTech tools help brands buy and place ads on third-party applications, websites, and networks.

4. Billing Methods

MarTech typically uses a subscription-based billing model that requires businesses to pay recurring fees to access the tool and service. This makes these platforms easy and predictable for marketing budgets. They typically use a fixed price but work off metrics such as cost-per-mille. AdTech platforms typically use pay-per-click or pay-per-use models where advertisers pay for placements or clicks. These costs can vary depending on several factors, such as ad placement, competition, and targeting.


More and more businesses are searching for ways to reach new heights, and a combination of MarTech and AdTech tools will provide a holistic view of their target markets. This will help increase conversions, maximize profits, and help organizations in the long term.

Soon, you may see a combination of these digital technologies that every advertiser and marketer is searching for since a solution like this will give brands the potential to know customers’ needs and wants before they get a chance to realize them. 

If you need help finding MarTech or AdTech tools to use in your business, sign up for The CMO newsletter to have software reviews sent directly to your inbox. Also, be sure to attend one of our recommended MarTech conferences!

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Stephanie Hood
By Stephanie Hood

Stephanie Hood is an experienced marketing professional and Editor of The CMO. With nearly a decade spent as Marketing Manager at Discover Holidays and Executive Editor at VIVA Lifestyle & Travel, she built her career leading editorial and marketing teams and strategies that turn six-figure budgets into seven-figure profits. She now enjoys connecting with the world's top executives to learn their secrets to business success, and shares those insights right here with her community of like-minded professionals. Curious what she’s uncovered? Be sure to sign up for The CMO newsletter.