Dr Geraint Evans, ahead of his participation at ad:tech London 2018, writes on the challenges faced by SMEs looking to take advantage of the opportunities presented by adtech.

To those of us working for blue-chip companies and big agencies, adtech, machine learning and automation technologies are increasingly ‘business as usual’, and are allowing us to deliver more relevant and personalised content and advertising to prospective customers on an unprecedented scale. But where are SMEs in this?

The SME opportunity

According to a recent House of Commons Briefing Paper, of the 5.7 million businesses in the UK, over 99% are small or medium-sized businesses (employing 0-249 people), and even more interestingly 5.5 million (96%) businesses are micro-businesses (employing 0-9 people). Every one one of these businesses is just like yours – working night and day to attract and retain customers, promote positive word of mouth, and grow profitable revenues.

 The fundamentals of adtech are of course the same for any marketing activity an SME undertakes

Many of these SME owners will be perfectly digitally-literate of course, and many motoring nicely on social media platforms. But, in my experience consulting over 100 SMEs in my career (and as a micro-business owner), when it comes to advertising things get a little quieter in terms of activity.

Some are of course experimenting with Google’s advertising suite to get a feel for some of the potential, but the majority of SMEs are most likely missing many of the incredible opportunities of advertising technology – so why is this?

Adtech is still hard to explain

Let’s start with an obvious – and much stated point – but one that is still not resolved (and in fact getting worse as the ecosystem continues to evolve and change every day!) – the language of adtech.

Even a cursory search on the topic throws you into the deep end of DMPs, DSPs, SSPs, Ad Networks, exchanges, servers, affiliates, data science, never mind best practice for the actual ad content itself. This is a shame as the fundamentals of adtech are of course the same for any marketing activity an SME undertakes.

There is undoubtedly potential for everyone to succeed with adtech

SMEs want to communicate their message and brand to a target audience in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible. This much is clear, but as soon as you take the next steps into the labyrinth of publishers, platforms and inventory, things do get more confusing, and harder to get a clear line back to return on investment – a crucial factor for all SMEs not working with big-brand budgets.

Resources are key

Of course, these bigger brands typically work with an external agency to help them deliver their campaigns across various publishers, handle the complicated logistics of developing and shipping creatives to various advertisers, and manage the logistics of getting the ad shown on various (ok, millions!) of publisher websites.

But even then, brands might struggle to make sense of it all and gain meaningful insight into their customer behaviours, preferences, and activities. So what hope for an SME juggling numerous hats when running their business?

Next steps – insight from an SME

There is undoubtedly potential for everyone to succeed with adtech, so to help us understand how better to work with our smaller (but equally important) clients, I’m going to be discussing this very subject with the fantastic Andy Daniels, the MD of British artisan drinks maker, Gorilla Spirits at ad:tech London this September (26th & 27th, Olympia).

We’ll be discussing ‘The challenge of getting started in adtech for SMEs’, so if you found this article interesting, come along, share your thoughts, and let’s help everyone take better advantage of this technology.


Adtech_London_2018_Address_Stacked_GreyDr Geraint Evans will be presenting at ad:tech on 26th and 27th September, at Olympia London. To join Geraint and other experts from the world of marketing and advertising technology, pre-register for your pass today.