Watch these mutations in the digital marketing space

Retailers adopt adtech, brands become publishers, data and AI are everywhere. The advertising industry is changing.

Good morning, Marketers, the advertising landscape is getting mythical.

What I mean is that the standard creatures that used to populate advertising – publishers, brands, ad tech partners – are morphing into elaborate hybrids, almost like the minotaurs, satyrs and sphinxes of legend.

Publishers become brands when they build close connections with subscribers through improved customer experience. Some e-commerce and traditional brands adopt sales and shipping strategies on a subscription model borrowed from publishers. Retailers acquire AI-powered startups to build out their advertising services, morphing into a Hydra-like amalgam of adtech vendor, agency and publisher.

At the IAB ALM conference in New York this week, Gap Inc. presented to an audience of digital marketers and vendors their own media and advertising arm, GPS Media. The Gap joins Lowe’s and Walgreens as a large retail chain selling ads into its impressive customer base. It follows Gap’s recent acquisition of AI-driven analytics company Context-Based 4 Casting Ltd. (CB4), and GPS Media has been in soft launch since late 2021.

Data is mutating all of these creatures in the digital marketing landscape. Scarcity of first-party data and regulations on data use and sharing (all necessary to maintain consumer trust) have made companies with a lot of first-party data into digital advertising hubs. The market forces are irresistible in making this so because that close data-based connection with customers is essential, and often fleeting if customers decide to opt out.

The moral of this fable is that the creatures will continue to morph. And for every marketer, this means that now more than ever they must build their own meaningful data-rich connections with customers. It’s hard enough competing for shelf space and attention in the marketplace. Now imagine having to outbid competitors on a retailer’s ad channel. 

Chris Wood,


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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.