A Publisher’s Guide to the Display Lumascape

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The Lumascape was created in 2010 as a way to visualize how the fragmented world of digital advertising fits together. It was put together by Terry Kawaja as a way to visually organize the mess he saw in a complex and fragmented industry.

The chart is a high-level breakdown of different companies working in digital advertising and their respective categories. After being continuously updated, the Lumascape is still used in the industry to see how companies fit together. 

Let’s go over the most important boxes on this chart and the role that the companies in them play in the complicated world of modern marketing.

What is the Lumascape useful for?

This chart is useful for publishers who are unsure who they need to approach to get certain tasks done. In the industry, most publishers aren’t working directly with agents.

This trend is increasing with even large corporations moving their marketing in-house due to the increasing demand for branded content. Working with outside companies only on specific tasks allows the parent company to retain more control over their creative[4] assets while accessing industry expertise when needed.


Agencies are companies that work on the marketer’s behalf to create, place, and buy different media. They are shown on the Lumascape as large holding companies like WPP and Omnicom which handle every aspect of advertising for the world’s biggest brands. There are also smaller companies that target digital-only media and service small businesses. 

Agency trading desks

Agency trading desks (ATDs) are businesses that offer media buying for programs through managed services. An agency is hired by the marketer to build and buy the technology required and operate it on their behalf. Some of the larger companies built their own technology to handle these tasks, like WPP’s Xaxis desk. Other businesses don’t go through the effort of developing proprietary tech and instead lease it through third-party DSPs. Many of these ATDs are operated in line with large holding companies, which own them. The chart has lines to indicate when a company is controlled by another. This control isn’t a prerequisite, however, and there are other ATDs that are independent but still perform the same functions.


Some companies specialize in retargeting, which means that the company keeps track of when a customer is on a site, and then retargets them with ads to the original site as they go around the web. This strategy is very popular because it is so effective, and there are companies that have sprung up to service this sector. Criteo, for example, offers a full array of service optimization experts with operations located around the globe. Some companies in this slice of the industry specialize in local retargeting or cross-device retargeting.

Creative optimization

Creative optimization refers to the companies that test different creative assets to discover what performs best in the market. They are constantly testing to optimize the performance[1] of campaigns in order[5] to convince customers to buy. The classic example is when a customer puts a shirt in their shopping cart but leaves that site before making the purchase. These experts would be responsible for building a tool that sends the customer a specialized ad. The ad would ideally include the exact item that was in their cart. The tool would match the same image and price to entice the customer to complete their purchase. Companies test different calls to action to see which work best. Once they discover whether a tagline or discount is the best motivator, they scale it up for other potential customers.

These companies also work to optimize landing pages, product recommendations, and other pieces of content to get the biggest effect.

Ad servers

Another component of Lumascape are ad servers[2] – ad servers work to centralize campaign[6] reporting and count exposures to make billing more reliable. These companies serve creative assets and put tracking mechanisms in place that allow companies to assess their effectiveness. Because both have different tracking demands means that marketers and publishers often have different ad servers. The tracking that is needed for ad service and billing is sufficiently different that it’s handled by different companies. 

Verification and privacy

People who work in Ad Ops[3] rely on verification and privacy technologies in the course of their job. These technology companies usually serve to make sure that the publisher[7] has correctly chosen the right targeting[8] for the ad. They also ensure that the publisher is delivering on brand safe inventory[9]. If a page isn’t up to standards it may be pulled and the ad won’t be served.

Other companies in the space work to help publishers with the billing process. They help pull reports from agencies to measure whether campaigns are using the right pacing and create invoices. 

Some specialize in scanning ad tags to make sure they are free of malware and other harmful scripts. They also make sure that advertisers are in compliance with the publisher’s ad specs and help inform consumers when they are being served something that was discovered through behavior tracking. These companies help comply with NAI standards and allow consumers the option to opt out if they desire. 

Demand Side Platforms (DSPs)

Technologies on the demand side allow marketers to acquire inventory for publishers in real-time by bidding and buying stock. These DSPs let marketers create campaigns, hone in targeting, pick a date range, and set the maximum prices they are willing to pay. All of these factors come into play to determine how programmatic media buying is supplied to publishers.

These companies work with many different channels and media. This can include mobile, display, and video. Some businesses have sprung up to focus on the current trend towards social media. Smaller companies tend to  focus on one media, like video, mobile, or native advertising.


While this may not be an exhaustive overview of the complicated display that is the display Lumascape, it should allow publishers to get a better idea of how to navigate the document itself and get the value they need out of it. The digital marketing landscape is a complicated field, and having a chart that organizes it all has proven helpful for publishers and marketers alike.

1. performance. A form of advertising in which the purchaser pays only when there are measurable results.
2. ad servers. The computer or group of computers responsible for the actual serving of creatives to websites, or for making decisions about what ads will serve. An ad server may also track clicks on ads and other data. Major publishers, networks and advertisers sometimes have their own ad servers. Well known ad servers include Google Ad Manager, Xandr, and OpenX.
3. Ad Operations ( Ad Ops ) Ad Operations refers to processes and systems that support the sale and delivery of online advertising. More specifically this is the workflow processes and software systems that are used to sell, input, serve, target and report on the performance of online ads.
4. creative. A creative often refers to the image, gif or file used to display the ad. Often creatives need to be uploaded whereby a code snippet for that creative will be generated.
5. order. Order represents an agreement between a buyer and publisher regarding an advertising campaign. The order specificities details regarding the campaign and can include multiple line items.

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