What is the LUMAscape List of Online Advertising Companies?

Do you know about the “LUMAscape”? Let’s take a peek: 

When online display advertising first started there was a spike in companies focusing on different areas of the industry. This created confusion because there were so many companies. Those interested in online advertising struggled to figure out the focus of each company. 

Even though we have improved on many aspects of online marketing it continues to be confusing to figure this out!

In response to this confusion, LUMA Partners—an investment bank with a focus on digital media and marketing—decided to take action. In 2010, LUMA created a single-page document to place companies into particular categories. They also focused on the relationships and interconnectedness within these categories. 

The list became an instant classic, people had the tools to figure out how all these different companies work together. The document shows the different industries and maps the functions that will be helpful to the marketers and publishers. The document displays categories ranging from Agencies to Media Planning, to Data Suppliers and Media Management Systems. It goes as far as color-coding categories and indicating whether a company is acquired or shuttered. This is depicted by dashes around a company name. 

Ever since the creation of the list by LUMA Partners, updates and developments in the industry have led to a need for updating the list. With a new document dished out annually based on LUMA’s research. Due to the high use of this document by people in the industry, an entire mini-industry has developed around LUMAscape. 

Here is some information and links that are helpful: 

First, take a look at the original LUMAscape updated for 2020 here. Even though it seems a little overwhelming, the diagram groups companies into different categories based on their main function. The diagram maps out the different steps in the journey of online advertising. 

But what is the source of the enduring appeal of the LUMAscape? Joel Sadler states that “the LUMAscape is to adtech what the periodic table is to elements.” 

Sadler states the two main reasons for the adoption of LUMAscape by people in the online advertising industry relate to two human needs. The need for order and the need for validation. The LUMAscape allows people to conceptualize the roles of different companies within the online advertising process. Thus, creating relationships between categories. 

Sadler also argues that the complexity of LUMAscape allows users to feel less insecure about not understanding the whole system. Thus, satisfying the need for validation. It’s soothing to look at the chart and realize that the system in itself is complicated. So, it’s not completely on you if you don’t understand it. 

To understand it, there are resources to look into the history and the fine lines related to the document. For more background, you can also find a full history of the LUMAscape from its founder. Do note that if you visit this page once, you can’t go back to it a second time without paying for access (Oops!). So, make sure to give yourself enough time to read up! There is also a detailed explanation of each section or sub-industry available, as well as information on recent updates made to the sheet. 

The LUMAscape has served as a great relief for people in the online advertising industry. It has created connections and explanations of companies that people have been trying to wrap their heads around. Even though it has amassed a major following, there continue to be some complexities related to the one-page document. This, in turn, led to a more organized version of this information, via an online spreadsheet —the Martech 500. This spreadsheet makes companies available by section.

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