The Lumascape - A Visual Guide to the Digital World

Brock Munro
December 22, 2021
March 20, 2024
The Lumascape - A Visual Guide to the Digital World

Both marketers and publishers have heard of Lumascape, an online map categorizing significant ad tech industry entities. It’s not uncommon for outsiders (or even some insiders) to look at Lumascape and consider it messy and confusing. Luckily, the publisher has recently clarified some things.

For one, the original Industry Map for Online Advertising was even more confusing than it is now.

Nick MacShane, founder of Progress Partners, used to carry around this precursor map to figure out where different companies should place themselves in the ad tech economy. From there, Terence Kawaja, CEO of investment bank Luma Partners, gave said map an overhaul.

The industry has evolved since 2010, and the Display Lumascape continues to grow as more companies develop or disband. While Display Lumascape’s primary goal is to help marketers, advertisers, publishers, and other players in the industry, it still looks kind of…


To leverage Lumascape the right way, members within the ad tech industry need to understand the categories that make up the map. In this article, we’ll explore different elements on the Display Lumascape map and clarify them so that publishers can take advantage of this system.

What is Display Lumascape?

The Display Lumascape, also known as the “Luma” landscape, is a map that displays and places different companies in specific categories. Both ad tech industry maps display the world’s biggest brands and attempt to organize all the chaos associated with online advertising.

Nick’s map, which displayed hundreds of companies within the ad supply chain, also contained 49 different categories. While this map seems confusing, especially after looking at the new one, it gave other companies more control over their strategic decisions.

Kawaja took one look at Macshane’s PowerPoint slide and wanted to fix it. And, in 2010, the old ad tech map became The Display Lumascape.

Ad Tech Industry Map:

Terence Kawaja’s revamped Display Lumascape map:

Ad Tech Industry Map

Source: Luma Partners

Kawaja condensed 49 categories into 23 and added arrows and other designations to show how each system worked together and helped the publisher.

Although Display Lumascape has done a lot to help marketers and publishers, some critics feel that the map contains too many intermediaries who leech off of publishers to make money. Others feel that it adds transparency to online advertising, which is bad for companies.

Still, Luma Partners has helped publishers better understand the industry, which has led to fewer dollars spent on inefficient marketing tactics and more money gained for publishers.

How do Publishers Fit Into the Lumascape?

How do Publishers Fit Into the Lumascape?

Source: Pexels

Publishers fit into every aspect of the Display Lumascape. In fact, most publishers use this map to ensure they’re meeting the demands of their clients. On top of that, marketers require publishers to understand the various categories within the Lumascape to sell appropriately.

Since each component of Lumascape helps publishers in different ways, we'll discuss specifics in the next section.

What are the Components of Lumascape?

As mentioned, there are 23 total components of Lumascape as of writing this. Some components are in one section for brevity (ad networks, for example).

Ad Agencies

Publishers often don’t work with agencies, or at least work with them directly. Big digital properties may work with ad agencies on all of their campaigns, or small agencies may stretch their budget for important ad copy. Either way, their significance in the market is falling.

Publishers avoid ad agencies because they’re finding marketers elsewhere. Branded content is becoming more critical as demand increases and ad agencies can’t keep up.

Advertisers look for marketers who keep their customers interested in their campaigns for a reasonable price. Brand content is often fluid, and publishers need to work directly with their marketers and not a faceless conglomerate. With more cash flow, publishers can expand their offerings and earn even more revenue from branded content.

Agency Trading Desks (ATD)

Agency Trading Desks (ATD)

Source: Pexels

Agency trading desks (ATD) are the programmatic side of how agencies work with publishers.

Programmatic advertising is the automated buying and selling of online ads. Targeting tactics are primarily used to segment audiences using real-time data to ensure advertisements get to the right people when needed. ATD doesn’t rely on “spray and pray” methods.

As programmatic versions of the ad industry, agency trading desks will use demand-side platforms to initiate tasks. These companies also sell their own technology as add-ons to existing advertising platforms, or they may build the technology required and use it on the marketer’s behalf.

Agency trading desks participate in media buying, similar to ad agencies, except they now offer supplementary products to maintain relevance in their audience segments. They can exist as independent ATDs, like in the case of AUDIENCEX or in larger ad agencies, like Dentsu.

Creative Optimization

Creative optimization is the process of testing different creative assets to understand which, if any, perform best in their market. Companies may test different calls to action to understand what works best for their business—for example, A/B testing for taglines or discounts.

Personalized and relevant ads are essential for creative optimization, but creatives handle most of this process by correctly displaying an image. Engaging creative assets typically perform better for publishers, so advertisers have to make sure they get it right.


Retargeting advertisements are ads that follow users around online if they engage with a certain product or service. Contextual advertising plays a big role in retargeting protocols, as it uses cookies and content a user was browsing to create and facilitate ads across the Internet.

Retargeting companies also use cross-device retargeting, which targets users on multiple devices, and local retargeting, which targets people based locally or in a specific area. Both advertising methods also use cookies to select new targets, for now.

Pretty soon, cookies won’t be supported by Internet browsers, meaning retargeting companies have to base ads on contextuality to help publishers sell.

Demand-Side Platforms (DSP)

Demand-Side Platforms (DSP)

Source: Pexels

Demand-Side Platform (DPS) is software that allows advertisers and agencies to buy ad inventory across multiple platforms. DPS uses one interface to handle multiple data exchange and ad exchange accounts, create campaigns, pick date ranges and targets, and set prices.

DSPs heavily rely on programmatic media buying to function. Programmatic media buying utilizes algorithms and data insights to serve ad copy to users, which DSP companies use across multiple media channels. These include but aren’t limited to mobile, video, and display.

Supply-Side Platform (SSP)

Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs) offer the same service as DSPs, like allowing you to buy inventory, but publishers use SSPs exclusively. SSPs allow publishers to present their inventory in ad networks, ad exchanges, and DSPs, opening up inventory for buyers to bid on.


Anyone who works in Ad Ops relies on verification and privacy technologies throughout the course of their job. Ad Operations, or Ad Ops, is a process that supports the sale and delivery of online advertisements. Ad Ops is an essential part of the digital advertising ecosystem.

Ad ops people use verification and privacy technology to ensure the publisher uses proper targeting protocols to sell to the right people. Verification and privacy companies may pull reports to help publishers measure campaigns, help with billing and deliver brand-safe inventory.

The majority of these companies specialize in scanning ad tags, which may be full of harmful viruses like malware. Verification and privacy vendors also ensure advertisers and publishers comply with ad specifications and privacy laws under NAI standards.

Media Planning and Attribution

Media Planning and Attribution

Source: Pexels

Media planning and attribution are essential for marketers, advertisers, and publishers. Through media planning, these industries have an idea of how frequently they should serve ad content on specific channels by using resources they have or could gain.

By gaining data through digital attribution, attribution modeling allows publishers to see how users interact with their ads or content, which helps them improve their offerings.

Ad Servers

Ad servers provide targeted creative assets on a publisher’s website based on user behavior. Google Ad Manager (GAM) is a primary ad server, but they don’t just serve ads to website visitors. Ad servers may also store data regarding a website visitor's online behavior.

Publishers will use ad servers to centralize campaign reporting, deliver an optimized user experience and track ad interactions. Since publishers and advertisers have different tracking demands, they often use different ad servers, especially for billing or other financial matters.

Measurement and Analytics

User data and analytics are fundamental to publishers because they help them monitor ad performance and audience metrics. By using data analytics, publishers can further improve user experience, their own earnings and increase viewers to their websites.

Publishers should pay attention to where they get their data, as third-party data is insufficient. First-party data tools, like Google Analytics, will overtake third-party sources soon because they don’t use cookies (or only first-party cookies) to create reports.

Tag Management

Tag Management

Source: Pexels

Tag management services use tags, which are small bits of code used to track ads, to help publishers who aren’t fluent in coding languages. However, most publishers don’t need to use this technology unless they have to set tag parameters or change tags quickly.

Data Management Platforms (DMP) and Data Aggregators

A data management platform (DMP) manages, stores, and organizes data for publishers, advertisers, and marketers. DMPs and data aggregators (tech-specific) analyze third, second, and first-party data for publishers to organize it for ad targeting purposes.

Data Suppliers

Privacy concerns from users have mostly made data suppliers obsolete, but they still have their use in the tech market. Since these vendors buy and sell data to third parties, they need publishers to declare that they’re using cookies on their site for data collection.

Ad Networks

There are several different types of ad networks categorized in Display Lumascape, including:

  • Horizontal Advertising: Appealing to potential customers who share common interests but aren't in the publishers' primary industry.
  • Vertical Advertising: Appealing to customers already in your industry and have similar needs, interests, and demands. A form of targeted advertising.
  • Native Advertising: A form of advertising that matches the look and feel of a particular media format. For example, on social platforms, most ads look like original content.
  • Display Advertising: A form of advertising that attracts an audience in a digital medium. These include image, text-based, and video advertisements.
  • Targeted/Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs): AMPs improve the performance of web pages on mobile devices. Most targeted networks will specialize in AMPs because the majority of mobile users use their phones to shop.

An ad network may not include all ad examples, but it will consist of some. For instance, most targeted network/AMPs-based companies will use a combination of native advertising staples, like horizontal and vertical advertisements.

All types of ad networks help publishers monetize their websites. They ensure publishers can sell their products and services at the highest price, but they’ll only work with them if they have the best inventory. Ad networks also play a role in programmatic advertising.

Ad Exchanges

Ad Exchanges

Source: Pexels

Ad exchanges are an online marketplace for ad networks and ad demand sources that compete in real-time auctions. Google AdX is one leading example of an ad exchange platform that has helped make this process fairer for startups and small-medium-sized businesses.

Advertisers, publishers, DSPs, SSPs, and other parties within the Lumascape can compete here. Keep in mind that publishers and advertisers can connect to ad exchanges with an SSP or DSP, especially Google AdX, one of the biggest AdX resellers.


Companies that display advertising performance fall under the “Performance” digital advertising section. These companies provide customized performance and programmatic solutions for visual/display aspects such as video ads, social media campaigns, and design.

Publishers need a way to analyze the performance of their display advertisement campaigns, and companies like Datran Media and VM are capable of performing this function. From there, publishers can strategize and plan accordingly by enhancing their services or content.

Performance tracking companies are likely to provide relevant ads or niche services to publishers that need them. Nowadays, most performance companies collaborate with CRMs, social media platforms, and tracking software.

Media Management Systems and Operations

Media Management Systems and Operations

Source: Pexels

Media management systems are more relevant to advertisers and other companies that facilitate marketing materials, but publishers still see benefits. Since they’re involved in media planning and analytics, they help publishers make media planning and management decisions.

Sharing Data/Social Tools

Publishing platforms and competitive analysis platforms are examples of social tools publishers will use if they gain revenue from social traffic. Publishers can use social tools to compile data on social platforms, which will help them create more effective, targeted ad copy.

Publisher Tools

Companies that manufacture publisher tools will allow publishers to target their audience more effectively. For example, publishers will use heat maps to know where visitors click on their landing pages. Several publisher tools are available, but only some offer significant value to the publisher. Publishers must test their tools before implementing them.

Publisher Tools

Source: Pexels


Display Lumascape is, without a doubt, a complicated faction of marketing. Not only are there several parts of the graph that are difficult to follow or understand, but outsiders may feel the map is overly complicated. It’s no wonder you need a guide to learn its secrets.

However, with some guidance, Display Lumascape is an incredible tool that marketers, advertisers, and publishers should use to facilitate their marketing projects and data aggregators. With a bit of practice, you can use Lumascape to be a marketing wiz.

Now that you have a grasp on Lumascape reach out to Publift to find out how you can boost your ad revenue further by optimizing your ad placement and ad partners.

If you’re making more than $2,000 in monthly ad revenue, contact us today to learn more about how Publift can help increase your ad revenue and best optimize the ad space available on your website or app.

Grow with us

Grow your business with a sustainable, long term partnership. If you're making more than $2,000 in monthly ad revenue, contact us today to boost your revenue with our all-in-one solution.
Laptop screen with web page open

Success Stories