Cutting The Jargon In Ad Tech PR

I recall sitting in the weekly meeting at my first marketing internship. Surrounded by subject-matter experts in the space known as ad tech, I tried to hide my computer screen as I subtly googled almost every other word spoken. It was as if I were in a room of people conversing in a different language. And in a way, I was. I felt embarrassed for not knowing the terms – pressured to unscramble strung-together letters and find their meaning.

That day, as I frantically attempted to keep up, I began to question the complexity of the industry I worked in. Now, as someone who does PR for a range of ad tech companies, I still think about it. If our goal is to create a collaborative environment whereby brands, agencies, publishers, and data partners can ultimately reach consumers with positive ad experiences, why have we made it so complicated? 

Ad tech is known for its long list of acronyms, jargon, and synonymous words. They’re ubiquitous in ad tech PR as well. This not only makes it hard for new talent to get up to speed, but it turns ordinary things like reporter conversations and strategic discussions into cryptic and complicated exchanges.

For ad tech PR professionals who understand these terms, it’s easy to get wrapped up in their extravagance. But keep in mind that the brains coining these terms are ordinary people – most likely sitting at their desks or kitchen tables in athleisure outfits and baseball hats (myself included). So, let’s strip away the facade and break some of them down:


Or Google Topics. The ad tech people who get it, get it. If you don’t, here’s the scoop: in 2019, Google announced FLoC – the Federated Learning of Cohorts, a system standard to solve for the demise of third-party cookies, those bits of code that carry data about our web browsing activities and interests. To safeguard consumer privacy, Google Chrome proposed the use of algorithms to create “cohorts” – groups of consumers with similar interests. This would allow for targeting based on interests, rather than a user’s personal identifying data. Although it seems as though FLoC is flying with a broken wing, it will surely remain in the conversation, with the recent announcement of Google Topics just last week.


PII stands for personally identifiable information and can mean name, email, phone number, or more. It’s valuable currency for advertisers when it comes to targeting. However, due to privacy regulations, PII has become increasingly hard to obtain unless a consumer gives permission.


This stands for the General Data Protection Regulation, rolled out in 2018 to monitor and govern the way in which consumer data is collected, processed, and stored. Over the years, GDPR has incentivized additional regulations, like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the newly emerged Surveillance Advertising Act. As the industry navigates continued consumer demand for transparency and privacy, these regulations are what makes data like PII so much trickier to secure and leverage (to provide impactful advertising experiences).


Is Connected TV (CTV) ATV? Yes. Is ATV CTV? No. Get the picture? Basically, Advanced TV (ATV) is one of those umbrella terms that tend to cause confusion. A helpful analogy is that a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square. ATV encapsulates all things non-traditional TV: CTV, OTT, VOD/SVOD, and addressable TV –  don’t get me started on those. Okay fine, here: 

  • CTV: a TV streaming content via the internet

  • OTT: the streaming service that consumers use to watch CTV

  • VOD/SVOD: This one is pretty easy. Users can watch things they missed on demand; they can also watch on demand through a subscription service

  • Addressable TV: any TV that connects to the internet to provide VOD

The above is just a sample of the many flashcards we in ad tech must hold in our minds. While these terms have a powerful and useful meaning in our industry, our job as PR professionals is to break complex ideas into digestible and compelling stories – and in ad tech PR, specifically, our role is to explain how technology can benefit the advertising experience. To do so, we must be able to communicate, market, sell, and teach it in simple terms. If we can’t do that, do any of us really know what we’re talking about?

5 Reasons Tech PR Is A Different Animal

If you’re an aspiring PR professional or even a seasoned veteran who has never worked in the tech sector, you may wonder what it’s like. Is all PR basically the same? The fact is, the public relations industry is becoming more specialized and diverse. Agencies who work in tech PR are part of an industry whose signature attribute is innovation – which is both stressful and exciting. The day-to-day work can also be different. Here’s how.

What sets tech PR apart

A transactional PR-journalist/influencer relationship

The tech sector’s rapid news cycle can contribute to a more transactional relationship between PR people and the journalists they know.  Prominent tech reporters are compelled to grab the latest news, publish, and keep the ball rolling on to the next thing. And while tech isn’t the only sector where being first is a journalist’s  goal, it’s among the most brutally competitive. Most tech PRs learn to negotiate for “exclusive” story placement on behalf of clients when it comes to funding or innovation news. Additionally, tech PR firms must nurture mutually beneficial relationships with analysts, just as they do with journalists. Here, the goal may be to score a mention in a key report in the absence of a paid relationship. A positive recommendation in a Gartner or IDC is a valuable third-party endorsements for an up-and-coming B2B technology player.

Taming the technology beast

In recent years the tech sector has faced a reputation problem, from its lack of diversity to data privacy issues. Problems vary with the individual company, of course. But PR agency teams today can face an extra challenge when it comes to poorly understood sectors like digital advertising technology or blockchain, for example. Then there are regulatory issues that demand the communication of a company position as well as internal adaptation to new rules. The recently enacted GDPR European data privacy rule challenged virtually every department in most companies, but it also offers opportunities for relevant commentaries and point-of-view content.

The need for speed

All PR moves at a rapid pace, driven by the news cycle and the speed of digital technology. But in tech PR, that pace is accelerated, for several reasons. Many tech companies are young businesses or high-growth startups, and they’re highly entrepreneurial in style and speed. The acceleration also stems from the current boom of private equity investment in tech startups. Finally, it’s the pace of innovation. There always seem to be new startups, more financing rounds, new offerings, and of course fresh technology breakthroughs. It’s also a crowded mediascape where there’s fierce competition for share of voice. That means PR teams are on their toes, reacting quickly to trending news or relevant issues or moving to fill the innovation story pipeline.

High-tech is highly “technical”

A PR pro working in any sector needs to be well versed in the language of that industry. Consumer PR teams become familiar with their clients’ products, and investor relations pros must know their way round Wall Street. But tech PR people must master a language that is sometimes more complicated. In adtech and media, for example, we assimilate terms like “native programmatic direct” and alphabet-soup acronyms like GDPR, OTT, and DMP. More importantly, it’s often the job of the PR rep to streamline, simplify, and translate the language of technology into tangible and relevant customer benefits. Tech startups in particular are known for being in love with their technology, sometimes to the detriment of the overall story. Our role is to make sure that doesn’t happen.

What tech? Where?

Adtech, martech, fintech, biotech, and greentech offer ample opportunities for corporate communicators, especially in New York, San Francisco, and Boston. If you’re a recent college graduate enamored with the cutting edge or a seasoned PR pro itching for a new challenge, a tech agency could be a great new adventure. You don’t have to be a computer geek, gamer, or data scientist to work in the sector. Most of us don’t have computer science degrees. We study and absorb knowledge as we go, and it soon becomes second nature. Technology is a beast that grows and evolves, offering a stimulating environment for public relations professionals. And lucky for us, it’s far from an endangered species.

Decoding Tech PR Jargon

Tech PR professionals, like all PR people, love their jargon. With its highly technical applications, products, and services, the world of technology startups, ad tech providers, and enterprise “solutions” is ripe with opportunity for creation of buzzwords that can leave non-techies baffled.
Planning a tech PR program means not only mastering what these terms actually mean, but knowing when to use them and when to translate into more plainspoken language. Here are some of the most commonly used tech terms, and our tips on when (or whether) to use.

SoLoMo. An inclusive term for three trends — social media, local commerce, and mobile apps — this term has relevance within the niche world of digital marketing, and continues to be a favored strategy for many adtech companies and startups. The term is believed to have been coined by venture capitalist John Doerr. Use it sparingly, and only when addressing digital marketing and adtech insiders.

KPI. A term that’s been around for a while, “Key Performance Indicator” has become shorthand for a measurable value that helps gauge how a business or program is performing, and is still widely used. Its use extends well beyond technology PR into the business world at large, and most business professionals should be familiar with it.

IoT. Most who toil in tech PR are familiar with the “Internet of things” and its acronym, IoT. It annoys some due to heavy usage in tech circles, but given the boom in businesses built around sensor and software-driven connectivity; the ever-growing interest in the data patterns associated with IoT; and the social impact, we think it’s one that’s here to stay. 

Growth Hacking. There are several ways to define this term. We prefer the one from Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail):  Growth hacking is the “lean startup” term coined by Sean Ellis for using conversion marketing tactics like content marketing, A/B testing, and analytics to grow a company quickly and efficiently. A favored term by techies and entrepreneurs, it’s often used loosely and has the potential to lose its edge, just like the overused terms “innovative” and “disruptive.” Since there is a lot of cross-over between growth hacking techniques and common marketing activities, use it only when truly accurate.

Disruptive Innovation. Invented by Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen 18 years ago, the term has been resurrected by the current tech startup boom and overused to the point where it’s nearly meaningless. One acclaimed artist recently created an entire body of work around the term in his latest exhibition, The Innovator’s Dilemma (the name of Christensen’s book describing the concept). Steer clear except in the rare cases where it is actually true.

Gamification. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users and increase user contribution, according to Wikipedia. Applicable in many disciplines, the term has become popular in education circles and even lands in a U.S. News and World Report headline (the publication deems it one of three top emerging trends in online education). As mainstream media adopt the term, we’d say that’s license to use it when appropriate.

Tradigital. The meaning here is pretty clear, given that it’s a blend of the words “traditional” and “digital,” and in PR it typically refers to media or media-driven program components. But given that most clients have made the transition to digital and the lines between on and offline has blurred, we find ourselves using this term rarely.