NEW YORK: Marketers are struggling to keep on top of advertising technology as the sector is evolving so quickly, with some brands using up to 40 ad-tech agencies in the course of a year.

The multiplicity of firms is such that investment-banking firm Luma Partners, which specialises in this area, has created charts – 'Lumascapes' – which map ten key sectors of digital media and show around 3,000 companies operating here.

It is a world which chief executive Terence Kawaja described to the Wall Street Journal as "Lumascape Whack-A-Mole, meaning one company gets bought and another pops up".

The experience of JetBlue Airways was instructive, as the paper listed the various businesses it had engaged for its digital advertising, including firms that specialize in geo-targeting, social-analytics and listening firms, dynamic-ad-serving companies, demand-side platforms and a mobile-analytics company.

Even when firms offer the same service, they are often doing it for different kinds of media, such as mobile or social. One JetBlue campaign required five ad-tech firms. Two ad networks specialised in video, with each representing different websites and using different targeting technologies, two firms specialised in targeting ads on social-media sites, and a mobile ad network added voice-recognition technology to mobile banner ads.

"I am flooded by [ad-tech companies that] are coming in and saying here is the great new thing," said Marty St. George, JetBlue's senior vice president of marketing. But he recognised that his customers were using digital media and it was his job "to figure out what tools will help me interact with them".

Digiday argued that much of the confusion had been caused by the vendors themselves, with many not differentiating their offerings and too many selling essentially the same thing. One consequence was that agency buyers often ended up simply spending their budgets with those firms and individual sales persons with whom they already had a relationship.

Several new services have emerged, however, to help the likes of St George. They are aiming to become one-stop databases of marketing technology firms, with customer ratings and reviews to help the unwary agency or advertiser pick their way through the minefield. Examples include Digital Media Review, Kite and plzADvize.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal, Digiday; additional content by Warc staff