Does digital advertising need its own operating system?

If you’ve ever seen that oft-passed-around LumaScapes slide on the display advertising landscape, you know it’s a crowded and fragmented industry. And that slide only includes a fraction of the companies operating in digital media today. (Luma Partners has seven slides more that break out players in video, gaming, commerce and other key sectors in digital.)

That growth indicates “a tremendous amount of innovation,” said Luma Partners CEO and founder Terence Kawaja. But he asked: “Is that a situation that can continue or does it need to change?”

In a presentation on digital advertising’s “state of the state” during Federated Media’s Conversational Marketing Summit Monday, he said that there are 1,400 companies featured across his company’s eight sector-specific slides. Each of those companies, or at least the bigger ones, are building their own sales teams, business development plans and technology, to each sell their own unique solution that isn’t operable with others, Kawaja continued.

While the industry wouldn’t want to quash the innovation, he floated the idea of addressing what he called the “rationalization” issue through standardization. Just like mobile technology has its Android and iOS platforms, Kawaja said, digital advertising could have its own operating system.

“Many other industries have benefited greatly by having an operating system, a common platform upon which other companies can build their tools,” he said.

Another potential solution to this problem could come through consolidation. Over the past few years, merger and acquisition activity hasn’t only picked up, it’s attracted interest from a wider group of potential buyers. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo used to be the “usual suspects” in driving M&A in online media. But as the field has become more data-driven and scientific, it’s started to include new players from marketing, technology and commerce, he said.

Facebook’s upcoming IPO, he added, will “fundamentally change this industry from the perspective of M&A, rationalization and consolidation.” Not that Facebook itself is going to quickly pick off a bunch of new companies, Kawaja said, “but just their presence, their currency, their ability to grow organically.”

In addition to rationalization, he highlighted two other key themes: big data and automation. In 2009, programmatic media buying didn’t even in exist, he noted. But, according to IDC, in 2010 companies spent $352 million on real-time bidding. By the end of 2012, that is expected to reach $1.975 million and, in 2015, it’s projected to hit about $5 billion.

As for his highly-cited Lumascape slide, Kawaja said it’s been cited in six books and a Harvard Business School case study (not to mention countless conference presentations and sales decks). It’s also received more than 350,000 views online, from people in 116 countries.