The buzz over new advertising technology only seems to be growing and the ideas keep rolling in. We're seeing an increasing emphasis on self-service solutions and a focus on the long tail, with increasingly diverse ad solutions that serve the small business sector, and even certain boycotts .

After a flurry of IPOs and acquisitions in 2013-2014, the industry is poised to grow by over 300 percent by 2020. Publishers and brands from all industries are realizing the strategic potential of highly targeted advertising that has global reach.

But who are the people behind the scenes, building the next generation of the ad tech industry from the ground up? These six ad tech thought leaders represent the best and the brightest that advertising innovation has to offer this year.

1. Aaron Bell, Founder and CEO, AdRoll

Following stints at Stanford, Microsoft and NASA Aaron Bell founded AdRoll on the premise of finding the solution for small- and medium-sized businesses that had been neglected by the ad tech industry.

About a decade ago, Bell and the team at AdRoll led the front on educating the industry about "retargeting," and now AdRoll has raised a cool $90 million. Don't let their recent layoffs fool you -- with record-breaking revenues last year and big name partnerships with the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter, their most recent move into the Chinese advertising market makes them one company to keep your eyes on.

2. Kim Perell, President, Amobee

Sporting a fresh promotion to CEO in late December, Kim Perell is no stranger to ad tech leadership. Having served as CEO of Adconion Direct, which was acquired by Amobee in 2014, Perell joined as president, where she's been managing all of Amobee's worldwide business units, product lines, and technology development. Amobee's most compelling rollout to date has been its cross-device audience targeting solution, which merges data from multiple identity databases.

The company recently launched Amobee Triggers, which allows marketers to automatically launch and pause digital advertising campaigns based on real-time data, including changes in weather, financial market activity and foot traffic patterns. Following some major flux in their leadership team, Amobee and Perell are poised for a monumental year of growth.

3. Dominick Porco, CEO, Impax Media

Recognized as one of the most accomplished executives in the ad tech industry, Dominick Porco brings over 30 years of experience to his role at Impax Media, an out-of-home (OOH) advertising platform that anonymously tracks attention metrics.

In December, Impax announced that it's bringing smart video infotainment to a supermarket near you, against what many market experts have said about consumers tuning out. Porco and team are confidently placing sponsored "shopping-related content" video spots in front of engaged, semi-captive consumers this year, and with an incredible amount of data to be collected, he will undoubtedly continue to be a source of truth in the future of OOH digital advertising.

4. Brian O'Kelley, CEO and Co-founder, AppNexus

A pioneer of the concept of media buying for the personalized internet experience, Brian O'Kelley is no stranger to the online advertising industry. With multiple awards under his belt, including Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and spots on both AdWeek 50 and Silicon Alley 100, O'Kelley is known as father of the ad exchange.

His firm, AppNexus, a real-time ad space purchasing and selling platform, processes over 5m requests per second and facilitates an estimated $2 billion of transactions, according to City A.M. What's more, they've raised over $300 million since inception, and 2017 will be the year that they IPO, which seems like as good a time as any to start paying attention.

5. Asaf Hartuv, Director of Product Marketing, CodeFuel by Perion

An Israeli software powerhouse, Perion offers a suite of tools to acquire, monetize, and retain users. One of those tools is known as CodeFuel, an industry leader among monetization platforms that help publishers create less interruptive revenue streams .

A rare proponent of monetization strategies that don't detract from user experiences, Asaf Hartuv is CodeFuel's director of product. With over ten years of product management experience from his previous role at HP, he has a close eye or two on the next big thing to happen in the ad tech industry.

6. Massimo Chieruzzi, CEO and Co-founder, AdEspresso

Starting his career as a tech journalist during the dotcom era, Massimo Chieruzzi founded both Media Zen and Creative Web, after which he realized an overwhelming need existed for a Facebook advertising management and measurement tool built for small businesses.

AdEspresso is now one of the top Facebook Marketing Partners in the world, with $300 million managed in Facebook ads spent and managed. The company boasts over 5,000 customers in more than 100 countries, and their Academy is the #1 source of education for Facebook Ads, with more than 400,000 monthly unique visitors.

Be it advertising through virtual reality, in-store displays, or simply a better, more targeted experience online, ads aren't going anywhere and neither are their providers. Follow these six thought leaders to gain an edge on the industry and stay ahead of what's to come.