It’s been another fast-moving and dynamic year in digital advertising. We took a look back at some of the 2015 predictions made by various industry pundits, experts and thought leaders – including yours truly.
The continued growth of mobile video and native advertising and the importance of viewability and behavioral data were among the no-brainers that came true. Programmatic ad spending, micro-targeting and hyper-segmentation and personalization (aka “Marketing’s Law of One”) were other top emerging trends that remained in the headlines.
Our list below recaps our picks for 2015’s hottest topics and trends within the digital advertising industry, many of which we can expect to remain as challenges and issues into the new year and beyond.
Our 9 Top Trends That Shaped the Digital Advertising Industry in 2015
1. Ad fraud and data leakage are big issues, and require robust responses.
According to some reports, ad fraud cost the industry $18.5 billion in 2015 – or $1 out of every $3 spent on advertising – meaning it’s moving up the agenda for industry stakeholders. It’s an “all hands on deck issue” for agencies and publishers, and premium publishers are especially feeling the impact. The world’s largest ad tech company, Google, is combating fraudsters with a dedicated 100-person unit. Many view greater transparency as an important solution (though as we’ve written before, that’s easier said than done).
By now, just about everybody has heard about the high-profile data breaches at Target, Anthem, Ashley Madison and other companies – but not everybody thinks about securing data at publishers. Data leakage is also a significant threat on the rise for many digital ad organizations. There are, however, clear steps for understanding and mitigating data leakage’s dangers.
2. Programmatic: a maturing capability or world conquest?
It’s no surprise that programmatic makes this list – spending is projected to be up 49% from last year. Programmatic remains a staple topic for panel discussions at industry events and research papers. And, according to AppNexus’s global trust study, there is huge consensus that programmatic will be an “important” or even “dominant” channel and a “one of the most important capabilities” for agencies. But, strangely, that same study found that there is still some question within the digital advertising community about how programmatic actually works.
There’s a general lack of understanding and clarity of programmatic for the industry via the AppNexus Trust Survey #YEsummit2015
— AppNexus (@AppNexus) September 30, 2015
One thing is clear: programmatic, which has long emphasized relatively low-value remnant inventory, has steadily moved up the food chain, expanding to include header bidding and even native advertising campaigns, for instance. As Digiday writes on balancing the industry’s competing needs for scale and customization:
Now, there are networks and platforms emerging that promise to take the best of both worlds, native and programmatic, and create engaging, differentiated campaigns that are also efficiently distributed.”
Header bidding, also known as advanced bidding or pre-bidding, is a method of putting a tag in the page header that allows advertisers to submit bids through programmatic channels prior to the ad server call. Proponents suggest that header bidding should allow demand sources to compete for all available impressions on the same footing. We know for sure that when header bidding is properly understood and integrated, publishers can use it as another tool as they figure out the optimum ad stack to hit strategic goals.
Programmatic looks likely to continue its onward-and-upward trajectory in 2016 – eMarketer projects that mobile programmatic will receive the “vast majority of display ad dollars by 2017.”
3. Viewability: the debate continues and need for standards remains.
Agencies and advertisers keep asking “What good is an ad if it’s never seen?” and pointing to the statistics that say half of all digital ads – not just display (56%) but also video (46%) – are never viewed.
But from the perspective of publishers, clear definitions and consistent and measures of viewability and a balance with other important metrics like ROI are more important considerations. Publishers are also weighing the impact on user experience and digital design.
Some have long believed that viewability can ‘save’ display advertising, while others continue to question where it fits into ad pricing negotiations. All of this turmoil and lack of consensus shows that the debate still has legs, and will go on for some time to come.
4. OMS and DMP are beocming two of advertising’s top technologies.
In the complex, multi-channel marketing environment where highly elusive customers skip across media and devices, the data management platform (DMP) has become essential to capturing and rationalizing data from a diverse range of sources so that closer tracking becomes possible and truly one-to-one marketing is within reach.
We’ve been exploring the value DMPs can provide to companies for some time now – and now we’re seeing new versions of this technology (enter the “mobile DMP”) emerge to help marketers deal with the ever-growing data deluge. Yes, DMPs are fundamentally about “data in, data out,” but success starts with understanding how they work, why they’re valuable and what the benefits are. Only then can you use DMPs to empower your personalization capabilities.
The OMS may not have been one of the year’s most-talked about technologies – but it should have been, in our opinion. There is real value in the often underappreciated OMS, which we think should be treated as a company’s ad business “operating system.” That’s why so many companies are trying to figure out how to get maximum value from new or existing investments in OMS, as this video explains.
5. Smarter ad tech implementation and integration approaches help reduce complexity and increase value.
Speaking of ad tech…Given the critical role of technology and the imperative to produce results, it’s no wonder more publishers and digital media firms are focusing on design and implementation strategies to get the most out of their investments in ad tech.
Optimizing ad tech takes a strong approach to upgrades and integrations, and keeps the end user front and center. The enormous complexity of digital ad technology environments at many publishers, however, is a symptom of “shiny new object” syndrome that can cut into profits.
6. Linear and digital convergence: how to make it more harmonic (and profitable).
Industry buzz about digital convergence gained critical mass – with the conversation shifting from “Will convergence happen?” to “how to make the most of it?” Interestingly, the telecom industry of the 1990s offers a proven template for publishers and digital media organizations seeking to take advantage of the opportunity:
Digital publishers see convergence as a way to tap into the much larger budgets associated with traditional brand advertising and to give their advertisers fuller visibility and broader reach into and across all segments.
The necessary steps involve product bundling, system and process integration and some critical (but potentially challenging) work in organizational and strategic alignment.
7. Cross-channel, omni-channel, multi-channel – whatever the term, marketers must do it all better.
Advertisers and marketers are increasingly focused on how to do a better job of executing cross-channel campaigns. It’s about using data-driven insights to deliver the right messages and offers to the right targets via the right channel at the right time.
But we think the omni-channel dream should live on and change into a vision for feasible, dynamic, multidimensional customer intelligence..
Look for continuing emphasis on mastering the cross-channel customer experience in 2016.
8. Optimized revenue: how to achieve this increasingly critical objective.
Publishers and digital media properties want to maximize revenue generation from every channel and ad placement – but few take all the actions they need to make revenue optimization a reality.
Many simply focus on grabbing the low-hanging fruit and incrementally boosting revenue from remnant inventory via programmatic channels. But revenue optimization can – and should – be so much more.
Revenue optimization basically equates to the ability to set prices in a complex, dynamic environment. It’s not easy. Here are a range of tactics and multiple functions publishers need to optimize the revenue streams coming from their ad businesses:
- Analytical techniques
- Sales and inventory forecasting
- Product development
- Order fulfillment and billing
Organizational alignment and clear strategies are also involved. Thus, implementing revenue optimization can be a massive change to normal ad business operations. And it can be a game-changer when it comes to performance.
9. Up with people and strategy. Down with complexity.
As important as the latest tools and technology are to digital ad success, top publishers increasingly see strategic and organizational factors as essential to success. In fact, more organizations are coming to terms with the very real challenges related to talent management.
Lack of skilled resources for project management expertise, for instance, can cause downstream issues. As this industry matures, more effective recruiting, training and retention will be hallmarks of market leadership in the future.