2010: A Watershed Year for Digital
2009 might have been a recession year in terms of spending on advertising, but it has also been an extremely vibrant one for investment and innovation in digital media technology. As we welcome 2010, and hopefully it's rejuvenated growth, we should watch for the new developments that will shape our reality next year and in years to come.
1. Audience buying and optimization
Over the last two years the startup scene in the area of audience buying and optimization has exploded. Demand side platforms (DSPs) like MediaMath, Turn, Invite Media and DataXu have officially paved their way into the digital sphere. Together with user-level targeting data providers like BlueKai and eXelate, they aim to revolutionize how agencies buy secondary (non-premium) inventory. While currently spending by agencies directly on exchanges is small to nonexistent, the expectation is that within two years a significant portion of the media budget, perhaps up to 30% or even more, will move from network buys to exchanges.
2. Dynamic creative targeting & optimization
Strides toward targeted messaging or "one-to-one marketing" has quickened in 2009 with offerings from Tumri, Teracent (recently acquired by Google), and Eyeblaster, making ad versioning, targeting and optimization a reality. Publishers are also leveraging their user insight to enable more accurate messaging; Yahoo's Smart Ads program is a great example of this.
3. Combining audience buying and creative optimization
While both of the above are individually exciting, their combination into a tight marketing machine that allows you to buy the right audience cost-effectively and tailor the right message to the targeted individuals is game-changing. Take a smooth execution of these two and add in a feedback loop - to apply learning from past campaigns in smarter buying and targeting and you get pretty close to the "holy grail" of marketing.
4. Campaign verification
For years agencies have been buying media and blindly trusting publishers to live up to their commitments. Today, more and more agencies are starting to use campaign verification services from companies like DoubleVerify, Media Trust and AdSafe Media to make sure ads for premium brands are not located next to questionable content, to validate various targeting commitments, to uncover undesired placement allocations, and more. While most of this is done post serving, we should expect to see more real-time verification and decision making made possible over the next year.
Campaign verification is a key component of exchange based audience buying where placement quality is essential for growth.
5. Privacy legislation
Together with the huge potential of audience targeting comes a revitalized discussion of privacy. The European Union adopted a law recently requiring user consent before companies are able to track user behavior via any storage and retrieval method (i.e. cookies, Flash Shared Objects, etc.). Weeks later, a centrist D.C. group called the Center for Democracy and Technology issued a 34-page report urging the federal government to pass strong privacy laws to regulate user tracking and targeting online. If you are truly concerned about the future of this industry you should take an active interest in the activities of organizations that advocate self-regulation and promote consumer awareness. More detail information can be found at Future of Privacy Forum, the Network Advertising Initiative and the Internet Advertising Bureau.
6. Growth of in-stream video
In-stream video advertising (e.g. pre-rolls) has been around for a while now, but 2010 is likely to be the defining year for this important channel. Media buyers interested in following audience media consumption trends and shifting budgets from TV to online will be met by a much more streamlined and standardized marketplace as more publishers adopt third-party serving using the IAB VAST and VPAID standards.
7. Maturation of mobile advertising
Each one of the last five years has been crowned "the year of mobile". However, there are several developments in this channel that would allow it to come closer to the mainstream. Cross channel campaign management and serving of mobile ads across multiple mobile publishers and devices will become much easier as agency-side and publisher-side players increase integration efforts. Tracking and analysis of mobile activity is also maturing quickly and will be catching up with display standards as companies like Ringleader enable unique tracking across publishers. In 2010, we will also see growth in the use of rich media advertising in mobile devices.
8. Social campaign management and tracking
There's no need to reiterate the critical importance of social media in the marketing mix. Over the last two years we've seen numerous approaches to social marketing experimented by marketers including Facebook apps, branded widgets, in-banner twittering, YouTube video uploads from ads, and many more. Yet, a few big questions remain unanswered: How do you scale social campaigns? How do you track social marketing effectively and incorporate it into and compare it with other channels?
As efforts in this space reach a critical mass, in 2010 we may see innovations coming from companies like Radian6, Spiral16, Techrigy and Viralheat.
9. Trackable outdoor advertising
With the explosion of outdoor digital media outlets in places like billboards, elevators, taxis, etc. the advent of scalable outdoor digital advertising is inevitable. The development of tracking technologies could expedite growth of this emerging channel. Image processing technology companies like Quividi are able to measure not only audience reach, but also viewer attributes like gender and age and even estimate the level and duration of active attention to ads.
10. Shift from creative design to development
Things are changing not only on the media front, but also in the creative agency world. While in the past the creative production process was owned and driven by creative, eccentric and , cool designer types, today creative agencies have opened up to the "nerd" community, including more and more code developers in the process. These developers are increasing empowered and are raising the bar of break-through creative, turning banner ads into complete mini-sites, introducing multi-player in-banner games, enabling live chat and video interaction, and much more.
So, as you bid farewell to 2009 and ponder your new-year resolutions for 2010, take note of the immense richness and stimulation this space has to offer year in and year out and get your hands dirty with as many new things as you can. Happy digital new year!