In adtech, we talk too much about features and functionality. We just do. I’m guilty of this – sometimes it’s exciting to share what we have built – and why it’s different. We applaud technical innovations like header-bidding and fraud detection – mere decorations – while the whole digital advertising house risks burning down. Consumer trust is in flames – only 20% of people actually enjoy ads, while 53% use ad blockers. And can you blame them?
Amidst adtech’s extreme success, we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture of what advertising is about: people.
It’s the people, duh
Programmatic conquered the world with the dream of automating manual processes and achieving audience powered targeting to deliver right-person, right-message, right-time, but it’s losing its way. The $33 billion industry now struggles with fraud and wasteful imprecision and the thousands of solutions on the market offer only minor evolution – 10% more yield here, 12% less fraud there. What we really need is a revolution.
You see, browser-based cookies – the foundation of the advertising ecosystem – don’t cut it anymore – and will continue to face an uphill battle for the foreseeable future. On an average day, I find myself in two cities and use four WiFi networks, four devices, three browsers, and three email addresses. That’s potentially more than 30 disparate environments collecting data on me.
For a single advertiser to track me all day with cookies, I’d need to downsize to one device, one browser, always enable third-party cookies, and not change locations. This is definitely not where the world is headed, since Americans each own 3.6 devices (up 132% since 2012) and 43% of people worked remotely at least part-time in 2016.
So with this in mind, let’s look at some 2018 trends and see which will support this revolutionary change.
Robots, perhaps counterintuitively, will make us even more human next year. AI already underpins programmatic, but next year we’ll see a big push to use it for other parts of the puzzle – like better creative selection and better visitor profiling. I predict we’ll see it offer a novel approach to visitor identification to kick off the cookie-replacement conversation.
Identity is the Future
People-based Marketing (PBM) has become more than a paper tiger – it is the method that powers the ‘triopoly’ of Google, Facebook and Amazon. It is also the currency and weapon that publisher consortiums can leverage to protect, defend and grow their profile and revenue in this increasingly competitive world. Impressions that are attached to identity (and therefore, real people) perform better, result in more purchases, monetize better and are not fraudulent. Identity activation and measurement will become state of the practice and not just state of the art.
Private marketplaces (PMP)
Publishers are listening to consumer’s gripes about poorly targeted ads and PMPs are an indicator that they’re questing for greater quality. Next year we’ll see more semi-walled gardens pop up to connect better bidders with better buyers. The challenge for advertisers will lie in connecting all the data, so, in 2018, it’s likely that they’ll finally exercise their power to call for a more mutual standard in platform data exchange. A better view of the customer will mean more people-based potential and we will see the continued evolution of CRM DealID and ID-based buying.
Dynamic creative optimization (DCO)
Talk of DCO will dominate the airwaves next year as advertisers produce even righter creative at the right time for the right buyers. And the results will quickly prove themselves. This will become the standard and we’ll look at static creative like we now do black-and-white TV. However, DCO is only as good as the data it’s based upon and so there’s a good chance we’ll see an increased capacity for personalization finally push us over the edge into reexamining the cookie.
Digital advertising has the eyes and attention of billions, but whether the red-hot adtech industry can evolve to keep it has yet to be seen. It’s going to come down to rehabilitating consumer trust and 2018 may prove to be a pivotal year as AI, PMPs, and DCO lead the industry to take real steps toward a people-based revolution.