Some years are milestones for the digital advertising industry: in 2000, PointRoll — a founding company that became Cofactor — served the first rich media ad, in 2010 Apple created the tablet market by releasing the first iPad, in 2012 Facebook’s IPO demonstrated that advertising on social media is extremely valuable, and 2013 was the first year time spent with digital media surpassed time spent watching TV. As 2014 draws to a close, we have a few ideas about how the year will be remembered.
Winner: The Year of Personalization at Scale
The availability of data for digital marketing purposes has dramatically changed the way marketers can reach their target audience. We’ve generally accepted that the traditional purchase funnel no longer exists; instead, consumers are on circular decision-making journeys, and decisions are made at the moment of need. Brands must continuously evaluate whether their marketing is addressing consumer needs based on context; in other words, using data to inform ads in real-time is a required digital strategy.
For automotive brands, this may mean rethinking the traditional marketing tiers, enabling national campaigns to make the kind of personal connections that usually occur at the dealer level. We also see CPG advertisers using audience data to deliver tailored messages based on demographic information, taking a tactic straight from the direct response playbook, and repurposing it for branding efforts. Similar shifts are happening across industries, as advertisers seek out partners that make it easy to make instantaneous decisions about creative based on first- and third-party data, for campaigns big and small. These advertising techniques are not only popular, but also profitable: eMarketer predicts that by 2016, the US data-driven digital display market will grow to $20.4B, or 63% of all digital display media.
Runner Up: Dominance of the Mobile App
Apps have long dominated time spent on mobile devices, due largely to the massive amount of time spent on social media. In 2014, that trend continued: seven out of every eight minutes spent on a mobile device is in-app. For advertisers, this means building ads for not only different browsers and screen sizes, but also navigating the many SDKs involved in app development. App environments frequently make it difficult for ads to be viewed correctly, if at all, especially when video is involved. Without a partner able to navigate the complexities of the mobile environment, advertisers might as well stick to static banners – the horror!
Runner Up: HTML and Flash, Working Together
More and more time is being spent on mobile devices (which means more ads are being served to mobile devices – just ask your ad server for a report showing impressions by device type), and most mobile environments do not support Flash. In 2014, many advertisers saw that if you build only in Flash, around 30% of your ads are served as defaults in mobile environments. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that ads should be built solely in HTML5 either, as some great functionality might be lost on desktop. The best solution is to create assets for both HTML and Flash environments, and serve whatever version is needed depending on the user’s recognizable device. HTML5 and Flash technologies are not mutually exclusive – this year, they cooperated to improve overall campaign delivery.
Runner Up: Video Platforms Take Center Stage
Consumption of video online, across devices, has been growing steadily for some time. In 2014 some major players in display decided to take bold steps to prepare for a future where video is significant. Through acquisitions, both Yahoo and Facebook entered the video platform market, while DSPs with video offerings are going to great lengths to demonstrate their superiority. Ad tech activity is driven by the needs of advertisers, who understand that TV viewing is shifting to digital platforms, and it is easier than ever to consume video content on desktop, laptop, and mobile devices. After this year, any digital advertising solution without an offering in video cannot be considered anything other than niche.