It’s been quite a year in digital advertising. Over the past 12 months, we’ve addressed transparency issues with newfound determination, launching industry-wide initiatives like Ads.txt to wipe out the scourge of ad fraud. Platforms and publishers have begun making their inventory available for programmatic buying across new channels and devices, giving advertisers more control, deeper measurement and added efficiency in their digital campaigns. The result is a digital advertising ecosystem that’s getting healthier by the day.
Looking ahead to 2018, we can only assume that programmatic advertising will continue growing alongside the widespread consumer shift toward mobile devices and connected TV. As people become more engaged with these touchpoints, publishers will open up even more inventory to programmatic buying and advanced digital measurement. In 2017, total programmatic spend grew by 27.8% to $32.5 billion — and we believe this is only just the beginning. In 2018, digital advertising will hit its stride in a way we’ve never seen before.
Here are 5 predictions for what we’ll see in digital advertising over the coming year:
1. Marketers Control Their Digital Ad Placements At Scale
While 2017 unveiled many marketers’ concerns about the level of control they had over their digital ad placements, programmatic will actually help advertisers get to sleep at night in 2018. Via programmatic buying, advertisers can regain clarity and regulation of their campaigns across all available inventory on digital. Media fragmentation is at an all-time high, which means there are more sites and publishers with available inventory than ever before. Through programmatic, brands can control – with granularity and certainty – where their ad appears with a well-curated and monitored white list.
This means that advertisers can see specifically where each ad is placed, as well as the details around each impression, and the understanding of how each media dollar is spent. Robust reporting is a standard benefit of programmatic and it provides brands full transparency into the effect of each digital ad placement.
Advertisers can exercise full control over their digital campaigns – without sacrificing scale or insights – using automation and precision targeting to execute all aspects of digital marketing, across display, mobile, video, native, audio and even connected TV. At last, advertisers can rest easy in 2018, knowing exactly where their ads are placed and how their budget is being invested.
2. Connected TV Goes Primetime
Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few years, you’re probably well aware that today’s consumers are using connected devices to watch television content. But in 2018, advertisers will finally get serious about reaching this highly desirable, fast-growing audience.
The groundwork for the upcoming surge in connected TV advertising was laid in 2016 and 2017, when content providers began making more of their inventory available for programmatic buying. Now, advertisers can use the TV screen to activate the same audience they’re messaging in their ongoing digital campaigns. This also means that brands can target TV viewers using the same data-driven insights that power their desktop and mobile advertising.
Additionally, Connected TV empowers advertisers to retarget these internet-connected TVs’ IP addresses, allowing them to extend their campaign to the other devices in the home. From a measurement perspective, this retargeting provides advertisers with a better understanding of how their TV audiences behave on the other devices they own. By adding Connected TV to their existing digital campaigns, brands can get a full-funnel look at the consumer’s path to purchase.
3. The Entire Digital Supply Chain Cleans Up
One of the most encouraging developments of 2017 was the introduction of ads.txt, an Interactive Advertising Bureau initiative aimed at protecting the digital marketplace from fraudulent inventory. By placing an ads.txt file onto their web servers, publishers can let buyers know which exchange partners are actually authorized to sell their inventory, ensuring brands don’t wind up purchasing inventory that’s listed as New York Times but actually runs on an obscure or inappropriate website.
In 2018, the industry’s focus on brand safety will intensify even further. In the wake of this year’s YouTube advertiser boycott and Chase’s faulty media plan, marketers have been getting serious about white lists and inventory quality. Next year, companies will move from a reactive approach to marketplace quality to a proactive one.
In a way, the change we’re seeing in ad fraud is similar to the one that the credit card industry went through 10 years ago. In those days, it was difficult for consumers to be reimbursed when people stole their information and made fraudulent purchases. Now, the whole process takes just 30 seconds — and consumers are often alerted that they’ve been reimbursed before they’ve even noticed that fraud has occurred. As we announced this summer, advertisers are gaining the same proactive coverage on their campaigns with the ability to identify the quality of an impression before they even bid on it.
4. Cross-Device Adoption Hits The Mainstream
Consumers are increasingly comfortable switching between their various devices throughout the day, with shoppers now using an average of nearly six touchpoints every time they purchase a product. Meanwhile, the rise of programmatic Connected TV means advertisers can now run programmatic campaigns across all of the major media touchpoints their customers use. In the coming year, advertisers will increasingly organize their digital buying around this omnichannel reality.
If nothing else, consumer-centric advertising gives buyers unprecedented insight into how their audience engages with their ads, as they can see how each customer responds to their messaging on desktop, smartphone, tablet and television environments. In 2018, brands will use this detailed information to tailor their omnichannel messaging. Frequency capping, a tactic used by marketers to limit the number of times an ad is shown to a single person, regardless of where the user encounters the ad, will be incorporated into even more campaigns as more advertisers take holistic approaches to their plan.
More broadly, brands will begin breaking down the silos that have previously existed between their media buying departments. Rather than breaking out their planning into separate organizations for mobile, television and desktop, marketers will embrace a screen-agnostic approach that allows them to better serve a consumer base that is continuously shifting between devices. Instead of trying to pin users down to a single device, marketers will consolidate their operations and start buying against audiences rather than channels.
5. Advertisers, Agencies And Tech Companies All Have Seats At The Table
This past year has been a massive leap forward for brand marketers in terms of their understanding of programmatic buying. Across the spectrum, advertisers are demanding more education and control over their own programmatic pipes.
But while brands are getting their hands dirty with programmatic technology, the vast majority of them aren’t going to go it alone. In the coming year, we actually expect to see brands form closer relationships with both their media agencies and their DSP partners. That’s because each of these parties offers unique expertise that advertisers can’t find anywhere else. The agencies have unparalleled insight into strategy and technical execution, while the technology platform is able to help the brand with programmatic tactics, data, measurement and optimization.
This alliance fosters transparency between technology platform, agency and brand, with technology platforms providing granular, nuanced reporting, agencies interpreting the insights to influence and inspire strategies for their brand, and brands feeling informed and up-to-date. As I mentioned earlier, the beauty of programmatic is that advertisers can curate and select exactly where their ads will run, and also review the effects of each impression and dollar spent. A strong relationship between the brand, agency and technology platform enhances this notion even more.
Advertisers will need expertise in order to navigate a complex and changing digital landscape, and regain confidence in the knowledge of their campaign activity. Though some companies will attempt to create teams that deliver this expertise in-house, most of them will find that it’s faster, easier and more cost-efficient to simply call their partners when they need help.
As you can tell, I’m extremely bullish on the future of digital advertising. With the rise of programmatic and the growing popularity of omnichannel marketing, there are now more ways than ever for brands to meaningfully connect with their audiences. In 2018, there is no doubt that marketers around the world will dream up fresh, creative campaigns to take advantage of the reach, targeting and control that programmatic offers.
I can’t wait to see what comes next.