As the end of 2015 rolls ever-closer, marketers begin to mull over a cocktail of industry future-gazing and nostalgia.
The online ad industry narrative was dominated this year by issues of ad fraud, viewability and ad blockers, opening up deeper discussions around alternatives, such as content.
The data ‘revolution’ continued to gain momentum, with customer information weaving its way to the fore of a host of marketing strategies. But despite its challenges, digital ad spend continued to rise around the world, showing few signs of tapering off into 2016.
To give marketers a taste of what to expect in the year ahead, Deloitte Digital and Warc have put together a report which lays claim to six marketing trends in digital to look out for in the new year, which we’ll pick apart below.
A growing value of ‘micromoments’ among brands will see an increase in real-time consumer targeting.
This will be aided by, and contribute to, the development of programmatic display technology and location-based marketing, with social media monitoring and path-to-purchase analytics providing the basis of campaigns.
Just last week we saw Microsoft make a move towards 100% programmatic ad inventory in 10 European markets - a landmark in ad tech as a big-brand publisher seeked to diversify its offering.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of consumers are using their mobiles in-store to research products and compare prices, presenting an unmissable opportunity for mobile targeting.
Deloitte and Warc place online video as key to engaging with Generation Z in 2016, with the onus on marketing to mobile and tablets.
Brand ambassadors and influencer marketing plays a crucial role in this content-centric demographic, with celebrities and vloggers wielding huge power.
The report is quick to highlight the “surprisingly high” purchase power of this group, and how quickly they graduate from children’s categories to things like fashion and tech, versus their predecessors.
Moving towards video is all well and good but advertisers are still struggling with providing reliable metrics, while overcoming viewability issues. In fact, 68% of UK video ads were found to be non-viewable earlier this year, and the format is also losing rep points through contextual misplacement and ad fraud.
There’s no doubting the success of influencer marketing, though. Instagram’s new ad service allows brands to access a monthly Gen Z-heavy audience of around 400 million monthly active - and engaged - users.
The digital backlash
The rise in ad spend hasn’t been without growing pains as issues over viewability and ad fraud become more pressing
It’s created an atmosphere of ‘fear and mistrust’ among all parties, consumers included; trade bodies are wrangling over agreed standards. while clients are asking whether their ads are even being viewed.
Ad blocking will remain a “significant” industry issue into 2016, particularly for publishers, while some believe budgets will take a push towards online content and native advertising in efforts to slip under the radar of ad-blocker browser extensions.
Adobe and Pagefair estimating that the use of ad-blocking tools had grown 41% globally between 2014 - 2015 certainly had the industry in dialogue - to the extent that we dedicated a week of coverage to debates around the technology.
AdBlock Plus was the villain in this one, successfully defending two lawsuits from German publishing powerhouse Axel Springer as the latter attempted to sue on the grounds that ‘journalism is a vehicle for delivering advertising’.
The consensus from the optimists, however, is that the growth of ad blockers provides an opportunity for the display industry to evolve its offering, and provide advertising that consumers don’t actively want to block.
The video revolution
Deloitte and Warc reflect on 2015 as a “significant” year for online video, with several social platforms making major moves into video distribution, providing fresh inventory options for advertisers.
With the number of video properties and formats rising into 2016, brand strategies will need to keep pace with the video ‘revolution’, while YouTube will face real competition from Facebook, Vine, Instagram, and Periscope, among others.
Underscoring all of this, and perhaps most relevant to performance marketers, will be programmatic video, allowing advertisers to reach consumers in their living room at the right time, while tying in cross-device strategies.
While applying hard performance metrics - such as clicks and views - to programmatic video remains, as yet, elusive, it hasn’t deterred some of the industry’s bigger players.
Matomy Media very recently coughed up around $25 million for programmatic video ad specialist Optimatic in a bid to provide clients with more ‘engaging’ options.
We’ll be keeping our eyes on other full-service performance marketing groups taking a similar direction.
While not always the best of bed friends, we’ll see an increase in the meshing of data and creativity as advanced technology continues to transform the way audiences choose to consume content.
The challenge, however, is how both skillsets will be bred and developed together within a marketing function, says the report.
This theme of breaking down the boundaries between the marketing and IT departments has been going on for a few years now, and the recurring issue does indeed seem to be that of education.
We interviewed Oracle Marketing Cloud’s VP of marketing, Andrea Ward, recently on this exact subject, who described the modern CMO’s ever-increasing responsibilities as those of a “part artist, part scientist, part politician”. Sounds hard!
New thinking in attribution
It will come as no surprise that attribution is likely to be a consistently present point of discussion throughout 2016, as the availability of more data opens up new opportunities to put a value on channels and usage, in order to optimise campaigns.
Marketers will be attempting to overcome hurdles including “identifying mobile users, constant change, legacy thinking and complex data infrastructures”. But to do this, they’ll need to incorporate data scientists and researchers as early in the campaign as possible.
One area of performance advertising that works on the coalface of attribution is affiliate marketing, whose publishers - or affiliates - rely on advertisers and networks to be able to reward them fairly for the sales they’ve driven.
At the beginning of the year Affiliate Window claimed that the last-click CPA commission model, while appropriate for incentive and cashback publishers, was a “one-size-fits-all” solution that failed to recognise certain levels of influence from publishers belonging to the longtail.
The result was the fairly revolutionary introduction of the 'commission-per-assist' model which serves to reward early contributors within CPA-driven programmes.
Further innovations into content attribution could be set to emerge over the next 12 months.