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2015: How a Year in Digital Marketing Unfolded

2015: How a Year in Digital Marketing Unfolded

In the media we’re obsessed with the next big thing, the new shiny tech or product - and probably with good reason. But in an industry where even trying to seem up to date can make you look hopelessly outmoded, occasionally it still pays to take a look in the rear-view mirror.

Just a cursory look at the data from eMarketer shows that 2015 was a year of firsts. In chronological order, these were: 

Behind all of this of course is the underlying growth of digital, as echoed in Q1’s Advertising Association (AA)/WARC figures – with online channels driving the fastest growth recorded in four years. 

The AA’s CEO Tim Lefroy highlighted that digital ‘no longer lives on the internet’, but rather “in cinemas, outdoor, news, television and elsewhere”. Nowhere is this truer than in the out-of-home sector, where we’ve seen an increasing focus on digital and automation in particular this year.

And in a year where publishers went mobile first (if they hadn’t already) the major search and social multinationals made big moves towards controlling even more of that part of the content supply chain.

With that in mind, it was perhaps of no surprise that we saw a growing number of publishers band together to form co-operatives, pooling inventory and data in an effort to achieve greater scale, efficiencies and competitive advantage. 

To date we’ve seen five new co-operatives launched this year alone – four nationally, and one, Pangaea, which is global in its focus. With the launch of RPA Media Place in Argentina, publisher cooperatives reached out beyond Europe for the first time. 

Due to movements in 2015, we can expect many more publishers around the world to embrace this trend over the coming year.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an article on advertising or media this year without at least a nod to 2015’s cause celèbre, ad blocking. Amid the furore around tools that block certain forms of inventory has been the usual case of overstating the short term and understating the long-term effect of this, which, if acted upon correctly, could present an opportunity for users and media alike.

Ironically, the mainstream media was at times its own worst enemy in terms of spreading misinformation - summed up recently by a piece in the Sunday Times that referred to cookies as ‘bots’, not to mention the Today Programme’s one-sided coverage of the topic. As usual, it pays to avoid the din and meditate on what positives we can draw.  

The main point to note is that, as the dust settles, we will most likely see ad blocking as an important stage in digital advertising’s path to maturity

It should also be treated as a key opportunity for technology platforms, publishers and (yes) buyers alike to re-evaluate, improve and build closer relationships with their audience, creating an ad experience that is less intrusive and more relevant to the daily lives of consumers. 

It’s an inflection point to remind people of the huge benefits of advertising – namely the ability to enjoy all of the incredible content that we do on a daily basis. The blocking of advertising serves to prevent all this, robbing the lifeblood of a truly free internet. 

In 2015, the media’s obsession with the newest technology or innovation has been both positive and negative in equal measure.

Positive in the sense that we are forward-thinking and open minded – and how else could we be in an industry that places so much emphasis on creativity? 

The negative is perhaps less well documented. It lies in the old adage about those not learning from history being doomed to repeat it. 

And if it’s also true that our industry is one of the fastest changing out there, and moving at an ever-faster pace, if anything it’s more pertinent than ever. 

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James Brown

James Brown

James is the UK managing director of Rubicon Project - an ad platform which facilitates the automated sale of inventory across the web.

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