Online display continues to reinvent and refine itself at a rapid pace, with changes affecting all areas of the discipline from tracking, targeting and formats. While mobile and tablet activity continue to increase their share of the display market, there are many positive changes in store in the online ecosystem.

2014 is the year in which online display activity makes great strides towards better accountability. While arguments about the validity of post-mpression conversions in direct response campaigns have always existed, the imminent introduction of DoubleClick’s Active View product will improve clients’ trust in the metric to some degree.

Active View, which will allow “viewed impressions” (based on the IAB definition of a minimum of 50% of the creative being on-screen for a minimum of one second) to be linked to DFA conversions, is not yet a perfect metric, but will go some way to clarifying what percentage of the 40 – 50% of network/exchange impressions that never appear on the screen is responsible for artificially inflating conversion events.

Assesing the role of display

Hopefully this new metric will improve both client confidence in the medium and motivate sites to improve their design and build to take into account how users interact with online content in order to guarantee clients advertising value. As well, it will force all parties to better assess the role of display in the media mix and prompt improved attribution that takes into account display’s unique drand and direct response properties.

Programmatic will continue to evolve, but in order to cement its position as the backbone of performance activity, will need to improve inventory sources and introduce greater transparency with regards to where inventory is running. As well, the logics used to decide impression bids need to be able to produce quantifiable target inventory volumes.

Unfortunately, there is a finite quantity of top quality impressions available at any time and clients need to be advised about the likelihood of winning their actual target audience given the amount of competition in the market.

There also needs to be a greater discussion about the role of humans in optimising, as algorithms can only do so much if the campaign is poorly set up and managed. Clients who lose faith in programmatic early on are unlikely to embrace it again so fully.

Questioning the long tail

In addition, clients are starting to question the quality of low cost “long-tail” sites that have historically resulted in low CPAs. Common sense dictates that premium brands need to place greater emphasis on the “right place” component of the ideal targeting equation.

As the increased use of Content Verification specialists has highlighted that, while inexpensive, the vast majority of these long-tail sites are of such poor calibre, there is little benefit to appearing on them (other than a shaky Post Impression result). In fact, they could be detrimental to Brand Consideration.

Trading Desks and RTB specialists need to find a more clearly defined middle ground between Private Market Places and pure audience targeting that satisfies both the requirement for decent online property and cost effective media.

Reducing costs

But these are not the only developments. Traditional large and high impact brand formats are increasingly colliding with programmatic buying in an attempt to truly isolate the much sought after “right user at the right time” for all stages of the display funnel and to reduce the costs associated with running premium takeovers (which are often associated with high investments and impression wastage).

In addition to new specialists like Undertone, expect to see mainstream sites and portals start to offer more homepage inventory on a highly targeted basis. Not only will existing brand clients see better value for their ad spend, but brand-shy performance clients will be more willing to test premium placements, given the lower level of investment needed.

In much the same way that video advertising is moving away from shoe-horning a TV advert into a display plan and is becoming a way for brands to engage users in increasingly clever ways, the boundaries between social, native advertising and awareness display will become progressively blurred.

Content-centric campaigns

Display campaigns will start to become more content-centric in their own right and less about “Calls to Action”. Creatives will become, well, creative and will enhance user experience positively in trusted environments off site. Creative technologies like Spongecell will continue to flourish, with features like “Download” being used to distribute new forms of content – the sky is the limit on this one, with new features being developed regularly.

And finally, the realisation that traditional standard format direct response does not work for every client and every product is not new, but there is still very much a place for display in most marketing campaigns. The need will be for more innovative and bespoke solutions, along with honest conversations about what is and isn’t achievable.

The huge volume of available data needs to be aggregated and analysed in improved ways to ensure that planning and targeting decisions are as informed as possible, integrating client-side data and media results from a wealth of different sources, including CRM, site analytics, adserver, content verification, etc.

Display is not television, or print, nor is it PPC. But it has the remarkable attributes of being a fantastic targetable brand medium with wonderful creative possibilities, whose results can be quantified in ways impossible in traditional forms of media. Add in improved tracking and more audience targeted high impact formats and one can expect to see great things in display in the coming year.