Ad blocking, data, adtech and multi device were the buzzwords on everyone’s lips this year – but what lasting impact did they leave on the performance marketing industry as we go into 2016?

Ad blocking made us all question quality, business models and best practice

As Apple announced its in-built ad-blocking software in 2015 adoption rates soared to over 1.3 million users at last count, according to the IAB; the bar has been forced to push for higher quality, more user-centric advertising. It’s no secret that annoying ads repel consumers – a study released by Millward Brown in May showed that just 36% felt favourable towards online ads. The key to a new phase in a world where adblocking is an undeniable force is putting the user first, championing best practice such as effective audience segmentation, frequency capping and audience duration, which help drive higher ROI results for customers.  Advertisers must meet user expectations if they are to earn their goodwill and be confident they are a person receptive to their message. 

Building a more audience-centric relationship between users and advertisers will help ensure that more information and content remains free – and put quality at the top of the industry’s agenda.

The mad-tech era became law

As ad tech became highly embedded in the media landscape, it became the centre of an unprecedented media agency review storm. Those agencies that came under fire learnt the hard way that, thanks to the way in which tech platforms have transformed how marketers work, they now have an unrelenting need for data-centric strategies fuelled by transparency and ROI. 

The influence of ad tech has not only meant a switch up in agency/brand relationships but a fundamental reworking of the agency business model. AdRoll’s report: ‘Welcome to the Era of Mad Tech’, revealed that 87% of agencies have in fact changed their business model this year to reflect the role of technology-driven solutions. And this is affecting not just organisations, but people too. Of the agencies we surveyed, 80% said the rise of ad tech means media buyers are evolving more into tech strategists and traders while 88% said media planners are now evolving into data analysts. 

The fight for top talent became even tougher

Big consumer brands have long assumed they were the natural choice for top talent. But throughout 2015 that assumption came under threat as tech companies became swamped with hopeful enquiries. In the first quarter of the year, Yahoo received almost 43,000 applications for vacancies – around 150 for each post.

With the ever-growing demand for tech-focused skills becoming universally paramount, the most talented people out there are now likely to come from the tech world. With this in mind, a solid hiring strategy has increasingly become as important as a business strategy. But how do tech platforms fight the big guns at Google and Yahoo when trying to attract expertise? 

They simply need to blow their own trumpet when it comes to attracting and nurturing talent. Smaller tech firms offer driven individuals the chance to solve problems that many larger companies haven’t been able to tackle. With technology platforms focusing all their resources on developing the most advanced algorithms for digital advertising, it’s become the most exciting place to be for the industry’s brightest people. The opportunity to be part of such a fast-moving, agile business is what attracts many passionate and dedicated people to tech firms, whether they have the perks of Facebook or are still working out of a basement. 

Brands came to the data party

In the rush for data, businesses have often leapt from first-party straight to third-party, which has come with issues of efficiency, pricing and best practice. But in 2015, brands across Europe saw the value in uniting to share their second-party data, creating a rich pool of information that ultimately makes it easier for marketers to reach new customers. Data sharing cooperatives allow businesses to pool resources to the mutual benefit of all involved by tapping into fresh, anonymised data. It marks a giant leap towards marketers finally being able to unlock the true value of big data. 

Multi device became the norm for consumers – but marketers need to catch up

2015 saw Ofcom declare the UK a ‘smartphone society’, with a third of internet users saying the smartphone is the most important device for going online. But the chasm between consumers and marketers was made apparent in the ‘State of the Industry’ report at the start of the year, showing that 44% of marketers weren’t retargeting on mobile. Of those surveyed, 36% said it was because user experience wasn’t good. In 2016, marketers need to make a concerted effort to close this gap and make a virtue of mobile formats, seeing them as opportunities rather than limitations.

As mobile grows to become an ever influential platform next year, the new world of engagement is measured by the ability to reach people more effectively. Looking forward, marketers need to leverage technology to accurately profile the user-journey from one device to the next so they can better tailor their messages to match the different points of this journey.

Retargeting moved on from being a niche tactic

Throughout 2015 retargeting rapidly developed from being simply a tool to let marketers collect, analyse and act on the customer intent data, to becoming a key influencer in marketing strategy. The ‘State of the Industry’ report revealed that 60% of European marketers said that the top marketing objective of retargeting campaigns is now brand awareness. 

B2B marketers, for example, are using retargeting campaigns to gain crucial leads at the same time as promoting a distinct brand message and educational organisations can use retargeting to build awareness with potential new students through every step of this long-term journey. Retail brands are, of course, leading the way in driving sales through retargeting, but can also tailor their messages to different audiences to build brand loyalty or entice lapsed customers back to their site. Retargeting has moved on from being purely a sales tactic to a full advertising solution.