This concept will be explored in depth at Performance Marketing Insights: London, October 25-26.  

The rise of new devices, online gateways and ad-free environments is completely changing the way we consume and experience the Internet. In an age where large walled gardens increasingly control the hardware, the interface and cross-screen identity and unique data sets, ad tech vendors find it harder to maintain a competitive edge.

How are we going to experience the online world five years from now? What should marketers, publishers and ad tech vendors think about when planning the changes that they will have to introduce in order to survive? While it is extremely difficult to predict the future, especially in the dynamic ad tech industry, there are three trends that will redefine the ecosystem, as we know it today. Those are the rise of messaging apps as the new ‘gateways’ to the online environment, the realisation and massive adoption of virtual and augmented reality and the abundance of built-in ad blockers.    

‘New browsers’

Messaging apps are the new browsers, replacing native apps, which never really provided the navigation experience of web browsers. When bots will become a natural, inherent part of these environments then, together with the evolution of voice control, they will introduce the greatest leap in e-commerce since its origination.

Cementing the dominance of the digital on-demand economy that leverages our increasing need for instant gratification, this leap will practically turn our mobile device into the remote control of our lives, introducing new, major opportunities for marketers. Not only will reaching prospective customers be easier than ever, but also much of the current transaction friction will be minimised, possibly even completely eliminated. Users will spend most of their mobile time in these environments, which are classic for performance & direct response campaigns.

To succeed in such campaigns, marketers will need to double down on their ad personalisation efforts through technologies such as cross-screen retargeting and Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO), and ad tech vendors will need to provide them with the tools to do so. The shift will also require marketers to better measure and quantify the value of different post-view actions by users and sharpen their understanding and use of more performance-based pricing models. This trend can also create a new reality for publishers, as it will increase the already strong dominance of the walled gardens that own these messaging environments, namely Facebook in the West (FB Messenger and Whatsapp), and Tencent (WeChat) in China, who could win large chunks of the ad spend from other publishers.   

Rise of VR

The adoption of Virtual Reality will increase the potential amount of devices used to experience the Internet, further fragmenting the user’s path to conversion. We are living in a connected world where the internet is all around us, exponentially increasing the number of potential touch points marketers have with consumers. Marketers will need to think harder about storytelling and sequencing, as early as in the planning process. They will need to create different creatives for different devices and not just repurpose a creative across screens. They will also need platforms that will enable them to plan, optimise and measure their campaigns across the different screens. Attribution tools will have to be more precise and comprehensive.

In addition, augmented (or mixed) reality adoption will introduce the ability to capture and track our surroundings and our behavior – the exact way we interact with the world. This will significantly increase the amount of ‘events’ that can be captured, increasing the general data noise but opening brand new treasure troves of data that will hopefully lead to more granular segmentation that should result in more refined, personalized ads.     


Finally, there is little doubt that more and more of the new devices and environments will include built-in ad blockers. As opposed to the situation today, where users need to actively opt-out in order to stop receiving ads, ad blockers will be the default in those new ecosystems and users will have to actively opt-in in order to receive ads. This, together with the rise of the ‘viewability’ requirement (buying only the ads that were actually viewed by users), should have an enormous effect on both the quality and the quantity of available supply.

On one hand, marketers will experience an improvement in the quality of the leads that they generate, especially through programmatic private marketplaces, where they will be able to bid on specific audience segments such as ‘users who opted-in to receive ads’ or ‘users who view ads’. On the other hand, it remains unclear whether this improvement in quality will be sufficient in offsetting the loss of overall ads served.

Ultimately, in order to overcome the challenge of ad-blocking, marketers will have to leverage personalisation and be more creative in order to add real value to consumers and generate meaningful engagement.