Tag Archive: targeting

  1. Why the decline of the online tracking ecosystem could be the start of a golden age for digital advertising

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    Advertising without digital is like transport without engines. Yes it’s possible and yes there is something quite charming about it, but it’s old-fashioned and less efficient: once you’ve tasted modernity, you can’t go back. Digital advertising has brought us capabilities beyond the 20th century marketer’s dreams: individual targeting based on behaviour and preferences, as well as cross-device tracking, programmatic buying and real-time optimisation.

    Much of that was made possible by the humble cookie, but after 25 years its very existence is under threat. Indeed, tracking online activity is a house of cards that has been slowly but steadily collapsing over the last few years thanks to ad blocking, browsers blocking cookies, the rise of walled gardens and cookie-free environments such as apps, connected TVs and the Facebook stack, and privacy regulations. But what does that mean for advertising? In truth, no one really knows. Should marketers be quaking in their boots? Will programmatic die along with the cookie? Is the cookie even dying? In all the uncertainty, we can be sure of one thing: digital advertising will change and the successful marketer will be the one who adapts.

    Look beyond the cookie for reach, frequency and frequency capping

    Cookies can still be used to track and control reach and frequency in Google’s Chrome browser, which still has a majority market share in many countries, although its key competitors – notably Firefox and Apple’s Safari – have smart cookie-blocking technologies activated by default. This means that all browsers except Chrome are a black hole for measuring reach and frequency based on cookie data. Furthermore, Google is moving towards an opt-in version of cookie blocking, making the future of cookie-based tracking precarious.

    One solution for ensuring that reach, frequency and frequency capping are still tracked effectively is the use of audience verification services, for example Nielsen DAR and ComScore vCE. These services validate delivery, reach and frequency for real human audiences with much less reliance on cookies. However, very few advertisers outside the US invest in these products – we expect this to change as the cookie continues to decline.

    A return to contextual marketing

    Targeting is another area that will be dramatically affected by the change in the tracking landscape – and nowhere is this truer than in programmatic buying. Much of what we recognise as programmatic buying relies on the cookie and is therefore likely to decline. That doesn’t however mean that DSPs will become useless: marketers will still be able to efficiently handle direct, high-quality publisher deals, as well as buy lower cost, mixed quality data-free inventory across select sites on the open web.

    While the ability to target individuals on the open web is likely to decrease with the collapse of the tracking house of cards, contextual targeting is set to explode. Contextual targeting is based on the content the user is looking at, rather than their behaviour profile, meaning that ads are more likely to be relevant to their current activity. It puts an emphasis on the placement of the ad, so is similar in that respect to traditional print advertising – the focus is on producing and distributing relevant content. This approach allows advertisers to deliver marketing messages to consumers when they are in a specific situation or frame of mind; as consumer behaviour becomes more fragmented and unpredictable, taking the guesswork out of advertising can only be a win.

    Contextual targeting is not just an answer to the demise of the cookie: it is also an antidote to many of the issues around brand risk and safety, and is a way to be less dependent on the personal data that is so heavily regulated by GDPR and CCPA.

    Is this digital advertising’s moment?

    While the collapse of the digital advertising house of cards may seem catastrophic to brands who have relied on precise targeting in their advertising strategies, in reality it opens as many doors as it closes. Indeed, with consumers now spending more time in apps than in longtail websites, making programmatic audience-targeting even more challenging, many marketers will already be exploring ways to bypass programmatic altogether. The resultant high quality, content-focused advertising is pushing out and replacing click-bait strategies. Perhaps the decline in the online tracking ecosystem will herald a golden age for digital advertising because, ironically, the shift away from targeting individuals will lead to a better user experience.

    Image: Shutterstock

  2. The streaming revolution: should marketers be worried about ad-free streaming?

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    The New York Times recently observed that Hollywood experiences a seismic shift every three decades or so. In the 1920s it was the shift from silent films to ones with sound, while in the 1950s it was the rise of broadcast television and the 1980s saw the cable boom.

    As we draw to the end of the 2010s, a new seismic shift is rapidly increasing its pace. The streaming revolution is upon us, and the big three of the entertainment industry – Disney, Warner Media and NBC Universal – have either recently launched their streaming services, or will do soon. On the whole this is great news for consumers, particularly wealthier ones, who have a huge amount of high-quality content and their fingertips, although it comes at a cost, of course. It is, however, less welcome for the traditional broadcasters and cable channels, who are seeing their viewer numbers decrease at an alarming rate. In the US there was a 5.4% decrease in cable subscribers in Q2 of this year.

    TV has for at least 70 years been at the heart of the advertising strategies of advertisers big and small around the world: where does this latest shift leave them? And should they be worried?

    Better content, more choice, no ads

    The modern consumer has more choice and control than at any other time in history, and they are more connected than ever: 50% of the US and UK populations have a connected TV, and that figure is expected to continue growing. These consumers are increasingly choosing to consume video content from the new streaming services over the more traditional broadcast channels. Why? There are two key reasons: the quality of the content available, and the fact that the majority of them are ad-free, so they can watch their favourite shows without interruption. A huge 60% of adults in the US were subscribed to a streaming service in 2019, while in 2018 Netflix use alone surpassed cable and satellite TV for the first time. With the glut of new streaming services – mostly ad-free – launching at the end of this year and the beginning of next, those figures will only increase.

    If it affects consumers, it affects advertisers

    As consumers leave traditional TV in their droves, advertisers are having to work out rapidly what it all means for them. Of course, if consumers are flocking to ad-free services, that makes reaching them much more difficult. This is particularly the case for wealthier consumers – a key target audience thanks to their buying power – who are more able to pay to rid their viewing experience of ads. The high-quality ad spots that do continue to reach large numbers of consumers – think live sport and of-the-moment experiences such as the Oscars – will increase in cost dramatically. Indeed, many TV media owners will be rethinking their inventory strategy and may well have fewer, higher impact ad spots for which advertisers pay a premium. This is also more likely to be acceptable for viewers as it will likely mean shorter ad spots with higher quality advertising.

    Advertisers must to an extent accept some of the responsibility for the migration to the ad-free services. Consumers are fleeing ads because they are all too often repetitive, irrelevant and uninteresting. If advertisers can transform their strategies and the quality of their advertising and targeting, consumers will be far more forgiving of an interruption of the programme they are watching.

    Technology will help: many traditional TV broadcasters are embracing technology in order to allow them to shift to programmatic, highly targeted buying, for example Sky’s AdSmart addressable offering which has rolled out across multiple markets over recent months. This will help increase relevance but, as we explore in this article, it’s not necessarily the answer for brands seeking mass reach – TV’s traditional USP.

    It all comes down to targeting

    Amid all the talk about the streaming revolution, there are many saying that it’s not over for TV. There are undoubtedly still many people watching scheduled TV; particularly for non-US audiences, local broadcasters have expertise in creating culturally and contextually relevant content that the mainly American streaming services aren’t yet doing. There is also the paradox of choice – with endless options available to them on the streaming services, there is evidence that many feel overwhelmed and gravitate back to traditional TV when they don’t know what to watch. And of course live events such as sporting fixtures will always attract viewers – although whether they remain on traditional broadcast TV remains to be seen.

    However, whether people are still watching scheduled TV or not misses the point. Effective advertising is all about targeting, and if a large proportion of your target audience is absent from a channel, targeting becomes far more complex. This is especially true as the future of the cookie looks increasingly uncertain: indeed, Google may follow the lead of other browsers and further restrict the use of third-party cookies on Chrome.

    The answer for marketers is, of course, to rethink, to innovate. Where do the new opportunities lie? Are there other channels and strategies that will deliver on your objectives, or will you need to increase your TV budget to secure those high-impact, high-quality spots? Creating, implementing and learning from a great media strategy will become ever more crucial as marketers strive to understand what works, and why.

    Image: Shutterstock