Through the looking glass: what’s in store for ‘madtech’?

What should the ‘madtech’ world be thinking about as we dust off 2018? 

The pending Identity wars

Many column inches will once again be dedicated to the pros and cons of probabilistic versus deterministic IDs. Digital identity will become the new battleground, and those that own it will display little sympathy for those that don’t, as it increasingly becomes a USP to lock in media budgets.

Device graphs will be trendy once again. Next year they will be the must-have accessories as consumer time fragments even further from desktop, mobile web, app, over the top (OTT) and increasingly the devices powered by the growing IoT’s infrastructure.

ID coalitions and joint ventures will come and go. Some will focus on building a more efficient cookie to increase match rates for buyers and sellers while others will build a common probabilistic and screen agnostic ID that will help brands and agencies manage holistic reach, frequency and attribution across their myriad of programmatic media buys in the face of walled gardens and browsers restricting third-party cookies (think ITP and beyond!).

There will be cries and demands. Both the buy and sell-side want a common framework when it comes to identity. The question of who should own this will be a moot point, but still be debated at great length on many panels next year. Should identity be a commodity or USP? Time will tell…

Data Portability

There will be a growing appetite from chief marketing officers to be able to extract and apply their data holistically across each walled garden. It may sound far-fetched as identity is tightly controlled by the few but how will the many manage the basics of planning and buying such as frequency without it?

Brands and their agencies will become increasingly frustrated that the siloed insights they are receiving are effectively rendering their DMPs and CDPs redundant when it comes to the interpretation and activation of their data assets at the macro, not micro level.

If we’re ever going to reach the utopia of buying audiences and not screens, portability of data and specifically identity will be a necessity, not a luxury. 2018 was the year brands commanded supply transparency. I genuinely believe 2019 will be the year they ask for basic rights when it comes to digital ID management and ownership.

Voice search creating brand bypass

As smart speakers adoption grows, we’re going to continue to see stats next year that reference the decline of traditional search as voice search rises. This is going to create a lot of opportunity and disruption to many, as ‘brand bypass’ starts to set in. If somebody shouts at their speaker for batteries, razors or cheese, how will the speaker order if a brand name is not used prior to the request?

There will be lots of questions from brands in this area as concerns around speaker owners also being competing retail merchants begin to grow. In 2018, brands can capture intent online with paid search but this dynamic is changing quickly due to the growth of voice that is less than easy to get in front of in the connected homes of tomorrow.

Portable bidding logic

Many are going to start to think about owning their bidding logic. What do I mean? Well, some DSPs already let smart buyers play around with bidding logic and create custom features.

However, from the conversations I’ve had recently, it sounds like the ability for a brand or agency to port custom bidding logic from one DSP to another is still severely limited due to interoperability restrictions. Again, many will say I am daydreaming when I suggest this, but the way bidding logic works for a seat selling luxury cars will be completely different from the way it would work for another seat looking to sell moisturiser.

As brands and their agencies are forced to use more, not less DSPs as each start to create tangible USPs such as access to O&O supply or 1st party data. Sophisticated client trading desks and agencies will start to look for DSPs that can ingest their own proprietary bidding logic in a plug and play fashion so they can switch in and out new execution layers based on features like QPS, price, service, supply (audio, DOOH, OTT etc), data, device graphs et al.

The application of blockchain in madtech moves beyond PPT

Yes, I am aware that blockchain in madtech is a bit of a joke to those who live and breathe the sector (many think it’s vapourware and too slow to support OpenRTB), however, there is no escaping the fact that both brands and publishers will continue to intensify their asks around transparency in 2019.

If ‘madtech’ vendors and agencies do not self-regulate, concepts such as a distributed ledger ‘public’ or ‘private’ are going to start to look more attractive by the day.

As I write this, two major holding companies have already released their intentions to support a blockchain framework (DAN and GroupM), many big brands such as Toyota are also exploring and have adopted to support their advertising strategies. I see blockchain like programmatic 10 years ago, we are still at the conceptual stages and it is far easier to bash than it is to enter into meaningful conversations.

To summarise, many reports have suggested that funding for new ad and martech entrants is going to dry up in 2019. Boy did I laugh when I read that. There has never been so much change and opportunity in the industry. To name a few areas:

OOH – The M&A in this sector right now is bonkers, think Global taking out Primesight, Outdoor Plus and Exterion. Like TV, OOH is an area that resonates really well with both consumers and advertisers and the opportunity to extract even further value via the application of tech and data is exciting to many. There is going to be so much innovation in DOOH over the next 12 months and lots of opportunities for existing and new entrants.

OTT – So much has already been written about the migration of linear TV budgets due to this new world of CTV via OTT environments and many in madtech are going to see the tide rise for them. It has already been proven that large demographics globally are increasingly difficult to reach via linear broadcasts (AKA cord cutters) and they are only accessible to advertisers via addressable channels. Those in the video data, sell side and activation space are each going to be building their features and honing their narratives for this lucrative opportunity in 2019 and beyond.

Expect many new OTT entrants specifically in the data and measurement area as new protocols and standards continue to be agreed by industry constituents.

So here’s the bottom line: identity will feature heavily in discussions next year and ‘portability’ will be a theme that dominates. The digital advertising sector is an amazing place to be right now and I can’t wait for 2019, times are a-changin’.

Read the original article published in The Drum.

Not sure what to see at Advertising Week New York? With so many venues, speakers and topics, it can be overwhelming! We’ve broken down the three areas which continue to dominate discussions within the ad industry. We’ve also highlighted the talks we are looking forward to around each topic.

Why are people still talking about Blockchain?

It feels like we have been talking about blockchain forever, and that’s because we have. Ten years in fact! The first blockchain was conceptualised back in 2008 to serve as the public transaction ledger of the cryptocurrency bitcoin. It’s come a long way since then and many people believe that the technology will revolutionise numerous markets including the advertising sector.

With problems of fraud, complicated supply chains and lack of control over data privacy, many believe that blockchain could help to bring some transparency back into digital advertising. They believe this will be done replacing the current online model with one in which companies have more control over campaign performance tracking, and ensuring equitable outcomes.

Whatever your thoughts are on the technology it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. There are lots of discussions and talks planned around how it could disrupt digital advertising next week.

What to see at Advertising Week New York

Out of all the talks on blockchain this year, we’re especially looking forward hearing Venture Capitalist Bill Tai’s Blockchain Crash Course. This is happening on Thursday afternoon on the IBM Watson stage.

How much longer do I have to wait until machines can think for me?

AI is advancing all the time and Google recently revealed Duplex. This gives their Assistant the ability to make calls on your behalf. It can also book appointments for you like your haircut, or a table at your favourite restaurant! Scary I know!

Boston based emotional intelligence company Affectiva are also working on software which will allow AI to read facial expressions. This will open up the possibility of assistants being able to make recommendations to us without us needing to say a word to them!

AI robots

More and more companies are creating voice assistants, and piggybacking on the tech of Alexa, Google or Messenger to create specialised assistants. A good example of this is Diageo’s “Open the bar”, or Estée Laude offering nutritional advice, where you have the dialogue with the brand, not Alexa.

Our Futurist, Elena Corchero recently wrote an article around how AI and future tech will change the way brands communicate with consumers. She believes that if brands are not careful they will easily get bypassed by other tech savvy competitors. AI will be a huge talking point at Advertising Week.

What to see at Advertising Week New York

After appearing on our Home Show Live, we are looking forward to hearing IV.AI’s views on the impact of AI on different industries. We are also looking forward to IBM kicking off the week with their ‘Survival of the Fittest in an AI World’ talk.

Is retail dead yet?

shopping mall

Over the past year the conversation around retail has changed. Many thought that physical stores would eventually shut down and everything would move online. Although we have seen a lot of store closures and retail chains disappearing in the US, many retailers have embraced the digital era. They are finding new ways to attract customers with combined on and offline advertising campaigns.

Rather than seeing the online space as separate to the physical store, many retailers are combining their approach and using digital to attract customers to their stores. Amazon opened their first physical store in the US last year. It allows customers to shop by simply taking products off the shelf and charging them directly rather than having to queue at a till.

The online US lingerie company Adore Me opened their first physical stores last year. After seeing the benefits of having a combined on and offline presence, they have announced that they plan to open another 200-300 stores in the US in the next five years.

As retailers continue to see the benefits of a combined on and offline approach, they are looking for their ad campaigns to follow suit. Expect a lot of conversations around the benefits and drawbacks of combining online and offline advertising in campaigns.

What to see at Advertising Week New York

This year there are a number of talks on this subject. We are especially looking forward to hearing SET’s CEO Alasdair Lloyd-Jones on why he believes the retail apocalypse is a myth.

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DMEXCO Insights: This year’s DMEXCO is going to be fantastic! Not only does Unruly have one of the most epic stands we’ve ever had, but we’re also at a point in time when there has never been so much change, disruption, and opportunity within the digital advertising ecosystem.

Photo of the Unruly stand at DMEXCO 2016.

Here are seven questions that I believe will be the most debated topics at DMEXCO 2018, and I’ll be there to quiz some of the world’s biggest brands and advertisers on their thoughts around each one.

Where do brands sit on the bid caching debate?

Many have mooted the benefits for both the buy and sell sides of bid caching when executed in a transparent environment. Others feel there are too many risks associated with the practice, so I’m keen to see how the wind blows on this topic, as auction mechanics are often an emotive subject for all involved.

Who will own digital identity in 2019?

The walls get higher by the day, yet very few ask how brands and their agencies will manage the basics of media buying such as holistic reach, frequency and attribution. I’m keen to see what this will look like, especially considering that every vendor in the near future will be using their own proprietary ID rather than cookies.

What will data portability look like? Will DMPs fold into CDPs? How will attribution modeling work? Is there a need for an independent and agnostic media platform to sit below the walled garden that provides global brands with an ID clearing house/taxonomy, so they can plan and buy more efficiently in the face of ID blindness?

How are publishers winning post GDPR?

I’m looking forward to spending time with premium publishers at both ATS and DMEXCO to  see the unified auction set-up play out. I’m also interested in finding out how publishers are leveraging EBDA, S2S, client side, and a multitude of other configurations to capture and grow their digital revenues in 2018. I’m also going to be talking to publishers about the evolution of auction mechanics: 1st vs. 2nd price, how CMPs have empowered them, and their thoughts on what’s next for header bidding and identity.

How are traditional linear TV budgets migrating to addressable OTT environments?

You don’t have to be Bill Gates to come to the conclusion that the OTT (over the top) opportunity is going to big. It will be big for advertisers that struggle to reach the ‘cord cutter’ audiences who no longer sit in front of linear broadcasts, and it will be a huge revenue opportunity for streaming services like Netflix, should they finally decide to embrace the ad funded route. I also want to better understand how activation, measurement and identity are going to evolve in the OTT space, as many on the LUMAscape rush to conquer that territory.

How big is the audio opportunity?

Out of nowhere, audio programmatic has become big business (think Spotify and Pandora). Brands can now access this supply via direct sold or programmatic partnerships and it’s an area that often sits outside the challenges faced by digital display. As a result, audio programmatic is fast becoming an attractive canvas for marketers and their agencies.

There are still limitations when it comes to data-driven, impression-level buying that the buy side has to expect from programmatic execution. Because of this, I am keen to better understand how audio platforms are building to meet buyer requests in these areas.

Are there any real applications for blockchain in digital advertising yet?

There will be lots of debate at ATS about auction and fees transparency, and I think this year at DMEXCO, we will see a lot of vendors pushing the value of distributed ledgers via their blockchain offerings in order underpin, and address, some of the opaque practices that we have seen reported within the sector.

I’m interested to hear more about how blockchain can support contracts, gather opinions on the reconciliation process of digital advertising, chat about real-time bidding and if they feel speeds are quick enough in 2018.

How are big brands pulling programmatic activation in house?

I’m going to speak to brands who have pulled their programmatic activation in-house, or are planning to do so. I want to better understand their motivations for doing this, and find out how they are planning to manage areas like data and activation vendor selection, auction mechanics, and supply path optimization. I’m curious about the role consultancies may play in this scenario.

One thing is for sure, following the wave of ad and martech M&A we have already seen play out in 2018, the media noise around auction mechanics, publishers taking control post-GDPR, and with the noises made by the consultancies to enter (or invade) our sector, it’s going to be a great few days in Cologne. DMEXCO here we come!

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