Digital advertising has evolved tremendously with the advent of new technologies, the evolution of new ad formats, and a shift in the way ads are bought and sold online. The past few years alone have seen more and more branding dollars flowing to digital as the medium proved itself in being able to reach targeted audiences at scale while delivering measurable results for marketers.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg, as there is still a lot to learn and to improve upon in terms of the efficiency and performance of digital ad delivery. So what are the big opportunities on the horizon this year for digital advertising? We talked with our own Anne Hunter to find out. Here’s what she had to say.
Comscore: What are the major opportunities for digital advertising in 2014?
ANNE HUNTER: There are numerous opportunities for digital advertising this year and beyond. Fortunately, digital advertising systems are already in place and are widely used, so a big opportunity is to now bring advertising out of its silos. As an industry, we need to develop cross-platform planning capabilities and measurements that are both real and actionable.
Comscore: Cross-media planning and measurement is a fairly new concept among the industry. How will this potentially change the way advertising is currently bought and sold?
ANNE HUNTER: With audiences consuming content on multiple devices – often at the same time –the need to understand and develop engaging ad campaigns concurrently with platforms has grown about as fast as device proliferation itself.
But the challenge here is that the new multi-platform world requires a radical departure from how things have been done previously from a planning, buying and selling perspective. Traditional media planning and buying has been done in silos, with effectiveness usually determined by a single master mix model. Today, the way we plan and buy advertising has to align with how consumers are actually consuming content across multiple platforms and devices.
In order to make this major shift, the industry needs new tools that have the ability to provide sophisticated person-based attribution across platforms, as well as handle the scale of new data that platforms can now generate, ranging from app starts on a mobile device to set top box logs. It really comes down to managing and analyzing that data, turning it into people-based insights. At the end of the day, companies are selling their products and services to people, so the translation from data to insights about actual consumer behavior and preferences is paramount. So those analytical skills are now more important than ever. And if marketers don’t have those skills, then they need to find strong partners who do in order to be successful in the new multi-platform world.
Comscore: The move toward cross-media planning and buying will obviously impact the way marketers do their jobs. Knowing that there are many changes ahead for them, what’s the one thing that marketers should be doing now to get ahead in this world of always-on content and endless devices?
ANNE HUNTER: Before you spend a dime on any type of advertising, you need to really understand who your audiences are, where they are and how they’re engaging with content. Many marketers conduct studies themselves – and that’s a fine starting point – but it’s not enough. With new devices and platforms popping up constantly, your target audience’s behaviors and preferences are always changing. What they’re doing today is going to be different from what they’re doing tomorrow, let alone six months from now. So a one-time survey won’t provide you with the intel you need to make the best, most effective decisions.
Traditionally, this kind of research was conducted through techniques like surveys and in-home observations. Today, we have new techniques that are based on census data that can show how, where and when content is being consumed. So a smart marketer would engage with a system like Digital Analytix Multi-Platform and start following their consumers, identifying and tracking those usage trends over time across platforms.
The most important thing to do now is to build a system that allows you to understand your consumer over time. You have to find ways to be in constant communication with those consumers to understand what captures their attention. Once you know that, then you can start to identify the right media opportunities and where you should be engaging.
Comscore: Aside from the cross-media measurement evolution, what else should be on the radar of planners and buyers this year?
ANNE HUNTER: As an industry we need to continue to tackle some of the challenges that we’ve seen with digital advertising, such as viewability and fraud. For example, an ad might not reach the right person, it may not reach a person at all, or it may not have reached someone in a way they can see it. While the usage of digital advertising and subsequently the opportunities for marketers have exponentially increased over the past few years, there is plenty of room for strengthening the current digital advertising system. And we’re making good progress. For example, Comscore has been tracking ad fraud for years and has a complex system in place designed to pinpoint these “bad actors.” We also recently released some viewability benchmarks. The first question we always hear from advertisers is, “What’s normal?” so we sought to provide some of that context and understanding to our clients.
Additionally, you can’t talk about advertising these days without hearing the term “programmatic.” We started to see behavioral targeting take off in the market about 5 to 7 years ago, but today we’re seeing it used not just as one technique but as the primary technique for some marketers. Programmatic will undoubtedly remain strong in digital and we may see programmatic make its way into television and radio, but the industry will never go 100 percent programmatic. More customized advertising efforts such as deep content integrations and native advertising can often provide high-quality premium brands with the opportunities that they need to stand out from their competitors.
So programmatic can certainly provide advertisers with scale and efficiency, but other opportunities like native provide differentiation. And marketers need both to be successful, not just one or the other.
For more insights and digital trends, download Comscore’s 2014 U.S. Digital Future in Focus report by clicking here.