In the eleven years I have worked in and covered the display advertising market, I have never seen such a frenzy as I do today. In the past week, I learned of three more DSP's, two data companies and an attribution vendor. Agencies are also in the game this time around. So what is causing this pile-on of new ad technologies to the market? There are a few things:
– Leveled playing field on the exchanges: The ad exchanges allow for innovation in ad optimization and bidding. Additionally, small companies can suddently compete for inventory that used to be locked up by ad network contracts.
– Better technologies: Cookieless tracking, container tags, real time bidding, data targeting and dynamic ad generation are all innovations that are hitting the hockey stick curve right about…now.
– Opening purse strings: We know that display advertising spending was essentially flat from 2008 to 2009. It appears that 2010 will show improvement. Marketers are getting budgets back and are ready to spend them.
– Desperate publishers: Publishers are grasping to find ways to make more money on their sites, so they are handing over the reigns to sell side platforms to help them optimize.
Of course, agencies, ad networks and portals are clamoring to keep up, claiming to have all of what the data providers, DSP's and SSP's have and more. Some do, most don't (there is also strong evidence that much of the vendor space is still vapor-ware.) All of these changes are exciting, but there are a few things that MUST happen for marketers and publishers to come out winners in the midst of so much change.
– Marketers and publishers must hire data and technology managers and enforce a transparent partnership, or the agencies and vendors are going to own the intellectual capital in this market. If marketers and publishers continue to blindly follow their partners, agencies and vendors learn across competitors, optimize for their own margins and continue to keep marketers and publishers in the dark.
– Publishers must rework their inventory and rate card to empower their sales team to sell bundled premium and data targeted inventory. Fewer ads, better packaging of audience groups, and more technical savvy will keep publishers competitive and profitable.
– Marketers and publishers must set aside not just money, but time, to test new technologies effectively. A real time bidding, data driven ad campaign often takes days or even weeks to hit its stride, yet many marketers fearfully halt campaigns at the first sign of negative performance. Give your partners a chance to test and improve, otherwise, you'll miss out on some serious high performance.
– A third party auditing system must become standard for both data and ad serving. Right now, the word on the street is that third party auditors are being abused by shady ad networks as a way to serve 4th party cookies. That needs to be called out and stopped. The industry must come together to regulate itself: by cooperating on auditing standards, moving toward data transparency, and by stopping companies from abusing information.
– Marketers must move to the "equal credit" measurement model and abandon "last click." I can't tell you how many marketers and agencies I know that still run ads across 10 or more ad networks or portals and don't measure frequency, exposure or share of voice across the entire media buy. Most importanly, they arent distributing credit across all ad exposures, but are still tied to the last click model, ensuring that they capture no early funnel value at all.
Clearly, we are still at the very beginning of the display ad market, with so much growing up still to come. If you have more "musts" to add to my laundry list, I'd love to hear them!