If you are fortunate enough to still be working, chances are you are busier than ever, if you have lost your job or been furloughed you will be doing everything you can to possibly find another position.

However, the wheels of innovation and change continue to turn in digital advertising and adtech  the monetisation engine of the free and open internet.  Many people simply do not have the time in the current climate to mine the social noise for real information versus sales pitches.

The global lockdown coupled with a recent redundancy has left me with a lot of spare time on my hands so in my search for a new role, I have been compiling a lot of notes and I am sharing these below to help others who are simply too busy with work to research daily or those looking for another job.

Prior to the global pandemic, many advertising companies were performing well despite the perception from some that adtech was a high-risk investment category. This visual from the Q4 LUMA report shows almost all publicly traded adtech stocks being up as the sector continued to see increased advertiser investment, M&A, and innovation in data-driven advertising practices.

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Before we get into the weeds, let’s look at some of the published numbers illustrating where we are as an industry today post COVID and some important Google SameSite & IAB Tech Lab TCF updates.

A WARC (World Advertising Research Center) report published recently said Global ad spend will fall by 8.1 per cent this year to $563bn. That is a big decrease but nowhere near as bad as some of the headlines were originally suggesting.

Trends by region

  • Europe: European adspend is forecast to fall by 12.2 per cent ($18.1bn) to $129.9bn this year, with France leading key market decline at 18.7 per cent (down $3.1bn to $13.4bn). The UK (-16.4 per cent, down $5.1bn to $31.3bn), Germany (-6.1 per cent, down $1.5bn to $24.9bn), Spain (-6.0 per cent, down $500m to $6.6bn), Italy (-21.7 per cent, down $2.1bn to $7.6bn) and Russia (-12.3 per cent, down $1.2bn to $8.5bn) will also record sharp falls.
  • North America: region where 39.5 per cent of global adspend is transacted. Ad investment is expected to fall by 3.7 per cent, or $8.5bn, to $222.5bn this year, encompassing a 3.5 per cent fall in the US (down $7.7bn to $221.3bn) and a 6.5 per cent dip in Canada (to $11.5bn). This compares with pre-outbreak forecasts of 8.8 per cent and 1.9 per cent growth respectively.
  • Asia-Pacific: adspend is expected to fall 7.7 per cent ($14.4bn) to $173.5bn in 2020, accounting for 30.8 per cent of the global total. China (-8.6 per cent, down $7.5bn to $80.0bn), Japan (-6.4 per cent, down $2.5bn to $36.2bn) and Australia (-8.2 per cent, down $1.1bn to $11.9bn) are all set to record declines. Indian growth will ease to 0.7 per cent to $9.4bn in 2020.
  • Latin America: adspend is set to drop 20.7 per cent (by $5.6bn) to $21.4bn this year, led by a sharp decline in Brazil (-22.5 per cent, down $3.4bn to $11.5bn), where the Covid-19 outbreak has been particularly acute.
  • Middle East: while not as severely impacted by coronavirus as other regions, adspend is still set to fall 15.1 per cent (by $1.8bn) to $10.4bn in 2020, as oil-rich economies suffer from falling commodity prices.
  • Africa: spend is expected to decrease by 19.5 per cent to $5.3bn this year, although this could be more severe if the outbreak worsens in the region.

The IAB have put out some really informative C-19 research pieces that cover both buy & sell sides as illustrated:

Buy-Side Survey:

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Sell-Side Survey:

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When it comes to advertising by device, connected devices (such as streaming sticks, gaming consoles and smart TVs) are showing the most resilience, with an expected decrease in CPMs of just six per cent, while desktop, smartphones and tablets are down 27 per cent, 28 per cent, and 29 per cent respectively.

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The IAB Europe’s Chief Economist Daniel Knapp put out this recent forecast.

Europe: Ad Spend growth forecast by month (2020)

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A recent survey of AdProfs readers:

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If you don’t already, I would highly recommend signing up to their regular newsletter. While I am on the subject of newsletters Last Week in AdOps is also a fantastic read along with Mobile Fix, http://www.addictivelondon.com

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Although there is yet to be any extension given on the 2 year deadline put forward by Google Re the support of the 3rd party cookie on their Chrome browser, they did temporarily roll back the changes it recently made to how its Chrome browser handles cookies in order to ensure that sites that perform essential services like banking, online grocery, government services and healthcare won’t become inaccessible to Chrome users during the current pandemic. According to Tech Crunch ‘The company says it plans to resume its SameSite enforcement over the summer, though the exact timing isn’t yet clear’

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Further insights can be found on the Chromium blog:

As the industry prepared to switch over from the Transparency & Consent Framework (TCF) v1.1 to TCF v2.0, the IAB Tech Lab revised the timeline to take into account the impact of COVID-19 on stakeholder’s operations.

In their recent monthly meeting, The TCF Steering Group discussed revising the timeline to accommodate requests from some group members who had asked for more flexibility in the timeline due to the unexpected pressures of the pandemic.

The revised timeline will allow CMPs, Vendors, and Publishers more time to successfully implement TCF v2.0.

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That ISBA report

C-19 ad spend turbulence aside, The ISBA & PwC report has been the biggest story in the adtech space over the last several months. Basically, some very clever people got together with brands, advertising agencies, adtech vendors & publishers to track money as it moved through the pipes of OpenRTB and their findings illustrated circa 15% could not be accounted for.

This report has generated some really interesting debate, it has provided procurement teams with a great platform to stand on and to question OpenRTB in favour of going back to direct & it has led to many adtech commentators to speak out in defense of data-driven advertising, the practice often referred to as programmatic. Once again, it is really important to understand that nobody forces brands/agencies to adopt a DSP and point that at an SSP to a target a publishers ad slot when they could just pick up the phone & book directly with a publisher’s sales team.

They opt for adtech as it enables them to extract stronger controls & ROI. Publishers are increasingly selling via SSPs V in house salespeople because they are capturing a higher yield and sell-through for standard IAB formats.

However, there is no escaping the fact the report worried a lot in our industry & the work conducted by both ISBA & PwC is to be applauded, regardless of how well adtech works, there is no excuse for fee opacity in 2020 (Unless you operate an outcomes model & clients are fully aware its a non disclosed transaction etc).

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To better understand this debate, I would recommend reading & watching the following:

Matthew McIntyre, VP, Programmatic EMEA at Essence.

Wayne Blodwell, CEO The Programmatic Advisory on why the world’s leading auditor couldn’t audit the programmatic supply chain.

In a Mediatel webinar during their recent Future of Media Trading Summit, I asked 3 leading global DSPs MediaMath, Adform & BeesWax their thoughts on the report, how it is impacting their client relationships & what we need to collectively do to ensure brands feel confident to continue to invest in data-driven advertising practices such as programmatic buying.

PwC recently published a ‘Where next for media?’ white paper, its a really interesting read and can be downloaded via their site: where-next-for-media.html

News publishers facing headwinds beyond just identity.

In these uncertain times, people need trusted news and according to recent findings from Comscore, there has been a massive flight back to trusted news domains from readers rather than the news they are historically used to ingesting via social algorithm-curated stories.

France + 68 per cent, Germany + 57 per cent, Italy + 125 per cent, Spain + 87 per cent, UK + 51 pr cent and I am sure the same trend has played out globally also.

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An uptick in traffic like this is normally a good thing for publishers as it means their SSPs can send more impressions to DSP’s and in turn, make more money for them. However, in many cases, it has not played out like this.

As the pandemic was unfolding globally, the many brands that did not pause ad spends and continued to advertise albeit with new copy were being extremely sensitive about appearing next to content that many were finding deeply worrying & concerning. This left many news publishers with record traffic numbers but with decreasing fill rates as any COVID-19 related terms were being quickly added to global buy-side blocklists.

This resulted in Tracy De Groose Executive Chair Newsworks (Marketing body for national newspapers in all their forms. Their stakeholders are dmg media, ESI Media, Guardian News & Media, News UK, Telegraph Media Group and Reach) to put out an open letter asking the buy-side to support & not block premium news content:

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It was reported this week also that adtech company TripleLift would use the power & scale of its sell-side platform to help news publishers that were struggling to capture demand. ‘TripleLift is trying to encourage brands to buy ads next to news content and has curated a group of 1,600 news publishers into a private marketplace. Those buying within the Help Journalism PMP also won’t have to pay TripleLift’s ad tech fee for the rest of Q2. GroupM has signed more than a dozen of its clients to the program, focusing on 600 multicultural and local news sites’ More on this via AdExchanger.

 

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Further reading: Ad Council sets up private marketplace for Coronoavirus PSAs.

It’s not getting any easier for publishers at the moment to sell their advertising space, what with blunt blocklists, social platforms increasing their share of ad budgets & browsers slowly removing their support for 3rd party cookies. However, some publishers are acting quickly to protect their ad revenue streams and we have seen both NY Times and The Guardian hone their strategies around increasing their own pool of 1st party data so they can dial down dependency on 3rd party insights that are increasingly becoming difficult to sell to the buy-side for all of the reasons we are acutely aware.

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‘Registration walls beef up first-party data, which power subscriber acquisition, retention and enhance ad products. More publishers, like The New York Times, Hearst Newspapers and Tribune Publishing, have given registration walls another look over the last year

DSPs in 2020

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”.

This is a statement by John Wanamaker (1838-1922) who was a very successful United States merchant, religious leader, and political figure, considered by some to be a “pioneer in marketing” However, fast forward to June 2020 and this statement could come from any number of sophisticated agency traders sat behind their DSPs operating in an age of browser & privacy controls. (Yes, I know you can get visibility when buying walled gardens in isolation but consumers are transient and as far as I am aware, nobody can claim to have access to any one audience exclusively. Therefore, buyers need holistic visibility across reach, frequency & attribution to continue to deploy data-driven buys at scale and across a multitude of media partners).

DSPs have enabled their seats (buyers) to practice the art of impression-level decisioning more commonly known as RTB for the last 10+ years, however, this feature has been possible due to the existence & browser support of the 3rd party cookie, take that away, and we are left with what could be perceived as very expensive tools to book inventory that in theory could be procured a lot more cost-effectively via traditional means such as picking up the phone & speaking with a publisher’s direct sales team. Contextual targeting alone in my opinion will not be enough to justify DSP + SSP fees and in reality, you don’t need sophisticated machine learning models to tell you that a car ad is probably best placed in the automotive channel (I know contextual targeting is more sophisticated than that).

This is why many industry speculators are now mooting what the future for DSPs looks like if they can no longer enable their seats to know what half of their advertising budget is working & more importantly, where! Thankfully, most independent DSPs (non-GAFA owned) are acutely aware of their predicament and invested R&D into the identity space many years ago, the most high profile being the Trade Desk who bought a company I worked at called Adbrain whose mission at the time was to democratize identity beyond the walled gardens.

Fast forward to 2020 and TTD are now one of several front runners (Inc DSPs such as Xandr & Verizon that have vast troves of 1st party data) when it comes to independent identification in the form of their Trade Desk ID and many other DSPs are either supporting TTDID or busy building out their own device graph capabilities to ensure their customers can still practice the art of privacy-compliant impression-level buying beyond any further legislation or browser updates.

We should expects a lot of debate around moving forward in programmatic buying circles is the pros & cons of targeting cohorts V individuals. Many say for programmatic to thrive under increasing privacy legislation we should be moving to an audience cohort model, others ask how technologies designed to engage with consumers at the individual 1-1 level would continue to drive the same ROI?

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If you want to better understand where the industry is at on our journey to replace the 3rd party cookie, this is a fantastic guide that was recently published by IAB Europe:

IAB Europe Guide to the Post Third-Party Cookie Era

Identity

The digital identity space is evolving so quickly, I dedicated a single in-depth post to this complex area last week.

How important will context as a targeting parameter be to DSP’s moving forward?

I had a lot of questions from concerned advertisers & agencies last year that they would not be able to able to apply contextual targeting to their programmatic buys in 2020 due to GDPR. Now I can understand their concerns as we as an industry have spent the last 24 months telling them that context would be the new proxy for an audience until a universal ID had been built, ratified & supported by the online advertising industry. So what caused this alarm and concern among many around the use of context as a targeting practice?

Well, Google will no longer include contextual content identifiers such as “sports,” “news” or “weather” – in bid requests to ad buyers according to a post by AdExchanger. Many have said this is the big G being really careful as the ICO prohibits the targeting of any special categories such as health, sexual orientation, racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, and several others. However, it is DSPs that typically enable buyers to target via the application of a 3rd party partnerships with a vendor like Peer39 and not the SSP/Exchange, so the practice of contextual targeting I imagine will not go away anytime soon so long as it is done in a privacy-compliant way and the special categories outlined by the ICO are not harnessed…

As we discovered in the intro to this post, news publishers have recently been struggling with fill due to blunt brand safety filters that have been blocking content that speak to C-19 related topics. We have seen how some sell-side player such as TripleLift are supporting publishers & it is interesting to read recently that those on the buy-side share the same vision:

A collaboration between IBM and Xandr, AT&T’s advanced advertising company, and the UK’s largest commercial news publisher Reach, heralds a major breakthrough for the news industry, as publishers struggle to monetise their content despite huge demand from readers for high quality, trusted journalism.

This technology means advertising can be directed to appear only alongside news stories, including those related to the Coronavirus, that have been categorised as neutral and positive. These include informative stories about homeschooling, cooking tips, how to stay fit at home or celebrating frontline workers such as those in the NHS

Daniel Clayman, VP & Managing Director, Northern Europe at Xandr told Exchange Wire: “Xandr operates in support of trusted newsrooms and premium advertisers around the globe and proactively seeks out sophisticated tools, like Mantis, for our clients to navigate disruptions to their business. Now more than ever, we’re proud to put our platform to work for the news industry.” Full details can be found here.

Interesting to see Twitter buy mobile DSP CrossInstall. There was a lot of speculation online as to whether Twitter would load the bidder with their vast trove of 1st party data, however, many said probably not as MoPub the mobile exchange acquired by Twitter back in 2013 for $300m + still has very little access to Twitters deterministic people based data sets. https://www.adexchanger.com/platforms/twitter-acquires-mobile-dsp-crossinstall-on-the-hunt-for-mobile-performance-dollars/

What will Linkedin do?

I do wonder if we will ever see LinkedIn pick up a DSP rather than partner, that could be one powerful B2B offering enabling the activation of RTB dollars into & outside of their O&O inventory, there are several independent DSPs in play that could really accelerate that strategy for Linkedin overnight.

Over the last several months, I have heard a company called SnowFlake referenced a lot. In short, they are a cloud-based storage system that lets you dynamically dial-up or down so you can storage scale in line with your client volumes, another upside is they can decouple compute & storage costs. DSP BeesWax put out some PR this week to say they are now working with them to allow their seats who also work with Snowflake to better model and mine the data output of OpenRTB auctions.

Independent DSP DataXu was acquired back end of last year by OTT player ROKU. However, prior to the acquisition, it was announced in 2019 that Amazon Publisher Services (APS) had opened up its Fire TV inventory to third-party DSP’s for the first time with integrations with The Trade Desk and DataXu. That said, several months after it was acquired by ROKU AdExchanger reported that APS would be removing the access it had granted to DataXu prior illustrating just how competitive the streaming & OTT landscape will be this year.

For more on the CTV & OTT space, I shared a rather in-depth technical & commercial overview of the ecosystem several weeks ago:

Criteo recently launched a self-serve ad platform for its retail media network. The platform connects demand from brands directly to supply from retailers across Criteo’s network, said Geoffroy Martin, EVP and GM of retail media at Criteo.

All eyes are now on Criteo to see how they navigate 3PC headwinds, I suspect they will do better than many think they will as they have a lot of R&D resources to throw at these challenges, something many of their smaller competitors simply don’t have access to.

DSPs

The Advertiser Perceptions’ quarterly tracking report is a good place to head if you want to better understand the DSP space in 2020 and who the vendors are challenging the tier 1 activation player such as DV360, Amazon & TTD. To quote Kevin Mannion CSO of Advertiser Perceptions “There are three DSP leaders. After that the DSP category is a real horse race for five companies.”

It was interesting to see the Trade Desk secure access to TikTok supply, this of course is a fantastic win. I am not too sure if there is any SSP between TikTok as a publisher & TTD as a DSP… Could this set a precedent for further publisher direct deals from one of the biggest DSPs out there?

I am expecting to see a new breed of audio, DOOH & CTV activation layers that are not architected around 3rd party cookies to appear this year & next, they will quickly get acquired. AdsWizz an audio DSP was acquired by Pandora, DOOH DSPs are quickly getting funding & traction & every WeWork prior lockdown had a team building out an OTT activation point of entry or contextual based AdNets telling VCs they are the next Grapeshot!

SSPs in the age of SPO

On April 21st Ronan Shields reported that The Trade Desk has in recent days been contacting sell-side, or SSP, ad-tech companies requesting they choose a single supply path to premium ad inventory in a cost-saving exercise.

If you know anything about the programmatic supply ecosystem you will be aware that publishers use many sell-side technologies to sell their inventory and the Trade Desk as one of the leading DSPs in the market could see the same impression multiple times over from the same SSP. It is a fair request from TTD and one that other DSP’s will replicate as they look to minimize listening (the process of querying every single incoming bid request from SSP’s) costs (technical term QPS = Queries Per Second).

Many were asking how would SSP’s respond to this ask? This was an interesting poll from Co-founder of BeesWax Ari asking what we were all thinking behind closed doors:

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Many big brands & their agencies spent 2019 honing their SPO strategies and this year will be about ramping investments with those sitting on approved lists V still trying to establish the best path/route to supply.

There has been no shortage of SPO related panels & articles in 2019/20 and i think it is important to note that SPO happens because the makeup of the sell side post header bidding has changed beyond recognition to many and not because SSPs are bad actors.

Pre-header bidding it was very easy for an agency trading desk or DSP to establish which SSP had the best supply (i.e who had priority in a publishers waterfall) however, fast forward to a supply ecosystem dominated by header tags, wrappers & S2S configurations and the same question to a publisher about who has the best access to your supply would be met with a response of ‘everybody!’ as most big publishers now run header tags in their wrapper (Prebid) from SSP’s on an equal footing giving everybody parity when it comes to their supply access.

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This means the only way now for brands & agencies to establish what SSPs they should be working with has been spending the majority 2019 issuing vendors on the sell-side with lengthy RFPs asking for detailed information on features, take rates, log portability, unique data, pricing & service levels and it has been this information V publisher access of yesteryear that many SPO decisions & partnerships have been forged (Relationships also, despite the geek chat, its still a people business!).

At the back end of 2019, it was announced that two-tier 1 SSPs would merge, The Rubicon Project & Teleria, Rubicon historically very strong in display, mobile & audio and Teleria strong in video & CTV. From the outside, this looks like a perfect partnership and will certainly help the new company (New name coming soon I suspect!) to streamline their offering to both buy and sell-side partners. However, there are still many other tier 1 independent SSPs in play and industry speculators are now asking if we are likely to see further mergers or if vendors such as OpenX, Index & PubMatic will continue to innovate & grow as individual entities?!

My view is they will continue to grow as individuals, OpenX have invested heavily in building identity features such as OpenAudience, which includes an ID resolution component allowing buyers to activate any ID they are working with from the current selection of JVs in play. Index Exchange equally so with their feature referred to as Publisher Sonar, it is an extension to the IX Library which unlocks people-based advertising in a world without third party cookies & PubMatic who are just as committed to identity features but being more vocal about their buy-side (beyond DSP) partnerships such as the recent Goodway Group deal.

New formats

All are also investing in features to support new formats such as DOOH, OTT & audio and each is building strong commercial teams that according to my friends’ agency side, are spending more & more time in the OpCos to make sure that should any DSP try to leap frog them, they are not disintermediated from their demand. Basically, SSPs only used to focus really on supply & DSPs on demand, however, in 2020 we see many SSPs focusing on demand & DSPs on supply.

If then the majority of demand now comes from several DSPs rather than 20+ in the waterfall days, why would publishers not look to secure deals directly with those bidders V via SSPs that used to be harnessed when demand was a lot less centralised?

What does it mean for SSPs if Prebid will start to support/ingest direct demand? For context here, I ask this after reading about the TTD & Prebid direct partnership. The feedback via a poll I conducted on twitter was that SSPs still provides many valuable features to publishers beyond monetisation that they would struggle to get directly via DSP demand into their ad servers. Conclusion? The tools may slowly be emerging that enable DSPs to bypass SSPs, however, very few publishers want to go down that route from the conversations I have had with them.

When a DSP can access the majority of supply they need from less than 15 sell-side vendors, it is going to make it increasingly difficult for many in the long tail of the supply ecosystem to continue to capture demand in 2020 unless they can show true feature or pricing value beyond commoditised and often resold (According to ads.txt) supply.

Amazon

WSJ reported that Amazon may be about to start activating their 1st party data on 3rd party CTV supply. If this is true, it’s a logical move for Amazon and would enable them to build out a very strong & differentiated sell-side offering in the OTT space. Similar to the strong progress Xandr are making in the CTV sell-side arena at the moment..

This year we are going to hear less about buy-side SPO efforts and more about DPO from a publisher’s perspective.

Authorisations

The below visual and stats released recently by Jounce Media actually illustrate that publishers appear to be authorizing more resellers via Ads.txt & not actually dialing down the number of sell-side vendors they are working with.

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Bad Actors

Like all growth industries, there are bad actors that take advantage of the complexities that surround maturing protocols/standards and the adtech sector is no different, unfortunately. You only have to take a quick scan on Twitter to see that Dr. Augustine Fou (@acfou) has many examples of fraudulent practices he has discovered and talks about to try and raise awareness, along with the hard-hitting analysis the White Ops camp have released recently talking to the bad actors intercepting CTV ad budgets, however, the story that really caught my eye was by Meg Graham.

Her findings in this story below really lifted the lid on how easy it was/is to get through some of the filters adtech vendors have in place to protect against some if these illegal practices entering the supply chain.

Brand advertisers will finally learn the true value of in App inventory!

My first programmatic role was at a mobile DSP called StrikeAd (later sold to Sizmek). My biggest challenge as a commercial leader was not to get our sales teams to close agency trading desk SaaS contracts or our managed team to secure IOs from the OpCos but it was in trying to diversify our revenue streams away from pure-play DR spend and more into the branding arena. However, this was at a time when many big Comscore publishers did not have Apps, and the liquidity in supply coming from leading mobile SSPs such as Nexage, MoPub & Smaato was predominantly gaming or utility-based.

As a result, our teams often found it difficult to get non-mobile specialist agencies and their brands to include App in their mobile programmatic buys for any client other than those in the performance arena (Other apps looking to drive CPI).

Ok, so what has changed? Well, mobile browsers are increasingly not supporting 3rd party cookies and big publishers today do have their own ad-supported Apps. This means if brands acknowledge that their audiences are mobile-first and want to target them, they will have to increasingly turn to App supply rather than just extending their desktop buying habits to mobile underpinned by 3rd party cookies and data segments like many have done thus far creating a barrier to App developers capturing lucrative branding ad $!

Companies such as in-App analytics firm App Annie are going to receive a lot more attention this year and not just from other Apps looking to drive CPI, but big brands & their agencies trying to better understand the App ecosystem and how it can be harnessed.

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Ads.txt

The in-app version of Ads.txt called App-ads.txt from the IAB Tech Lab is starting to get real traction with App developers also (Great job SSPs in forcing many developers hands here!) and this will help to provide confidence to some agencies that have been slow to spend brand budgets here for fear of fraudulent & spoofed traffic.

Many smart adtech executives are quickly realising that in getting their App strategies right they could be finding the high ground they need to get them through a difficult time to operate in a display arena without any type of universal & privacy-compliant identifier. Yes, I hear many of you thinking but surely the Device ID’s that underpin the App ecosystem will be pulled/restricted also, yes they may be, however, they are not yet so i expect a lot more investment in the App ecosystem this year and many brands to realise it is an addressable & scaled supply source that has been overlooked for too long!

With the smart money following the app sector at the moment (Ogury recently raised $50 million in Series C funding & AppsFlyer $210 million in a series D round) it is going to be really interesting to see how adtech companies built around the device ID are going to evolve. Although I have already stated the Device ID is still available there are many that question its survival post browser restrictions on 3PCs. In a recent article on AdExchnger, Alison Schiff explains that Apple introduced an API for iOS 11.3 and higher back in 2018. Apparently, the API (SKAdNetwork) that has had little to no adoption would allow buyers to attribute installs from the app store without having to use a 3rd party attribution SDK/Vendor. I am surprised more are not talking about this.

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Mobile header bidding or commonly referred to as parallel bidding in mobile circles is also going to open up the App ecosystem and enable DSP & ATDs access to premium App first supply that has historically been locked down by mobile AdNets who have thus far commanded priority in the mediated world of in App monetisation. In English? It means good quality in App supply being made available to programmatic demand V the IO being its only point of entry.

If you are in any doubt that the legacy in App adnet & mediation model is soon to be challenged by unified auctions of RTB demand (AKA header bidding) just see where the smart money is placing its bets:

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One question those on the buy-side need to wrestle with when it comes to Apps is what is more important, context, or audience? With all of the challenges facing display & its targeting in 2020, I think we are going to see a big uptick in App buying this year & rightly so, it has a common, open, portable & deterministic identifier at its core. For how much longer remains to be seen…

When it comes to the application of location targeting in mobile I have seen first hand how powerful it can be when driving business outcomes for advertisers & harnessed in a privacy compliment way (Just look at how well companies such as blis.com are doing at the moment).

Location innovation

We will see a lot of innovation in the location sector over the next 12 months, especially as other targeting methods become increasingly difficult to execute at scale. The most recent high profile deal being:

Foursquare merges with Factual

Beyond the opacity: Blockchain 

The IAB Tech Lab blockchain working group published its first guidelines for implementing blockchain tech in digital advertising in late 2019. This  will be the catalyst that enables big brands to finally start to deploy their blockchain partnerships they kicked the tyres on in 2019. If not for any other reason than the ISBA/PwC report leaving many feeling like they need an independent 3rd party in the mix. IPA are clearly in support of DLT solutions.

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Many peopl say brands don’t need to use blockchain vendors to ascertain transparency, they just need to ask their adtech partners the right questions. That may be the case but blockchain in adtech is going to be harnessed for much more than the unearthing of opaque take and the use of smart contracts (think campaign reconciliation etc) coupled with IAB Tech Lab guidelines will really be the wind blockchain needs behind its sails in 2020. There will be a lot of pushback, however.

2019 witnessed a new trend emerging around auction log transparency and its portability and blockchain will sit at the heart of new tools that enable marketers to decipher the jargon that often sits in the logs they are sent to interpret by adtech vendors. It’s all well and good saying ‘just asks the right questions’ however, we don’t like it when GAFA marks their own homework!

Mediaocean the foundational software for the advertising ecosystem announced in January of this year to partner with Amino Payments to utilise blockchain to provide the first truly transparent media supply chain.

As we come to the end of my sporadic thoughts on adtech and its key soundbites..

We have come a long way since the early pioneers of programmatic (Dr. Boris Mouzykantskii, Joe Zawadzki, Brian O’Kelley, Ben Barokas to name a few.) and have addressed the concerns that marketers such as John Wanamaker of yesteryear faced. However just as the automotive industry grappled with the transition away from fossil fuels to electric, we find ourselves on the same journey.

This means that people’s careers and companies are currently being threatened (coupled with this pandemic!) and that is resulting in a lot of hostilities and FUD (Fear, uncertainty and doubt) playing out on social channels when the debate about the future of programmatic advertising arises. Personally, I wish we would/could work more collaboratively as infighting between independents is only going to strengthen our common competitors, the walled gardens.

About 80 per cent of digital display ad spend in the US was transacted via programmatic pipes in 2019. I wonder how much of that was underpinned by audience as opposed to context and if that number proportionally minus detections for COVID-19 will be higher or lower in 2020?

If you have not already done so, head over to Twitter and check out #AdTechMadness. Fantastic & fun idea in these troubling times from content marketing genius Ari, I can see many in adtech taking it a lot more seriously than it was originally intended already!

I would also recommend checking out a new series of podcasts on Video Ad News, this week they have Brian Wieser from GroupM:

VideoWeek Podcast #3 Brian Wieser, GroupM

At this point I would say looking forward to seeing many of you at Dmexco this year, however, for the first time in many years, I will not be attending. To be honest, I am amazed they are still hosting it! Should you want to polish up on your programmatic knowledge further, I highly recommended the Trade Desk training modules, its free & very good

As always, please DM if you would like anything corrected, added or removed!

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