Ten Top Trends in Digital Advertising for 2016

It’s fun at the end of every year to predict what will happen the following year, especially in an industry so prone to change as the online media industry. But this year, because consumers have announced that they’ll have a say in next year’s trends by turning on their ad blockers, some upcoming changes are less difficult to predict correctly than usual.  Assuming the publishing industry isn’t suicidal, for example:

1)publishers will take seriously the wishes of consumers to have less intrusive advertising by planning more native content campaigns with brands and selling fewer display ads at higher CPMS;

2)the creative department (or agency) will assume more importance than it has had in the past decade, because media buyers are coming to the conclusion that it’s not only a numbers game — it really matters what message is delivered to which customers. The most sophisticated brands are doing very customized creative based on information gleaned from their own databases so customers don’t receive irrelevant ads. Example: if you live in Florida, you won’t get the ad about how the car handles in ice and snow; you’ll get the one about its powerful air conditioning system;

3)Brands will expend more energy and money producing content consumers might actually want to watch and engage with, rather than just buying impressions for reach and frequency.  In fact, frequency caps will probably go down, as advertisers strive not to irritate consumers, and reach will be deeper, and not as wide;

4)Autoplay video with the audio turned on will probably go away, as will non-skippable preroll and other formats that irritate consumers such as pop- unders and interstitials. Advertising that blocks content from a site visitor will also go away;

5)Millennials and IT professionals, the most tech savvy segments of the online audience, will have to be reached with native advertising, in-app advertising, and direct mail, because these consumers are the heaviest users of ad blockers and will probably not willingly turn them off once they’re on;

6) As a result, native formats and contextual targeting will be the “new new thing,” which means the one thing that can’t go away is data. Both publishers and brands should invest heavily in their own databases, because trackers are also being blocked along with ads. Cookies have fallen out of favor;

7)As an industry, we shot ourselves in the foot over the past five years seeking scale, scale, scale. That meant we made many more consumers angry than those whose needs we satisfied. In 2016,  in order to wean consumers off their ad blockers, we’re going to have to make the user experience of the mobile web  better.  By better, we mean faster page load times for mobile browsing, which means using technologies like Google’s new AMP framework. It means buying ads on premium sites that have reduced their inventory to make their pages deliver a better user experience, and paying more per CPM. And it means reaching more of the RIGHT people, although fewer people overall;

8) In 2016, we will probably see a true supply and demand market, in which the supply is no longer infinite as advertisers refuse to pay for traffic generated by bots and publishers streamline their pages. Group M’s dictum that it will only pay for ads in which the experience is initiated by the user and the “chosen” ad is 100% in view, 50% completed, with the audio on for the entire time will take hold. This is a tough standard to meet, but MediaCom’s Steve Carbone argues that anything less than 100% viewable in any other medium would be considered a “make good.”

9) Ad exchanges will continue to struggle as agencies leave them for private marketplaces.

10) A plethora of working groups and industry committees will be convened to flesh out the new standards.

Happy Holidays and Happy Ever-changing New Year.