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Ad tech market researchers recently revised the expected ad spent figures down to $738 billion. Although the industry has continued to reach new lengths during COVID-19, it is proof that it’s not business as usual. But should publishers be worried about their future?

The last few months have been packed with activity: major shifts in technology, new privacy regulations, and the emergence of new ad technology.

The survival of the publishers now depends on how they react to the new changes. While it’s the big industry players leading the ad tech revolution, it is ultimately up to the publisher to navigate an evolving ecosystem and continue offering advertisers value.

Here is what the industry experts are saying about the latest innovations, the future of ad tech and what publishers’ expectations should be:

 

Which notable events are shaping the future of ad tech, and what does it mean for publishers?

 

Vijay Ram Kumar, Founder & CEO of Automatad

Recently, there have been several noticeable events set to change the programmatic landscape.

Chrome is already phasing out third-party cookies. Safari released newer ITP versions to patch up the loopholes. Apple’s iOS 14.3 update ensures users can control privacy settings when installing new apps on their iPhones — furthering the new user privacy oriented agenda.

For a long time, publishers and ad tech vendors relied on third-party cookie data all which was available readily. Now, they are going to have to convince users to take the deal to share data in exchange for accessing their site freely. 

 

Abhinav Choudhri, ad ops director at AdPushup 

The pandemic and privacy concerns widely affected ad tech. Privacy concerns were raised around advertising – mainly about the process used to collect user data. 

With that, CCPA was put into effect, death of third-party cookies was planned, and Apple declared to phase out IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers), making it harder for advertisers to run targeted ads. 

New ways to access user data while respecting their privacy to show them targeted ads have to be found to work around it or say goodbye to it soon.

 

How will ad tech deal with the privacy issues that arose? 

 

Jörg Vogelsang, head of publisher growth at Liveramp and owner at 101con

Ultimately trust between publishers and their audiences is a prerequisite for effectiveness in digital advertising. Giving consumers transparent insights into the mechanics of user-centric marketing and options to correct specific settings or enforce a «do-no-track» against their profiles is an essential cornerstone of the future in digital advertising.

Already, lots of work has been done to implement TCF 2.0 across the industry – this is not going to be the end of the journey. Many small or midsize companies still need a CMP as scrutiny of the existing CMP implementations. Advertising Identity is getting closer to CMPs; eventually, these two tech pieces will become fully integrated. 

 

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Abhinav Choudhri, ad ops director at AdPushup 

Google will no longer support cookies in 2022 but is offering an alternative — Privacy Sandbox. No code is out yet for stakeholders; however, the company plans to maintain a stronghold in advertising through anonymized signals from within its Chrome browser.

 

Michael Sweeney, head of marketing at Clearcode 

The solutions to the privacy challenges will be different for each company. The main ones companies will turn to are first-party data strategies, contextual targeting, privacy-focused data platforms, and ID resolution services. Publishers should start focusing on how they can use their first-party data to power their advertising activities (if they haven’t already). Ad tech companies should make changes to their tech to help support publishers and advertisers achieve this. 

 

What trends do you expect to flourish and emerge going forward?

 

Jörg Vogelsang, head of publisher growth at Liveramp and owner at 101con

First of all, the good news is that digital advertising and, in particular, programmatic advertising will continue to grow. With transparent and data privacy compliance, advertising identity solutions open web can finally offer the same level of accuracy in user targeting like walled gardens – on a much larger scale. 

And sure, this task doesn’t stop at just integrating another piece of javascript code on the publisher website. Furthermore, publishers (and advertisers) have to provide valuable services to make consumers share their IDs (& give consent for advertising). But it will be worth it, and we will see a more pristine ecosystem in the end.

 

Stéphane Printz, managing director at Comcast, sr. regional director at FreeWheel 

CTV is posed to be a vital part of digital advertising. Under what is referred to as the “total video” advertising approach, advertisers are already prioritising CTV in their media planning.

Recently, we conducted a study on ad planning in Europe. With the help of our research partner, Colab, we were able to reach out to marketing professionals in Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the UK. In our findings, 68% of German marketers had intentions to increase their investments in connected TV devices.

 

Related:  Big Data: Digital Publishers, It's Time To Embrace It!

Abhinav Choudhri, ad ops director at AdPushup

Going forward, we might see more and more countries and states adopting privacy laws in 2021, and hence, more discussion about how to strategize and survive the cookieless future is necessary. Notably, with the coming of 5G, the audience and consumption of content online are going to increase, allowing digital publishers to capture more audiences. 

 

Vijay Ram Kumar, Founder & CEO at Automatad

I’m expecting to see there’ll be accelerated innovations and developments in three areas. Programmatic audio, mobile commerce-enabled formats, and CTV. 

Several big businesses are already exploring audio ads, including Spotify and Google. With mobile commerce-enabled formats, publishers can diversify revenue, especially those with access to first-party data. The growth in CTV will not be stopping anytime soon; you can already see ad tech companies expanding their products to cater to the market.

 

Lina Lugova, Head of marketing at Epom 

As the appetite for ad media grows, white-label software is fast rising in popularity due to the level of control and transparency it gives advertisers. Rather than go through the hassle of developing their own solutions from scratch, ad buyers are opting to pay a flat fee to own a ready-made platform. 

Publishers are likely to see an increase in the volume of ad inventory purchased. With white-label software, advertisers are convinced of the value of the ad media available. Picture companies that spend over $20,000 on digital ad spend, bidding on more ad-media thanks to a more transparent ad buying process.

 

Your advice for publishers: which areas or tools should they focus on?

 

Abhinav Choudhri, Ad Ops Director at AdPushup

Since the world is moving towards mobile devices, the website design and UI/UX (including the page speed scores) should be optimized for the mobile platform. Finding more avenues for monetization of inventory, such as paid subscription plans and building customer loyalty with tailored content for the users is also important.

 

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Vijay Ram Kumar, Founder & CEO of Automatad

For publishers, it always starts with content. They need to think of their “content” as the “product”.Focus on how you can improve the quality and consumability of your content across the board. Delivering a lightning-fast mobile web experience is essential, and it can make or break your deals next year.

Finally, publishers have to start considering the first-party data as a competitive advantage they have over others. If you can organize and leverage your first-party data in a way that others can’t while ensuring compliance, you’ll emerge out as a winner.

 

Lina Lugova, Head of marketing at Epom 

Publishers tend to pick all-in-one solutions for one provider. However, each provider offers different flagships and laggards; thus, it’s not the best way to choose. My advice would be to thoroughly evaluate what’s available on the market against their needs. 

 

The lessons we’ve learned today 

 

Data and privacy issues have the entire industry scrambling for new solutions. Ad tech experts are primarily focused on data and privacy issues. Even though Google, IAB, Liveramp, and other leaders in ad tech are introducing unified solutions meant to serve all stakeholders, the mainstream application of most ideas is still to come. As a cookieless future beckons, the urgency for a uniform solution for ad tech is high. 

The growing number of ad formats and innovation in omnichannel, rich media, and cross-device advertising are important areas. In the same way, they took advantage of mobile formats, publishers should be ready to tap into CTV, DOOH, audio programmatic ads, and the other interactive ad units coming to DSPs. 

The value publishers hold will now depend almost entirely on trust and genuine transparency. Users now want full disclosure on how their data is handled. This is the new challenge in ad tech, but one everyone in the industry is determined to tackle. Leading innovators like Google, Freewheel, LiveRamp, and Epom, among others, are paving the way forward. The future of ad tech is not gloom after all.

*Disclaimer: all the responses featured above are the experts’ personal thoughts and not the official stances of their companies. 

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