Last week, a business acquaintance made a ballsy prediction on LinkedIn for which he took a fair amount of flak. Posting a comment, I noted that his essential point was not that much of a stretch. Of course, there were nuances to the argument, but a long statement with a bunch of caveats wouldn’t be nearly as interesting or thought-provoking. Predictions have to push at the edges or people won’t pay attention. So, I figured it was time to step onto the ledge and make some predictions about the future of digital advertising. I’d love to hear what you think, agree or disagree.
1. In a post-GDPR world, targeted advertising is going to become more expensive. Not immediately. There is still a lot of confusion (some real, some manufactured) about what is required. In the end, though, the increased costs of delivering compliant targeted audiences combined with a decrease in available inventory as consumers retract or refuse permission, will increase ad rates to premium, not programmatic, rates. I’ve been arguing this for a while and the pundits are finally admitting it.
2. Context will be queen again. In order to reach the right audience, we will turn to content-centric, community-centric marketing tactics. In part because they ARE more effective in converting customers, but mostly because the cost differential between them and targeted/programmatic advertising won’t be so great. It will be just that much easier to take the leap of faith to try these tactics, which are still working out their success metrics (more about that in a bit.)
This is the opportunity for niche publishers and brands to create content for their micro-audiences that both provides the necessary context for ads and sponsored content and creates a relationship and value exchange in which the consumer is more likely to give permission for the specific use of personal data. As an example, Pepper & Wits, a new content site for women 45+ who are navigating menopause is owned by P&G; we certainly should expect sponsored content and other brand outreach but the primary purpose is to offer value to the consumer and targeted context, not targeted ads.
3. “If you aren’t paying, you’re the product” is a cliché whose days are numbered. Consumers will start to care about privacy. It has been a LONG time coming, but I truly believe that consumers are finally understanding the true cost of free digital services/platforms, and are going to want real value in exchange for the right to use their personal data. “Legitimate business interest” is not going to be sufficient to use a person’s data without permission. Publishers and brands who are offering great content and building relationships with consumers will have a far better chance of obtaining (and retaining) permission.
4. Things are about to get more competitive. Facebook and Google are vulnerable in this new advertising economy. They aren’t in danger by any means, but their models are based on scale, not relationships. They have no friends, just users. This opens up a sliver of opportunity for niche content publishers to create better experiences for consumers and pick off a little wedge of the pie. The duopoly will still get (more than) its fair share, but they will be handicapped in delivering their biggest strength, targeted audiences at scale, so the little guys can dart in and nab their share in areas where Facebook and Google cannot play effectively, content and community. Niche publishers, bloggers, even brands who can make the long haul investment. And Amazon. Amazon already does a better job of community than either Facebook or Google, is nipping at their heels and has a distinct e-commerce advantage. I also predict Reddit will make a strong play for the “community ad dollar.”
5. All of this will drive innovation. Certainly, in ad tech to manage consent, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Folks are already working on challenges like better measurement and attribution models that assign value properly and proportionally to all the players in the value chain, not just the last click. This is crucial for branded content, video, social media and influencer marketing.
Community is also getting some attention. Two start-ups doing interesting things to connect brands with consumers: Social Data Collective and Suzy. Suzy (AskSuzy.com) is the evolution of social media and influencer business Crowdtap. It helps advertisers make and manage meaningful connections with customers by offering them access to its super panel of consumers. Social Data Collective has a slightly different approach; it asks consumers to share personal data with the brands they love in exchange for products/services.
But I think even more interesting things are on the horizon. For example, aggregators of consumer information that validate consumer audiences and can compare them across properties, including blogs and YouTube and all the other places that community will form, not just sites big enough to register on comScore. Audience data all the way down the long tail to validate that the context IS delivering the right audience. This “data hole” has been the bête noire of the influencer marketing business, but there wasn’t a strong enough incentive to solve it, when advertisers could just buy targeted audiences cheaply. To sell content and community as the right context, you need the metrics to prove that you’ve got the goods. It’s coming. I am certain. And it won’t need PII (personally identifiable information) to do it.
We also need tools to give consumers control over their privacy across platforms and processors. Right now, if you think someone has compromised your private data or is using it without permission, good luck tracking it down. Blockchain is the best bet for creating this privacy audit trail. Someone is certainly working on this already. In fact, if you know who, I’d love to chat with them!!!
So there you have it. My predictions for the digital media industry. If you need me, I’ll just be out here teetering on the ledge.
P.S. If you want to check out the prediction of my business acquaintance, you can find it on LinkedIn.