A booming industry...in crisis?

27 Oct 2017  |  Rupert Staines 
A booming industry...in crisis?

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The media and advertising industry is coming out of a period of doom and gloom and moving into a ‘fixing stage’, writes RadiumOne's Rupert Staines

At the beginning of 2016 I decided to put pen to paper on the prospects for digital advertising in the months to follow. In an approach veering away from the general pessimism looming over our industry, I decided to go against the grain and look at the reasons to be cheerful.

So perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised when the first question I was asked on a recent panel discussion was whether we still have cause to feel this way...

My answer still stands - yes. I’m an inherently cheerful person, and optimistic about the industry we keep being told is in crisis. Ad tech is young. It has boomed over the last decade and we’ve established that people and tech don’t mix well together...at least in business. This isn’t a crisis.

Yes, we’re coming out of a period of doom and gloom, but we’re moving into what I’d consider the ‘fixing stage’. We have the ability to make changes and take our industry in the right direction.

Think back to every media channel that’s ever come before digital in history. They’ve all started with a lot of players and ended with a few. Ad tech is no different, and it’s going to take the same journey.

The transparency conspiracy?

It would be ignorant and frankly wrong to disregard the importance of transparency. But at the moment, I’d assert that we’ve misjudged the severity of problem.

Granted it’s a hot topic and something all players in our ecosystem need to work on, but clients and media need to take some responsibility for the perception of the scale of the issue.

Understanding varies greatly, and those that are more separated from the market are perhaps more influenced by what they read.

Bad traders will always exist and it’s our collective duty to consistently improve the experience for both consumers and commerce. It’s a fact of every industry. The barriers to enter the market are low, so infiltration is relatively easy.

The positive is that some fixes are arriving. Ads.txt, for example provide a mechanism to enable those who own content to state who is authorised to sell their inventory.

This, alongside industry initiatives led by JICWEBs, help identify and will eventually standardise solutions on ad fraud, brand safety and viewability.

We all have a responsibility to take an interest in this. Our industry will become wholly digital and we need to understand what we can do to provide better experiences through understanding and cooperating with consumers.

Fixing through measurement

The industry could fix a lot of issues by fixing measurement. If it was done sensibly and consistently, we’d have fewer ads, and therefore less ad blocking. The volume of ads out there is a measurement problem, and you could argue it’s because the value of an ad reaching the right person hasn’t been properly defined.

What needs to happen is smarter targeting. The industry would do well to better understand audiences across multiple touchpoints, thereby enabling the delivery of the right message, to the right person, and at the right time.

Gaining from GDPR

GDPR is hot on the lips of many marketers right now. We’re in anticipation of what will happen when the regulation hits in May, but who will benefit? At this stage, nobody really knows how opt-in consent will work.

Consumers could find the process painful, and the reality for marketers, advertisers and brands is that they’ll need explicit consent to track behaviour.

The responsibility largely lies with publishers and brands to know and educate on how it works in relation to their digital assets. If it’s done right, the technology enablers will ensure compliance, and we’ll be able to drive better quality provided the consumer is told a good story.

This and other developments offer the chance to improve the impact we have on consumers. We’re not in crisis, we’re in evolution. There’s lots to be excited about and it’s that we need to focus on.


Rupert Staines is managing director EMEA, RadiumOne

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