2020 was a big year for the adtech and martech industries. On the one hand, a global pandemic completely changed how consumers use the internet, but we also ran into obstacles related to ad fraud, consumer privacy and changes to the standard operating procedures of these ecosystems. The transformation that adtech and martech saw in the previous year doesn’t end when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st; it follows us into 2021 and beyond.
Just because the technology we use to advertise and market to consumers is facing many disruptions in the near future does not mean you can’t find success with these solutions. You just need to know what’s coming so you can be prepared.
AdTech and MarTech in 2021
There are thousands of adtech and martech solutions on the market today - as of 2020, Statista estimates about 8,000 of them - all designed to perform specific roles in the ecosystem.
Adtech, or advertising technology, helps advertisers and ad agencies create, run, measure and manage online ad campaigns across a number of websites and apps. To facilitate these activities, advertisers and publishers use demand side platforms (DSPs), ad exchanges, supply side platforms (SSPs), ad networks and data management platforms (DMPs) to buy and sell ad inventory. As you can imagine, having to work with so many separate systems is not always a seamless process, and there is a growing need to find a holistic solution.
Martech, also known as marketing technology, allows marketers to create, run, and manage online marketing campaigns and conduct onsite marketing. Martech is used for activities such as email marketing, social media management, A/B testing, user feedback surveys, web analytics and more. The kind of solutions you’ll find in this ecosystem are social media management platforms, web analytics, SEO and content optimization tools and CRMs, just to name a few.
To manage a high-performing advertising and marketing strategy, adtech and martech are no longer simply nice to have. These tools are a must. Not only have adtech and martech been the subject of much fragmentation over the years, they’re also rapidly changing technologies that must constantly pivot in response to new trends and regulations. As you start investigating exactly how you want to utilize these tools, here are a few things to keep in mind in the year to come.
DSPs allow advertisers to automatically buy ad inventory across a range of publisher websites. They work by providing information on which bidders qualify for a certain website or audience every time an auction occurs on an ad exchange. An advertiser uses DSPs to communicate their preferences for factors such as geographic location or content.
While these systems can usually interact with several different ad exchanges, it’s still not a straightforward process. That’s why we’ve recently seen several publishers opt to ditch intermediaries and create their own DSPs. Samsung, for example, introduced a DSP for targeting audiences on their smart TV devices, and Roku decided to acquire Dataxu, a DSP with a focus on TV inventory.
It makes sense that owners of video inventory would want to allow buyers to access their audiences directly. While other ad formats saw a decline in CPM due to decreased digital ad spending, video was one of the few formats that saw a 2% rise in prices in 2020, according to MarTech Series.
We’ve been seeing the writing on the wall for years now, but 2021 is the last year for us all to get ready for the end of third party cookies. Almost everyone else has already phased them out, but Google Chrome, the primary browser for more than half of global internet users, is the last holdout. Once they’re gone, many adtech and martech solutions such as ad exchanges, ad networks and retargeting companies will struggle to maintain their current business model.
Luckily, The Ward Group has previously covered this topic, and we have a few tips for you moving forward. Essentially, brands need to seek out truly collaborative partners and publishers, explore the potential of first-party cookies that is still to be uncovered and embrace alternative targeting methods. Above of all else, we need to stay positive. Big Tech wouldn’t be moving in this direction of greater consumer privacy if it didn’t believe it was ultimately in their best interest.
We also must learn to navigate mobile advertising without Apple’s IDFA to help us track users. Beginning in 2021, many iPhone users started seeing a message requesting permission for an app to track them across apps and websites owned by other websites. Users must explicitly opt into this tracking, something that can cut the share of targeted impressions in half and undermine effective retargeting and frequency capping. We still aren’t sure exactly how iOS advertisers will establish user identity moving forward, but the answer could come from Mobile Marketing Partners (MMPs) which have enough data points to construct a probabilistic profile.
Innovation in Targeting
As adtech and martech try to deal with environments with diminished targeting capabilities, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) could enhance how we understand data usage patterns and allow us to identify the smallest data source for a more refined approach. AI in particular will be pivotal in optimizing bidding strategies. With AI, a DSP can build a predictive model based on the historical data about transactions, allowing it to locate the best inventory to bid on and set the optimal price, all while protecting advertisers from overpaying.
Contextual targeting should also hit its stride this year. Right now, we use keyword blocking and URL block listing as a way to rudimentarily interpret content and gauge its safety. With improved Content Intelligence, we can gain deeper insights by analyzing how people interact with specific content, which topics trend online and how those trends evolve and serve ad campaigns over time.
With improved contextual insights, media buyers can better assess the best times to launch campaigns, reevaluate bidding strategies, get a better idea of how events and market factors influence online engagement and better understand different interpretations of a webpage to uncover new targeting opportunities.
We’ve Got Something Better Than AdTech and MarTech: Media Stewards
Given what’s happening with consumer privacy and a trend towards using more first-party resources, there is a real opportunity for adtech and martech to innovate, not only preventing greater fragmentation across the technology landscape, but hopefully, moving towards consolidation. The way brands and consumers connect with each other is already starting to merge as advertising and marketing strategies embrace personalized, omnichannel approaches. As these trends evolve, our media stewards stay up to date, helping you understand these technologies and how they can be best utilized to facilitate better media buying and planning practices.
If you’re ready to enhance your advertising and marketing activities, contact The Ward Group and meet your new media buyers and planners.