Report Card

At the start of the year I wrote a couple of predictions for 2010 in digital advertising (it was either that or try and pen a New Year’s hit record and my wordsmith-ing just isn’t up to that). I could, of course, forget about them, pretend I’d never dealt those cards and move on with this year’s predictions but you know I’ve never been one to resist pointing out my personal failings. So, did anything actually come true or should you be relying on fortune telling talents of somebody on the end of Blackpool pier in a wooden caravan for your 2011 bets?

At the start of the year I wrote a couple of predictions for 2010 in digital advertising (it was either that or try and pen a New Year’s hit record and my wordsmith-ing just isn’t up to that). I could, of course, forget about them, pretend I’d never dealt those cards and move on with this year’s predictions but ‘you know’ I’ve never been one to resist pointing out my personal failings. So, did anything actually come true or should you be relying on fortune telling talents of somebody on the end of Blackpool pier in a wooden caravan for your 2011 bets?

I think you’ll be saved the seaside trip with the first one. I don’t think I was wrong about the cookie storm, although it was more catering sized than a storm in a teacup and, unexpectedly, it was the US and not Europe that appeared to be looking closely at issues related to online tracking. The Wall Street Journal really started dunking that cookie in July with a series of articles entitled ‘The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets‘ which ran with a sub-header that spoke of ‘spying on consumers’ which is great journalist-speak but does nothing to reflect the nuances of the debate. I’ll award myself a B+ for that one.

Staring into my crystal ball I said that money will come back into digital advertising (check) and the switch to digital will continue (check).  The Rubicon Project declared ‘Digital Ad Spend Grows 47% in First Half of Year‘ in August while only this month eMarketer declared, ‘The Web Passes Newspapers in Ad Spending For First Time‘. I will only award myself a B+ for those predictions too as, really, it was a little too obvious and even faulty crystals would have come close.

I wrote several times in the year about Paywalls and I am going to say the jury is still out on them. They did rise, but that had been announced, and I think it’s too early to talk about their impact on newspapers and on advertising. Although in August, WPP’s Martin Sorrell said, ‘online paywalls are an essential part of the armoury for newspaper and magazine publishers in the digital age’ (as reported by Brand Republic).

I am going to give myself an A for references to mobile coupons in my 2010 predictions. This is one place where the tea leaves more-or-less worked well.  Admittedly, the mobile part is vague but the rise of GrouponLiving Social et al. means that couponing made a big come-back in a deal-obsessed year. We all like another 30% off, don’t we?

I am fairly certain that ‘monetizing social media’ will become a buzz (if it’s not already) but I don’t think Twitter really did come good with an advertising model (promoted Tweets anyone?). However, Facebook seems to be doing fine, thank you. Back in March, Inside Facebook predicted 2010 revenues at $1.1 billion, All Facebook suggested $1.2 billion in March and, just as Mark Zuckerberg was announced as Time’s Person of the Year, Facebook was reported as being on track to collect $2 billion in revenues in 2010, according to Bloomberg (and reported in MediaPost). Another B+ there because, I think it was another more-or-less obvious prediction.

And so to the one I really don’t know how to read. What can I say happened to mobile advertising this year? The definition of mobile changed at the start of the year when Apple officially announced the iPad. Is it a mobile device or not? What does it mean for advertising? We tried, and subsequently failed, to answer these questions in 2010.

Clearly, I was right about location based advertising becoming more prominent but only if, through use of smoke and some mirrors, I claim I was talking about the media buzz. I did see some good Foursquare location advertising on a trip to the US earlier in the year but I’m yet to see anything really take-off. Perhaps Facebook is the one to watch on this front (but, predictions are for another post). As for mobile, well Google closed their acquisition of AdMob, Apple acquired Quattro and subsequently launched iAd but have we really seen the innovation on that front yet?   One publication, telecomtv.com, announced ‘Mobile advertising at last coming of age. In the UK at least‘ at the start of December so let’s go with that as an A- shall we?

I ended last year’s predictions with some comments about data. The aforementioned Wall Street Journal series certainly brought that to the fore. Just a few days ago AFP reported Mozilla chief executive Gary Kovacs as saying,

“You can’t tell me the delivery of a piece of content is going to be that much better if you know everything about my life; it’s all about moderation.”

and with that we’ll probably end 2010 in no better place in our understanding of data use than we ended 2009. At least the debate has started on the use of declared, inferred and tracked data and behaviours and I think that debate is a good thing. I, for one, believe a properly informed debate will be a good thing for the digital ad business.

Now to make a pot of tea and see what the leaves might suggest for next year. I think, overall, I am awarding myself a B+ for my 2010 predictions. Probably, we should be thankful we came through the year unscathed which, when you think about it, isn’t a bad place to end up.

There’s an interesting year ahead for 2011 as we might finally start to see on-demand television hit the big (bigger) time in the UK, there’s a data conversation still to be had and I have to ask if the march of social can be halted (and would you want that?).  All-in, those could make for some interesting digital advertising times ahead and I’m hoping on the tram to Blackpool to see if Gypsy Jane-Anne is in and willing to look at my palm.

In the meantime, New Year will be celebrated Twitter style @curns.

Last Week in Digital Advertising #8

I am hoping that 2011 is the year television ads get more relevant and interactive In a time when the amount of time U.S. households spent watching TV and using the Internet is equal at 13 hours per week surely we are at the convergence point we all talked about so much in recent years.

Ho Ho Ho. I come with festive cheer and another Last Week in Digital Advertising. What’s that? You’d forgotten that I do this occasionally? Well, you and me both, but Santa & I got a little tipsy yesterday (you did know he comes round every Boxing Day for a sherry, didn’t you?) and he hinted I ought to remind myself how to type. So. here goes.

We started last week in digital advertising with the news that AOL had been buying again, this time it’s Pictela, who turn out ‘high definition ads’ and, apparently, strengthens AOL’s ad picth. Ads have to get more engaging and interactive so this could be a good move for AOL but I am not convinced by some of the examples yet and, really, they need to leap out of the standard sizes (expanding doesn’t cut it in my humble!).

A Digital Advertising Tipping Point (or Two)

Now the phrase “tipping point” has been over-used a little bit this week. eMarketer gained a reasonable amount of coverage for their ‘US online advertising overtakes print‘ research. All advertising in the US is up 3% while online spending up over 10%. Good news for the digital advertising industry but, the future of advertising (like almost all media) is cross-platform and I am not sure it’s that sensible to compare. When brands are available in many places and media owners will be selling cross-media, it just doesn’t really matter. Still, I pulled a cracker in celebration.

And talking of cross-platform I am hoping that 2011 is the year television ads get more relevant and interactive. In an age when the amount of time U.S. households spent watching TV and using the Internet is equal at 13 hours per week (according to a recent survey from Forrester Research) surely we are at the convergence point we all talked about so much in recent years.  In the UK, I am banking on the YouView platform to launch with the hope that we can start to see some innovations in advertising on that large screen.  In the US The Wall Street Journal reported that DirecTV will be rolling out ‘addressable ads’ in the autumn of next year. A spokesperson for Starcom Media Vest (SMG) called it ‘A Tipping Point’. Oh, that phrase again.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for DirectTV said,

This partnership with SMG will create a whole new revenue stream for DIRECTV and ensure that our viewers are being served up with ads that are relevant to their lifestyles.

The elephant (or, at this time of year, is it reindeer?) in the articles is that ‘more relevant’ advertising means better targeted using consumer information of some sort (declared or inferred, I don’t care) and the hope has to be that all the firms working in this space have worked out their privacy policies, have learnt how to communicate them and provide easy access to options for viewers.

Cloak Your Online Activities

And, as with almost every week, privacy was (still) in the industry news (I feel I could write about that each week alone). This week, Mozilla’s chief executive Gary Kovacs was also at a tipping point, ‘I fundamentally believe that the balance is tipped too far’ he said, in relation to online user tracking as he announced that Firefox will help you cloak your online activities. Honestly, don’t you think that headline sounds almost as sinister as the trackers are being portrayed to be?

I can’t knock Firefox for attempting to provide tools for users to manage their online preferences but I do hope that they also make a play to explain the fact that most tracking is anonymous; doesn’t know who or where you are; isn’t going to result in somebody knocking on your door and is ‘trying’ to help advertisers serve relevant ads to you. I am not sure it’s likely, the sentence,

“You can’t tell me the delivery of a piece of content is going to be that much better if you know everything about my life; it’s all about moderation.” [source]

suggested that nuances of the argument aren’t going to be made. It’s the ‘everything about my life’ phrase that, I think, is an exaggeration too far. Shame really.

And it is those little details that are often omitted in the discussion; little details that could impact a lot of publishers (in the most general sense of that word). Reuters have a great piece noting that today’s ‘free’ Internet is powered by ‘data collection and advertising’. Bloomberg Businessweek told us that if the US ‘Do Not Track’ ideas are adopted then ads would get dumber (but they won’t disappear) and $8 billion could be removed from publisher’s coffers. That’s $8 billion not to spend on original and creative content. AdExcahnger has an interesting look at the US policy (‘Coming to a Website Near You: More Irrelevant Advertisements‘) and points out that the industry has spent two years refining policies and creating opt-outs and the like. There is much work to do but I hope that in 2011 we can actually have a sensible discussion that isn’t based around expose articles and sinister headlines. Am I living in a Christmas fairytale land to think that might happen? I’ll ask the elves.

Pay Attention

Of course the industry needs to get its act together. Another Wall Street Journal story reported how smartphones are regularly transmitting data to third-parties for advertising and some of this seems to be without the proper notifications to users. I think some of the most sensible advice on this topic was this sentence: ‘The most important thing a user can do is pay attention to the information each app is requesting’ and we should all learn to make such information clearer to people using our products.

The mobile apps guys had better get their privacy information in order if they are to benefit from the growing mobile market for advertising. Berg Insight reported that ‘mobile advertising expenditure will correspond to 15.7% of the total digital advertising market or 3.4% of the total global ad spend for all media’ in 2015. It’s a growing mince-pie indeed.

If mobile has a growing future for advertising, it appears in-game doesn’t. At least EA Games noted this week that ‘in-game advertising in decline, microtransactions the way forward’. That will be a space to watch. I have always maintained that advertising can’t pay for everything in this world and, sometimes, people (users, our customers) are prepared to pay up-front for things. Perhaps this is an example of a market where advertising won’t be seen as so important moving forward. Is it a tipping point too?

Of course, games, TV and mobile are all be valid places for display advertising. But, the rest of the browser-based web shouldn’t be forgotten. ClickZ ran a headline this week saying, ‘The Future Belongs to Google’ and looks how well placed they are in the display advertising space. That’ll be one to watch, huh?

Now, I’m off to enjoy the rest of the bank holiday. I don’t imagine there’ll be much news this week but on Friday I am going to try and look back at my digital advertising predictions for 2010 and see how I got on. Although they were pretty safe, they might not have been too far off the mark!

Curns’ Ad Links for 24 December 2010

Curns’ Ad Links for 23 December 2010

Curns’ Ad Links for 22 December 2010

Curns’ Ad Links for 20 December 2010

Curns’ Ad Links for 9 December 2010