Last Week In Digital Advertising #4

As somebody who works with the technology of digital advertising, it never ceases to amaze me when I see comments that suggest targeting is the next big thing online. Targeting – of all sorts and in many guises – has been possible for years (although clearly very disguised, as nobody seemed to know it was there)

Did you miss me? Go on say you did.

Last week was a bank holiday in the UK and we skipped ‘Last Week in Digital Advertising’ which just means that we should have more things to talk about this week.  If you’re outside the UK and you’re interested then I should say that bank holidays are really just public holidays with a fancy name. Originally they really were holidays observed by the Bank of England but are now much extended. And, as many of you think we take too many here in Britain (we have 8 of them), I’ll point out that we used to take more than 30. Of course I would have to have been alive in 1830 to get that many. Which I wasn’t! Amusingly, one of Britain’s newest banks doesn’t close on half of the bank holidays, so we probably should rename them.

Banks are, of course, a nice place to store some of that new digital revenue reported by The Rubicon Project (Digital Ad Spend Grows 47% In The First Half Of Year) or next year’s bumper cash bonanza for local advertising (Local online advertising market set to top $16 billion in 2011) that was covered by John Cook’s Venture Blog, which, in turn, was quoting a bullish Borrell Associates report.

As somebody who works with the technology of digital advertising, it never ceases to amaze me when I see comments that suggest targeting is the next big thing online. Targeting – of all sorts and in many guises – has been possible for years (although clearly very disguised, as nobody seemed to know it was there). I’m never sure if it’s the publishers who thought it was too complex a-sell or the buyers who thought it too complex to plan but it’s been possible for a very long time.

Meanwhile, run-of-site display advertising is expected to drop by nearly 14 percent on a national and local level. “This early online format has simply been overshadowed by newer, more productive ad formats, and competition has pushed display unit prices down,” the report said. [quoted here]

Of course, it’s easy news copy and it’s hard to argue accuracy when so many people have been using ‘run-of’ advertising very successfully. Michael Nutley, in his Marketing Week column, repeated concerns among some brands and media owners that traditional media agencies aren’t taking full advantage of the complexities of the digital world.  So, if it’s true that “They’re not buying mass anymore; they’re buying niche,” as ClickZ reports Borrell saying, then I think it’s great for digital.

Blackberry maker, RIM, will have to dig deep into its bank account if stories suggesting it’s about to pay $500 million dollars for a mobile advertising company are true.  Readers will notice that mobile keeps cropping up because it’s either a genuine hot topic or, perhaps, we just continue to think it’s ‘hot’ because we all know there’s something in it. As if to underscore mobile computing is key, eMarketer surveyed a bunch of people (see, that’s the analyst in me) and found that 18-29 years old (the so-called Millennials) “were more than twice as likely to label cell phones a necessity” when compared against an older audience (their figures:59% vs. 29%).

Mobile marketing business AdFonic suggests the mobile ad industry needs to ensure that it’s matching the rest of online with transparency in advertising reporting (Transparency is key driver of mobile ad spend) – which is certainly true in a cross platform world. As an industry, transparency in what we deliver is important but, as always, there are challenges. The ad-operations forum at Admonsters noted that “[c]ounting discrepancies in impressions, page-views, and other visitor data impact every online tracking company, publisher, and marketer” which shows why we continue to have challenges building and integrating smart digital ad technologies.

There’s a lot to be covered when looking back at the last two weeks in the digital advertising world so let’s do some quick stats. Foursquare, the fashionable location-based check-in service, is now at 3 million users. TechCrunch thinks it will be a 4 million soon. I wondered, on Twitter, if we’re approaching a location advertising tipping point (don’t you love how social media allows you to reference yourself?).  Microsoft knows mobile is valuable and is reportedly digging into it’s bank account to spend $1billion promoting Windows Phone 7.  Keeping with a running theme in this column, NewTeeVee reports that almost half of all people in their survey (which was, reassuringly, global in nature and conducted in the U.S., the U.K., Sweden, Spain, Germany, Taiwan and China) watch online television content every week (although does go on to note the continued strength of linear television). The continued popularity of online television services may be a reason why the UK’s Channel Five rejoined the internet-connected television consortium that is Project Canvas.

Buzzword of the fortnight goes to ‘engagement’ which has become an oft-quoted, never-defined advertising measurement metric. It was reported that Twitter’s promoted-tweets advertising concept increased engagement by 50% (if engagement was measured by clicking and re-tweeting: so the click metric then?).  For P&G, however, “engagement included watching an embedded video, playing a game or signing up for a newsletter”. In that previously mentioned Michael Nutley column we see that it’s a measurement that’s causing some concern amongst publishers and eConsultancy has a nice piece examining the engagement concept and trying to determine what it really means.

That seems like a lot for this week, doesn’t it? And I haven’t even ventured into the latest stories surrounding the privacy implications of digital advertising (Ad Firm Sued for Allegedly Re-Creating Deleted Cookies). Oh look how I squeezed that in. If only I was paying myself something for clever segues. I’d have a reason to visit the bank now. It is, after all, open today.

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