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!

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