Generative AI

Some of the text on this page was written by ‘AI’ using text-davinci-003

Yesterday, while on a break between meetings, I asked one of the currently popular AI tools to write something about how advertising might be impacted by AI technologies with a focus on the space I am currently working in: addressable advertising for broadcasters and pay TV operators. I also asked it to highlight some associated risks.

I asked a very open-ended question so I was not expecting anything specific about any individual technology. I tried a few times to see what alternatives were suggested. In general, what I got back was wonderful marketing speak: better targeting for advertisers, more relevant ads for viewers and more money (because of both of those things) for broadcasters. If I was starting a new ad tech company then I’d probably use this text. But I didn’t learn anything. Responses from the current models are very generic. I’d love to try the same question on an industry-specific data set trained with fewer buzz words and generalisations.

The prompt:

Write three paragraphs explaining why AI will improve advertising technologies with a focus on technologies for video and connected television. In the first paragraph outline the benefits for advertisers. In the second paragraph explain the impact on broadcasters and viewers and in the last paragraph outline some risks associated with AI and advertising. Use British English.

The response:

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in advertising technologies has the potential to revolutionise the way brands, broadcasters, and viewers interact. For advertisers, AI technologies offer the potential to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns by making them more personalised, targeted, and cost-effective. AI-enabled technologies allow advertisers to identify the right viewers, track their behaviour and preferences, and deliver customized ads that are tailored to their interests. AI can also help advertisers better understand the impact of their ad campaigns, identify potential opportunities for improvement, and optimise the ads for maximum performance.

The introduction of AI in video and connected television advertising technologies also has the potential to enhance the viewer experience. AI-based technologies can be used to deliver personalised, targeted, and interactive ads that are tailored to the viewers’ interests. This can help broadcasters create more engaging and entertaining advertising experiences for their viewers, as well as offer brands the opportunity to create more immersive and compelling ad campaigns.

However, there are some risks associated with the use of AI in advertising technologies. For example, the use of AI could lead to the emergence of new forms of advertising that are intrusive and manipulative. AI-based technologies could also enable companies to track and analyse consumers’ behaviour in order to deliver ads that are tailored to their preferences. This could lead to the creation of a ‘surveillance economy’, in which companies have access to an unprecedented amount of personal data. In addition, AI could be used to create ‘fake news’ and other misleading content, which could undermine the trust and credibility of brands.


History of Online Advertising

Thankfully, somebody is preserving the history of online advertising.

I’ve worked for a number of digital advertising companies. Many of these no longer exist: Engage, Accipiter, aiMatch and to name four. Three of these were bought and their legacy lives on with other companies. Engage moved on from the digital advertising world in 2002.

There’s a history of the internet – and more importantly of the way our media adapted to the rise of a connected digital world – buried in the history of those and many other companies that existed in the early days of the world wide web. Much of that history is probably lost. I think that’s a shame so, earlier today, it was really good to see Digiday publish an oral history of the first banner ad.

(Of note: I got the new Twitter 280 character option today so this was the first of my longer tweets)

In related nostalgia, I’ve been working in London 24 years today. I haven’t the time to write anything about that but I just discovered I did write about it in 2004 after 11 years in the city which is probably still relevant.

Trusting Technology: Programmatic Advertising and Digital Locks

Do you trust a digital lock? Do you trust programmatic advertising? Did anybody ever believe anybody would write that sentence?

Sermon Of the Last Sunday (#SOLS) was introduced with on-target delivery: the 2017 Reading challenge and the first Japan retrospective. Then I got the calendar wrong – thought March had an extra Sunday – and now find myself writing March’s installment in April. But that’s a technicality and I’m not letting myself get too concerned with that level of detail. But what to write about?

Although I vowed not to write too much on this site about the technology of digital advertising, it seems that industry news in March is worth mentioning. If I was still writing those ‘Last Week in Digital Advertising‘ round-ups then I’d have plenty of material. What made this month’s headlines big was because the news involved Google. And they always make a good story (and then they’ll index it and let you find it again too).

Google may be known to most people as the search engine and YouTube-owner but it’s also one of the biggest advertising businesses in the UK. Last year eMarketer reported,

Google will net £3.80 billion … in ad revenues— accounting for almost 40% of all digital ad spending in the UK 1

So, you know, huge.

Today, advertising is much more complex than it used to be.  The basic premise of advertising hasn’t changed: an advertiser with a product or service to sell or promote wants to get a message in front of a lot of, hopefully, the right people.  Somebody with an audience (generically, a publisher) pays the bills by selling some space to the advertiser (be it in print, sound or vision).  In Britain, it’s been this way since the 18th Century.2

Digital Changed Advertising

But digital has changed everything else: advertising of all types is easier to buy for many more companies; there are thousands – if not millions – of smaller publishers where people spend time and the so-called ad-tech industry has developed hundreds of new technology ideas that sit between the advertiser and the publisher (so many, that the world they inhabit is known as the Lumascape, after the company who tries to plot them all). This Lumascape uses technology to make the process of buying and selling across so many different places both easier and more efficient by automating as much of the process as possible.  Increasingly, this automation means that the advertiser (who is the buyer) relies on a machine to decide where to buy.  Publishers, both old and new, connect their advertising business to these automatic buying machines in the hope the advertiser actually spends money with them. It’s a process that’s been termed ‘programmatic advertising’.

The problem for many advertisers and publishers is that the details of ‘programmatic advertising’ are something of a mystery: for the advertiser they can’t be 100% sure where their advertising will show up and for the publisher they can’t be 100% sure who is advertising on their sites.

Technology Trust

Do you have a connected digital lock on your front door? My guess is that for the odd person that reads this, the answer will be no. Technology has not gained sufficient trust.  The problem is, in the modern advertising world, the technology struggles to gain trust from all sides of the market but most people still have to use it.  Advertising can no-longer stick with the old-fashioned key; it relies on the digital lock.

And that strange metaphor brings us to the first big story in March’s digital advertising news:

The issue is easy to explain: there’s more and more Internet stuff that people are reading and watching and there’s almost no way for a human being at one of the big advertising companies to have vetted everything out there. And, because the machines have taken the job of deciding which advert goes where, we need to trust the machine to do the right thing. And sometimes, they mess-up.  And, occasionally, they mess up in a very big and public way like this.

The issue is complex for advertisers: companies need to be seen where their potential customers are but, in an increasingly fragmented media world, that means that they sometimes end-up down the wrong alley shouting that you should buy their stuff.

The issue is complex for publishers: they have lots of content produced around the globe and submitted by both professionals and the rest of us. And they need to earn money from as many advertisers in as many places as possible and that money isn’t a big enough pot to pay somebody to check every word or second of video. As the BBC’s technology correspondent said,

There are two difficult issues for Google here: spotting videos that are illegal and should be removed from YouTube; and determining which are legal but not suitable to carry advertising.3

The issue is incredibly hard to fix: I can’t imagine the world will go back to the Mad Men era where the buyer and seller not only both know each other and eat a lovely lunch together, but also play golf, go and get drunk in a downtown bar and take each other on expensive ‘days out of the office’.  One decision the machine never has to make is if it should be a green olive or a twist of lemon peel in the Martini. Those things will all continue as long as the humans are involved but it represents much less of the advertising that is bought and sold today.

Google hasn’t been singled out here but they are the top story for a couple of reasons. First, advertisers found their ads in the wrong places where they knew Google was responsible. This is reasonably important because, in some cases, the middle men of the Lumascape are so intertwined and wrapped up in a programmatic advertising mystery that the advertiser doesn’t always know which technology provider to shout at.  And, secondly, as I already noted, Google is big so it impacts a lot of advertisers and a lot of money. Thirdly, Google also makes headlines which means we all notice and people like me get to write 1383 words on the topic. But, as much as the industry might wish Google to take the heat; the issues raised apply to almost everybody involved in making machines buy & sell advertising.

It’s Really A Story About Machines

The advertisers that have taken a stand against Google and other forms of programmatic advertising will come back. Perhaps, their agencies will pay a little more attention to the technology and the controls that are available  today. The publishers will do a better job of classifying the content so that it’s a tiny bit easier to spot the places where they should not be running advertising.

But, in the end, it will continue to be about the machines.  The automation of traditional roles is increasingly common; the removal of some of the people in a process is not unique to advertising (this is just today’s biggest story). The machines will get trained a little better and become a little smarter in managing all this in the milliseconds they have to make a decision.  But in advertising, as in many areas, the machines are here to stay.

Perhaps it’s good news for real people. The machines have a lot to learn and, until they do, we’d all be wise to reconsider if we should be using a digital lock or just going for a drink with the local locksmith.


I didn’t even get to the other big digital advertising story of March.  Maybe that’s already material for another Sermon.

Sermon Of the Last Sunday is my attempt to ensure that there is something published on my site every month in 2017.  You can read about my attempts to force myself to write or review the full #sols collection through the handy site tag, sols.


1 UK Digital Ad Spend Will Continue Double-Digit Growth in 2016, eMarketer, 28 September 2016
2 History of Advertising in Britain, Wikipedia
3 Google’s crisis of confidence, BBC

Will The Internet Kill Television?

An article in The Economist prompted me to think about how television has changed in my lifetime and why it’s taken a little bit of time for it to be threatened by the internet.

In my lifetime being connected to an always on computer network, the internet, has changed almost everything: from what you for a living; how to file your tax return about that employment and how your order form your local takeaway when you get home. Some things seem to have radically changed very quickly. When I first started working on digital advertising with major UK publishers, editors held-back news stories for the printed edition (next month) rather than post in today’s online news. I guess, they’re now tweeting it for themselves first as there’s no printed edition of many of those publications any more.

But, will the Internet kill television in the UK?

BBC Test Card

Television has behaved a little differently. When I was born there were only 3 UK television channels and not everything was broadcast in colour. Fast forward to when I was 12 and the Whiteley-Vorderman duo hosted, effectively, the first programme (Countdown) on the fourth channel. It was a slow and highly regulated evolution.

As with everything, over then next 30 years the pace of change increased. The UK went through the dish wars with the Sky-BSB years (check-out these BSB promos promising five channel television: they feel very dated indeed now) and a fractured cable industry only really came to be a player with the merger of NTL and Telewest in early 2006.

I guess it was February 2005 when video on the truly internet arrived (YouTube launched) but I think you can be forgiven for looking at the media landscape back then and thinking the internet was primarily for the written word even if, within 2 years, Netflix was launching a DVD streaming service. But the internet develops video models for business very quickly. Just this week, YouTube announced it will stop supporting the 30-second unskippable advertising format that has been the backbone of broadcast TV for decades. Can television continue to hold on to that model?

A couple of weeks ago, The Economist ran an article that explains some of the economics of television and how they are changing.

The internet has already changed what viewers watch, what kind of video programming is produced for them and how they watch it, and it is beginning to disrupt the television schedules of hundreds of channels, too. But all this is happening in slow motion, because over the past few decades television has developed one of the most lucrative business models in entertainment history, and both distributors and networks have a deeply vested interest in retaining it.

Television’s $185bn advertising business is a hefty war-chest to fight the challenge of change. I wonder how it will look in five more years? Will it be radically different – in the way printed media is now so different – or, like its broadcast parents, will television for the internet continue a slower evolution?

I also wonder when my own habits will change. When will I consume more content delivered via the broadband connection than over the broadcast air? It can’t be that far away.

Elsewhere: A Sticky End

Maintaining the tradition of ensuring a copy of things I post elsewhere are also saved here, earlier today I posted on Facebook about the branding of a company I used to work for:

If the sponsored posts on Facebook are accurate, sometime in the next 24 hours the brand name of a company I used to work for,, will disappear as it becomes more fully part of its new parent, Freewheel. Or something like that. They don’t tell me the details.

I spent 18 months working for them as the business grew from one that was primarily focussed on France to one that expanded to Europe and, as I was leaving, an office opened in New York to address the needs of American customers. Earlier this year the company was acquired by Freewheel and, I guess, this is the next part of the coming together of the businesses.

As the brand is phased out, and having seen the sponsored post almost every time I open my Facebook app, one thing really struck me that I never truly appreciated during the period I was working there: how well the branding works and how expertly it is used. I don’t recall exactly when the current look & logo were introduced but it’s executed consistently well across all channels. From exhibition stands at major events, to laptop stickers, corporate videos or company presentations there is a consistency that you don’t see that often outside of the biggest companies.

Attaching the logo to the wall of the London office, while levelling the letters and managing the spacing, caused much hilarity for Greg and me in the summer of 2015.

Somewhere, I hope, there’s a cupboard that holds copies of the adtech brands that have disappeared over the years I have worked in this industry (“Engage: Like Never Before,” anyone?). If there is, I imagine the last branding will a shining beacon in the vast sea of logos that are no longer in use. I can’t even write the name of the company without automatically capitalising the ADS portion and including the dot-tv; I can’t recall how many times I was reminded about that.

No doubt, today, there’s a larger team of people behind it but Marie should be really happy with all the work she — and all the marketing team — have done to build and represent a brand.

Good luck, Stickers, with the next phase of your adventure.

FreeWheel Acquires StickyAds to Build Full-Stack Programmatic Video Markeplace

Bursting The Bubble of Doom

Digital advertising in 2017? You’d be forgiven for thinking that any light at the end of the tunnel is an unstoppable train that’s coming to mow us all down.

Today, right on the front page of this site, in the blurb I wrote about myself, it says, “I’ve spent over 15 years helping European publishers apply rapidly changing ad technology to help manage online advertising but, as it’s the day job, it’s not all I (occasionally) write about.”

I just looked and it seems that I have not written – at least, not written here – about digital advertising since 27th August 2014. I used to write a lot more: there’s a whole category that houses past ramblings but, in spite of (or, perhaps, because of ) the constant changes in the industry I haven’t hit a keyboard on the topic in a while.

I do have a FlipBoard Magazine on the topic, which I recently noticed you can read in a browser as well as through their apps (hint, you should subscribe). I use this to post articles on digital advertising that I find most interesting and it serves as a good reference book for me. After a quick scan over some of the industry headlines from the past year and I can see why I haven’t really written anything:

  • Everyone Disgusted With Ad Industry (adcontrarian)
  • Where did the money go? Guardian buys its own ad inventory (The Guardian)
  • What media companies don’t want you to know about ad blockers (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • Banner ads are dead because your phone killed them (Recode)
  • Internet Video Views Is A 100 Percent Bullshit Metric (Gawker)

You’d be forgiven for thinking that any light at the end of the tunnel is an unstoppable train that’s coming to mow us all down. When you add this bubble of doom to the wider political landscape (“London tech and media companies may bolt in the wake of Brexit“) then you’d be forgiven for scanning LinkedIn for a whole new industry to work in.

But, on my last working day of the year, I wanted to end the year with the thought that it’s not all as the headlines portray. There are good things to come.

Unlike previous years where I gazed in into the crystal ball for you (like here and here), I am leaving it to others to interpret the tea leaves for 2017. In summary, as Coull predicts, “2016 delivered transparency, in 2017 we’ll see action emerge from insight.”

  • AI will drive the majority of programmatic innovation (ExchangeWire)
  • Marketers will return to their heartland of strategic creativity (ExchangeWire)
  • Bringing sexy creative back (Adotas)
  • Header bidding will become more accessible (Ve Interactive)

What else might change in 2017? Well, this week an AdExchanger article noted, “One thing few people seem to want to discuss publicly is that the current suite of vendors benefit from the discrepancies that plague the market.” Are we at a tipping point where standardisation means more than just everybody showing the same 728×90 banner? Let’s hope so – it’s about time.

Then, of course, there’s new ad-tech. I think there’s a lot of innovation still to come in the space yet, look at Amazon:

We have been open, transparent and in constant communication with advertisers for 10 years, if you include the managed service. We’ve been iterating and bringing more value to those advertisers. Our focus hasn’t been on making noise but on listening to advertisers and doing what’s best for them. [Source: Adexchanger]

After all this, I’m still to be convinced that next year, “Programmatic TV will come of age“. I guess only the New Year will tell. I’m looking forward to finding out.

Merry Christmas.

Internet Ad Spend will Overtake TV Spend in …. Yawn.

A couple of months ago, the same data from the PWC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook popped-up a couple of times in my Twitter feed. I meant to write about it then but I’ve got around to it now as part of my BEWA plan.

The most re-tweeted factoid stated that, “By 2018, Internet advertising will be poised to overtake TV as the largest advertising segment” and concluded with the line “We are approaching a major tipping point in the advertising universe“.

I’ve made a career out of Internet advertising for more than 17 years. I delivered my first online ad a couple of years earlier as an online companion to a traditional radio spot. When we first started these kinds of comparisons were helpful, not only to reassure us that we’d made the right career choice, but also to convince our bosses that this really was a growing market and they might help us by employing another person to help us figure out what to do.

As an industry we were pleased when online ad-spend eclipsed various forms of print, billboards and even those radio ads I’d spent years working with.  I acknowledge it’s an interesting barometer and makes for some nice graphs for somebody’s next ‘speaking opportunity’.

But, today, comparing the vast opportunities of ‘Internet Advertising’ as a single place of ad-spend while breaking down ‘offline’ spend into it’s component segments doesn’t feel right to me. The IAB (using US-centric data) tells us that, in 2013, 43% of Internet advertising spend was search. Classifieds make-up 6% of the Internet spend. There seems very little point in comparing these numbers to television.

(Much more significant for TV is the kind of spend-shift outlined in a Bloomberg piece about Nike, but that’s for another day).

Surely, it’s connected vs non-connected advertising. The tipping point is coming but it’s not when Internet spend passes TV spend. It’s when spending on connected advertising surpasses non-connected advertising.


I don’t have access to the whole PWC Outlook which may very well put these numbers into a more subtle context that 140 characters can not convey.

My BEWA project resulted in a post about one of the stars of the the Australian television show Neighbours; an entry about writing the perfect technology RFP that allows companies to better work with you; a follow-up post about better user design and this about internet (or connected) advertising figures. Place your bets on if there will be a post next Wednesday,


Elsewhere: Will The Money Trail Drive Radio Innovation?

A couple of weeks ago, I received a tweet from an Australian chap called Anthony Gherghetta (@wheredidgogogo) who, based on my previous writings about a personalised radio service, suggetsed I consider adding some of them to a collection he was curating over on the writing platform, Medium, about The Future of Radio. I thought about this for a while but, while I was in Melbourne recently, local news about audience figures and money got me thinking about how such a personalised product would be funded. So I wrote Will The Money Trail Drive Radio Innovation? over on Medium (which, I have to say, is a lovely writing platform). As always, I also keep my own copy here but I do suggest you head to Medium to read it!

In the introduction to his 1979 book, The Piccadilly Story, Philip Radcliffe tells how Piccadilly Radio’s broadcast frequency – back then expressed as 261 metres, medium wave – was so ingrained in the Manchester community that shopkeepers would, at a bill of £2.61, simply ask their customers for ‘Piccadilly, luv’.1

For some reason, this – I have always assumed apocryphal – story popped into my mind when sat in a Melbourne coffee shop this week reading about Kyle & Jackie O’s latest audience figures.

By way of a quick summary, last Wednesday’s news was all about the top-rated Sydney breakfast duo who switched stations at the start of the year and, when the first audience figures were released, seemed to have carried most of their listeners to their new morning home. An astonishing switch that generated discussion on my Twitter feed of UK radio pundits. In itself, this has much to say about the power of broadcast radio and why the personalised radio future I envisage, maybe a way off yet.

While there was plenty of commentary about the audience numbers there was, in many ways, a more interesting number buried towards the end of The Australian’s piece on the news. The move had wiped $350 million off the share price of the duo’s former employers Southern Cross Austereo.

Both of these stories – some 35 years apart in their origins – tell of audience scale and it’s relationship to money. Historically, for entertainment media, the two are undeniably intertwined. And this relationship got me thinking, how would the finances of a personalised radio service stand up? In some ways scale and personalisation are not natural bedfellows but does that mean a personalised radio product would struggle to find revenue? In a previous musing on this topic I suggested that sponsored content blocks, mixed with a listener’s own music selection, might be a way forward. But when the audience is combining a unique mix of content selections, can this work? After all, what would the advertiser be buying and can it be sold at a profit?

To help answer that question, and in parallel to any thinking about a future radio product, we have to consider the funding. Is audio content suited to a subscription model so that a radio equivalent of the paywall could be erected? SiriusXM might suggest that it is. But are there many other countries where substantial audiences pay for radio content? None spring to mind. Perhaps there’s a smartphone subscription app-model that may work. But I don’t think that there’s precedent for profitable apps in-car (quite yet) or on kitchen radios. Which leaves us with advertising as the primary revenue model.

There’s a shift in media buying that’s being driven by the connected world whereby advertising space is increasingly traded in real time. On the web, a publisher may offer up an advertising spot to the market in the milliseconds before the advertisement is shown in the browser. One of the leading players in this space, The Rubicon Project, suggested in September 2013 that an average of 40% of online display advertising was traded in this way. In April last year Forrester suggested that almost 25% of online video advertising will be traded programatically by this year.2 The latter figure is important, because this automated trading will become an increasingly important way to generate revenue from television content when consumed online. And if TV goes there, why should we assume radio won’t?

There are many attractions of buying advertising space this way but the ability to easily group audiences that are increasingly consuming fragmented media is one. It’s becoming just as efficient to reach these disparate audiences as it used to be to reach mass audiences by buying, say, Piccadilly Radio.

Interestingly, when researching this piece I couldn’t find numbers for the amount of audio media traded this way. There are companies who specialise in the automated trading of radio advertisements but, when compared to those in the digital display or video space, they appear forgotten. Then again, perhaps it’s not surprising. There are a few stations doing new and innovate things with radio commercials – in the UK, Absolute Radio’s In-Stream is a good example – but they are the exception and not the rule. Therefore where’s the market for the automated trading of radio ads?

It seems to me, radio is missing out. If the advertising world is shifting to more automated way of buying then that means, by necessity, they are buying a connected product. Yet much of radio’s connected offering is simply delivering the same old product in a slightly newer way. For revenue growth, and maybe even for revenue parity, the radio industry has to adapt to the connected world in more ways than just offering up a stream of the broadcast signal.

Undoubtedly, there are many hurdles before there are mass market personalised radio products. Kyle & Jackie O have shown the enormous power of today’s mass-reach broadcast breakfast radio product. Yet, also this week, the BBC announced plans to close the youth-oriented BBC Three television channel. While reduced finances are the reason behind the proposed closure, the channel was selected in part – according to the press release – because it’s young audience “are the most mobile and ready to move to an online world”. A trend that suggests future audiences have different expectations of their media consumption.

There’s a convergence here that the radio industry needs to see: an undeniable shift to consumption on connected devices. This represents opportunities for both sets of radio’s customers. With the right product, audiences will increasingly personalise their radio experience but, I believe it may not be listeners who are the drivers of such innovations. The advertising industry, increasingly looking for ways to better justify their media spend, is pouring an ever growing share of their budgets into automated buying. Radio needs a product to capitalise on this move.

So it maybe that the money trail is the driver of innovation in the radio space and it the advertising industry that pushes radio to reinvent itself for the connected world.

1 Radcliffe, P. The Piccadilly Story, Blond & Briggs, 1979. p9
2 Strictly 24.7% of video spending by 2014.

Last Week In Digital Advertising #10

Is that something we should be considering for the future? Will the idea of advertising campaigns disappear? Perhaps our vision of the right message to the right person at the right time means that brands need to be constantly in-market. How else can the be assured of being at the right time?

Our spin doctor is still in the house so, lest somebody say something about this being a good day to bury news, let’s start with the biggest news. Google’s reported fourth-quarter profit surged 29% to $2.54 billion. Yikes, that’s a lot of money. Somewhat overshadowed by news late on Thursday evening that Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, is taking over the reins from long-time chief Eric Schmidt.  I wonder if there are more changes afoot?

So, that’s an opening totally fitting with last week’s four pillars of digital advertising news which bodes well for the rest of this week’s review, doesn’t it?  Having started with Spend Watch, why not continue in that mode. As they say in television, cue titles ..

Spend Watch

I’ve not done a Facebook revenue prediction this year. It seems like everybody has one on a reasonably regular basis so why not me? Thus, deep breath, Facebook is expected to make over £2.5 billion ($4 billion) from advertising in 2011, it has been estimated by eMarketer and reported on by the IAB. Compare that to the numbers reported in Advertising Age that the social network took in $1.86 billion in worldwide advertising revenue for 2010 (which was still a 151% increase over the company’s estimated 2009 advertising revenue). Pretty impressive numbers, although, of course, somebody had to find the flaw. Those numbers were “not as impressive as Google’s growth in its pre-IPO days” according to SFGate.

Elsewhere, ad-spending hit a record high in Malaysia; social gaming to top $1 billion in 2011 and advertising is expected to make up for 20% of game developers’ revenues next year, according to another eMarketer report (quoted by Coast Digital) and a Winterberry Group report at MarketingProfs says, “Within digital, social media ad spend is expected to increase more than 35%”. A healthy growth report from our spin doctor then.

The Bedford Report, er, reported that “ZenithOptimedia … expects China overtaking Germany as the world’s third-largest ad market behind the United States and Japan” and

China has achieved double digit internet growth rate since 2006 and currently housed 420 million Internet users. There are also 755 million mobile subscribers in China, making it the world’s largest mobile market.

Such a big market for advertisers. And, I don’t often quote data from an advertiser’s perspective but last week I saw that Cadbury’s had reported between £2 and £3 in sales for every £1 it spent on internet advertising – which seems like some more pretty decent numbers to me, spin doctor or not.


Crossing the line from Spend Watch to Video we read, via RapidTV, that in France, video advertising passed from €12 million to €30 million in turnover over one year. While back in the UK, the IAB released new 2011 best practice guidelines for video and called for a “mature” approach to video ads.  As the money flows into online video advertising we’re seeing the technology around the delivery gain traction. This week, for example, Rocket Fuel Inc. announced Video Booster which, apparently, allows “brands to engage audiences and reach campaign objectives with unparalleled precision and efficiency”. How long before bidding on video ads becomes mainstream?

Real Time

Kendall Allen at Advertising Age wrote this week that “Our industry is ecstatic over bidded media” and questioning if it’s quite as big as we think. I had believed that a lot of the real-time buzz was from the buy-side of the business but Kendall notes buyers are, “still waiting for this holy grail of audience intelligence at scale”. Perhaps helping us get a little nearer audiences at scale, Adobe announced the inquisitional of leading data management platform, Demdex.

The new world of real-time buying and selling of media was covered, last week, in a piece at Marketing Week entitled, “New era dawns for display advertising” which is worth of read.  Of particular interest to those in the digital display business is a comment from former American Express head of digital acquisition Matthew Turner,

“We’re now looking at digital display as an always on channel, rather than as [intermittent] campaign activity, explains Turner. We have historically run digital display on a campaign basis, but we’re now at a point where we’ve got such a level of high-quality inventory through exchanges that we’re able to think about display as a way of always building awareness or running direct response, similar to the way in which we treat search.”

Is that something we should be considering for the future? Will the idea of advertising campaigns disappear? Perhaps our vision of the right message to the right person at the right time means that brands need to be constantly in-market. How else can the be assured of being at the right time?


The last of our pillars this week is privacy. ClickZ reported on “Mixed Messages on Future of Privacy Law in 2011” for US citizens while The Wall Street Journal noted “EU’s Push on Internet Cookies Fizzles Out” which suggested that Europe was generally in favour of industry self-regulation and quoted the EU document saying

[it’s not necessary] to obtain consent for each individual operation of gaining access to or storing of information on a user’s terminal, if the initial information and consent covered such further use.

Elsewhere, Better Advertising (sorry, Evidon) are working with Collective (they call themselves “the leader in understanding and delivering audiences”) “to power ad notice for more than 28 premium publishers and advertising networks” using  Collective’s media management platform. More notice should be a good thing, right?

Friday saw my Twitter feed tell me that The Wall Street Journal’s opinion page comes out against US “Do Not Track” proposals. Of course they were the news organisation to highlight some of the issues around online ad tracking so it would be fascinating to read what they say in an opinion piece. It’s behind a pay-wall so if you have a subscription read it ( and let me know in the comments.

Now, away from my pillars what else did we learn last week? For starters, “Almost a quarter of Irish consumers are “strongly negative” towards online advertising” [Belfast Telegraph]; TGI’s James McCombe noted that,  from a marketing point of view, mobile Twitterers are an attractive target in their own right [MediaTel]; Bonnier announced that it was  developing next-generation ad formats for tablet magazines in a move said to “addresses a fundamental need in the industry: all-new advertising for all-new advertising platforms” [SFGate] and, back to where we started with news from Google, and Mashable’s exclusive report that the search giant is preparing to launch Google Offers – a Groupon-style daily deals offering. Interesting to me as I was going to add ‘Coupons’ or deals to our four digital advertising news pillars but wondered if they would/could  sustain the hype for a year.  Well, let’s see if they make any news next week when I’ll kick myself for not putting them up there.

Last Week In Digital Advertising #9

At the starting blocks of 2011 and I can already see the trends emerging for the topics that will be the mainstay of Last Week In Digital Advertising for the next twelve months. Should I just give up now? Regardless, here we go for the first view of the new year and, periodically, I’ll check-in with this list to see if we’re talking about other things.

At the starting blocks of 2011 and I can already see the trends emerging for the topics that will be the mainstay of Last Week In Digital Advertising for the next twelve months. Should I just give up now? Regardless, here we go for the first view of the new year and, periodically, I’ll check-in with this list to see if we’re talking about other things. And yes, I am well aware that this isn’t dissimilar in concept to my already published 2011 Digital Advertising Predictions but it is based on what the recent buzz has been and continues with my idea of a news review.


Clearly, one of the most significant things we’ll be talking about all year is privacy and, quite rightly too. Despite the fact that direct mail has been tracking our lifestyle choices and lifestages for years, doing it in real-time via a computer appears much more intrusive and, as an industry, we have to clearer about what we are doing. Spanfeller Media Group CEO Jim Spanfeller was asked by AdExchanger what he saw at the heart of the consumer debate about privacy:

I think the bigger issue is that people want control. They want control over their experiences. And so I agree. I think there are people, lots of people, who will give up data about themselves willingly in return for something.

And control seems to be a key theme of the privacy story this week. eMarketer quotes a survey by PreferenceCentral which found that “the more people know about behavioral targeting, the less willing they are to receive free content in exchange for relevant ads” but principal analyst David Hallerman wonders if, “people really view behavioral targeting as an invasion of privacy, or do they dislike it because they have no control over how marketers are using their personal data?” Publishers, unlike most marketers, have first party relationships with consumers and, Jonathan Mendez argues, there is an implicit understanding that this data is going to be used to make the user’s experience better. That’s a good position for publishers as long as the data is treated with care.

Kevin Lee at ClickZ writes under the headline “If Tracking Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Tracking” and suggests that ads should have more space devoted to explaining what data the ad used in the hope that consumers will “leave well enough alone and prefer targeted ads to untargeted ads”. Of course we have an embryonic system to show such information in the form of the Better Advertising initiatives who, this week, became Evidon. The name chosen to “evoke a connection with the word “evident,” which expresses our commitment to bringing clarity to the online community”. Their blog has more. Clear? Well, Mozilla’s aiming to making it all clearer with their alpha release of privacy icons which they are proposing are adopted to let users know how data is used. I like the idea.

Interesting to see The Wall Street Journal run a piece on how Google is trying to square using all their data with the privacy implications of that use. An interesting piece but amusing to see an article on privacy based on a leaked, internal, confidential document. Not sure I see the public interest value in raising privacy flags on a bunch of ideas that aren’t products but, nonetheless, interesting reading.


Video is at a crucial turning point, so says Jill Druschke in AdWeek and I suspect we’re right. It is one of the things to watch on my Horoscope for 2011. And, while I think cross-media comparison of ad-spend has some holes and should be read with caution, it is worth noting that online video represents only 7% of the entire ad market. Things are moving, though. New Media Age reported that “video ad network WebTV Enterprise saw ad revenues triple last year” with a 244% rise in video ad revenue in 2010 compared to the previous year and seems be a decent indicator for that sector of the ad business.

MediaTel noted that worldwide PVR sales are expected to hit the 50 million mark in 2014 but will, eventually, be overtaken by internet-enabled television sets. Around 350 million connected TVs are expected to be sold worldwide by 2015, according to Parks Associates (source: MediaTel). Adding a note of caution into the discussion, however, news that a new content distribution network built by BT will ensure greater bandwidth for users wanting to watch online video without disruption, even during peak online usage times (source: MediaTel). If such initiatives lead to a 2-tier web will consumers pay for it or head straight back to broadcast? An interesting one to watch.

Another note of caution was injected into the video discussion by Netimpreative, who note that “Online video rentals ‘failed to live up to hype’ in 2010” quoting Screen Digest’s figures that, in the US, network-delivered rentals and sales via the Internet and subscription TV systems accounted for $2.3 billion, representing 12.2% of the total market. At this stage, is 12% that bad?

Real Time

We’re moving to a more automated world, that’s for sure. How far we go is still to be seen but publishers everywhere are being encouraged to look at real-time trading systems. Eric Picard’s “Why publishers are afraid of real-time bidding” has some interesting things to say about data leakage and pricing while Jonathan Mendez suggests that real-time systems can make data pricing “more automated and more intelligent” (yes, second quote but it’s a good piece).

There is still some way to go. According to eMarketer, “Less a third of US publishers (31%) offered media buyers the possibility of real-time bidding on their ad inventory in 2010” but that will grow this year and it’s time for publishers to look at real-time systems in more detail. At ClickZ, Rob Beeler asks “What can a publisher – and more specifically, ad operations – do to ensure that RTB will help grow the business?”

Spend Watch

We can’t resist any little change in the revenue forecast numbers and I know I’ll be quoting lots of articles that predict even tiny changes in spend throughout the year. This last week or so we had a nice crop. New Media Age ran with “Display overtakes search in 2011 ad spend growth predictions” Advertising Age ran with “Local Advertisers Finally Join Ad Recovery” as in the third quarter of 2010, smaller US advertisers increased spending 8.1%, compared with a 9.1% hike in the top 1,000. The Economist told us that global spending on advertising will grow by 4.5% in 2011, led by online advertising which will increase by 16%.

In the land of mobile game advertising, Juniper Research discovered marketers spent $87 million worldwide advertising on mobile games in 2010. By 2015, the amount will be 10 times greater, at nearly $900 million (quoted at Miki Devic’s posterous blog). And talking mobile, I was surprised to see that only 12% of the UK population have mobile internet access, according to The British Population Survey and quoted by Netimperative.

Those will be four of the big news sectors I’ll be following in the coming weeks but what else did we learn this week? The Internet is now the main national and international news source for people ages 18 to 29 in the US says Pew Research (quoted at Mashable); SNL Kagan told us the number of location-based services users nearly tripled in 2010, reaching 33.2 million (via eMarketer); Internet Retailer reported that this Christmas shopping-related Google searches from mobile devices are up 230% and, of course, we heard again and again about the unstoppable rise of Facebook.

I’m already watching to see if any of these trends make next week’s news.

Elsewhere: Can Digital Advertising Ever Replace Traditional Advertising?

There is no such thing as traditional advertising; the method of consumption and delivery constantly changing. Glossy magazines evolved from newsprint and only the fact they have to be printed is similar their styles, reproduction and consumption habits wildly different. Colour was an evolution in print but also in television, as will be high definition and 3D. Why would be class a broadcast 3D television ad as ‘traditional’ and a image-based banner ad as ‘digital’?

An interesting questions was just posed on Quora: Can digital advertising ever replace traditional advertising? My initial answer started to say ‘yes’ until I realised the distinction is pointless. There is no such thing as traditional advertising; the method of consumption and delivery are constantly changing. Glossy magazines evolved from newsprint and only the fact they have to be printed is similar their styles: reproduction and consumption habits wildly different. Colour was an evolution in print but also in television, as will be high-definition and 3D. Why would we class a broadcast 3D television ad as ‘traditional’ and an image-based banner ad as ‘digital’?

The question assumes that there is an identifiable difference moving forward. Is a digital outdoor screen classed as a traditional billboard or a digital ad? Is a targeted commercial fed to your set top box a traditional television ad or a digital ad? Is an advertisement inserted into the audio stream of your favourite radio station a radio ad or a digital ad? They may be bought and sold in ways that are similar to their “traditional” counterparts but delivered to smaller, segmented audiences by technologies we class as digital. I agree with Chris, the distinction is not really relevant. If a there’s a large image across the railway tracks at the metro station does it matter if somebody’s had to get out there and stick up sheets of paper, if it’s projected and changed every few minutes or if it’s activated in some way by your presence & delivers something relevant to you? It’s still a large image across the tracks. I wonder if the distinction is helpful or a hindrance?

Thoughts? Add them the the Quora discussion.

2011 Digital Advertising Horoscope

Transparency will be the watch word in 2011 and we’ll all be bombarded with links to opt-out screens. I trust that we’ll get better at explaining how and what, if any, data is used. I also suspect we’ll see an emergence of more data validation services.

Let’s see what our Horoscope tells us for New Year’s Day. And I don’t mean that I foresee a murder and you shouldn’t be living in Midsomer at 9pm tonight. No, this is my attempt to better my score from last year and see what’s coming up in the year ahead for digital advertising. Really, there’s not much else to do until the fireworks have stopped rattling in my ears.

Aquarius: Your Campaigns Will Be Better Targeted

I’m still placing bets on increased data usage in advertising targeting. Although highly targeted advertising placements have been around since the first digital ad technologies appeared, such sophisticated targeting was not adopted universally. It will become increasingly important and advertisers will look to target across the data spectrum to incorporate behavioural and declared data alongside localisation and social metrics. Of course, somebody will release a(nother) study to say there’s an over reliance on audience data at the expense of creativity and engagement but you don’t need to read Mystic Meg to know there’ll be an increasing flow of data in 2011. This tidal wave of data is increasingly complex to manage and nobody seems to have developed a widely adopted trading platform for audience data yet. Who will fall foul of the data regulators in 2011? Somebody will. From a publisher’s perspective this will become an area in need of attention: selling media with data, selling standalone data, buying data and guarding against data theft. Somebody needs to keep an eye on all this to and, I imagine, it’ll need more than a board and wetsuit to ride the breaking data waves. Publishers need tools to mange their data and, properly, understand the value of that data.

Pisces: You Will Wear The Cloak Of Transparency

None of this, of course, will happen without full disclosure on data use. Transparency will be the watch word in 2011 and we’ll all be bombarded with links to opt-out screens. I trust that we’ll get better at explaining how and what, if any, data is used. I also suspect we’ll see an emergence of more data validation services. Advertisers, their agencies and publishers can increasingly partner with a wide range of data suppliers across the spectrum but who, if anybody, is validating it? Just as we’ve seen the rise of Better Advertising to combat the disclosure issue, I’m sure an increasing number of parties will offer to validate your data soon. Enough people aren’t asking if the data they are using is actually accurate and, therefore, valuable.

Gemini: The Moon Is In A Customising Orbit

Last year I didn’t need to be Russell Grant to suggest that digital advertising markets will start to grow again. That growth provided confidence to publishers and media owners who will now start to look for an increasing number of ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In a growing market, and for large pools of display advertising inventory, standardisation is a good thing but this will be the year more-and-more publishers add something bespoke to their media kits. Unique ad-units, integrated creative and an increasing number of sponsorship opportunities will appear to combat a continued rise of bidding and trading across more standard ad placements. And that approach will cross channels with iAd leading the way with more customised, non standard deliveries to iOS users. There has been a lot of talk about Apple’s iAd platform being either game changing or not but I don’t believe we’ve even scratched the surface. Increased interaction (yes, engagement) facilitated by this platform will pave the way for a change in the way brand-building ads are developed (will we even see them or call them ads anymore? They’ll be far removed from anything we have today). This will apply cross-platform as publishers will start to offer deeper experiences on mobile and on bigger screens. In the UK, Absolute Radio have already started to show what’s possible.

Cancer: A Job In The Financial Sector Awaits

Publishers will continue to embrace trading for part of their media. We’ll see exiles from banks and energy companies, who understand the deepest complexities of traded marketplaces, take roles at both ends of the trading floor. I wonder if Lori Reid can tell us if that will lead to a bonus culture to rival the big financial institutions? Customised ad placements and a growing marketplace will put pressure on the industry to deliver another type of data: the business insight. For publishers this will be about understanding advertising performance on their properties and tying that to financial and sales data. The buy-side of the industry will continue to pursue ad performance metrics but, I imagine, will also, increasingly, analyse the return on those other ads where awareness and interaction are the measurement metrics. We’ll see ourselves learning to better mine our financial data to understand what is, and what is not, working well. And from this insight publishers will start to channel investment into both content that is proven to be working from their, and their advertising partners, perspectives and into technology, an area where they have – recently – been out gunned by network and buy-side companies.

Virgo: Your Digital Ads Will Be Everywhere

Social media will continue its rise and, maybe, Twitter will have another advertising proposition by this time next year. Coupons will remain popular, no doubt leading to big name digital businesses going on a buying spree (without the 20% off offers) pretty soon and money will be spent on crowbaring coupon offerings into the mobile world. There’ll be new places to put all these ads too. I’m sure we’re about to have a raft of technology announcements with ever more tablets, smartphones and even apps on your laptops and desktops, but the one to watch will be YouView, the internet connected digital TV platform, which will enable “if somebody gets round to it” an interactive, engaging, social television experience with a data-driven display advertising marketplace on your telly-box.

Gee, even Jonathan Cainer couldn’t have foreseen that many buzzwords in a single sentence. Of course, as with all horoscopes, these are the easier predictions. It’s the unknown that I’m most excited about. As with last year, follow @curns on Twitter to see if this is all stuff-and nonsense or if it will happen. That, or just see if I can crowbar Claire Petulengro’s name into a tweet (she’s the astrologer in The Sunday People, you know).

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,, 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!