Five ways technology makes digital advertising accountable

"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." John Wanamaker's prophetic quip was, until recently, basically as true now as it was then.

Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. Advertisers (especially within the digital realm) have long been challenged to verify how effective their ads are – and by and large, they have failed. Fortunately for everyone, technology finally caught up – and the implications are impressive.

Online video advertising, in particular, has seen the lion’s share of benefits from these advancements. Developments in fiber optics and HD production allow for nearly instantaneous streaming of high-quality video content. Platforms like YouTube facilitate more content creation. The shift towards multiple devices means that there are more ways to for viewers to consume that content. Software unifies all this with analytics to create a one-stop, enterprise-grade solution.

Here are five specific industry trends entirely enabled by technological developments:

1. Advertisers can know with certainty their ads were watched. Video viewability reporting eliminates the mystery over whether an ad was actually seen. The two main reasons ads are not seen are either due to consumer decision (they skip the ad, open another tab, or mute the video) or fraudulent practices (the video autoplays in an iframe) – in either case, advertisers can isolate where their ads are not getting viewed and do something about it.

2. Premium is going programmatic. As the projected growth and cost-saving benefits of automation become impossible to ignore, premium publishers are modifying their traditional direct-deal orientation to stay competitive. The advent of private marketplaces allows them to feel comfortable about the brands they work with and can potentially lead to increased revenue.

3. The distinction between TV and digital video is blurring. Almost half of all smartphone and tablet owners use their devices while watching TV, and nearly a quarter of them stream video simultaneously. In addition, audience-measuring tools like Nielsen’s OCR allows advertisers to use traditional TV metrics like GRPs to measure online reach. As TVs continue to get smarter and digital media adapters (Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Xbox 360, etc.) proliferate, brands will continue to shift their advertising budgets to wherever viewers are watching.

4. Targeting is more precise than ever. Digital advertisers can use first-and-third party data to buy specific audiences at scale and make an apples-to-apples comparison to a TV campaign, knowing with certainty that they reached their target demographic. Geo-location services work concurrently with brands to serve micro-targeted ads with special offers; advertisers can retarget viewers based on specific social media keywords and hashtags to provide immediate contextual relevance.

5. There is reporting on virtually everything – and it’s actionable. Advanced analytics allow for real-time optimisations to improve a specific key performance indicator. Surveys provide learnings beyond the standard clickthrough/completion rate by measuring brand lift, message recall, and purchase intent, while ROI studies facilitated by research companies can actually tie online ad spend to offline sales.

We now have the ability to control specifically who we reach, decide when we reach them, intelligently choose the specific medium to deliver the message, assess viewer engagement, and measure how all of it translates to the bottom line. Had he been alive today, Wanamaker might not have wasted any less – but at least he would know where his money went.

This article was first published on WallBlog.co.uk

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