Display Success in 2014: Real-Time Advances

In continuing my quest to explore how the next generation of advertising will evolve, I’ve dedicated this article to real-time advertising. Specifically what components need to happen instantaneously as consumers are browsing publisher sites.

When developing campaigns, advertisers have to answer three basic questions about their programs: 1. Are my ads viewable? 2. Can they reach the right consumers? And 3. Are the ads relevant to the consumer? Today’s programmatic advertising isn’t just about basic reach and exposure, but is an evolving measured technology designed to convert customers. Successful advertisers need to dive deeper into relevancy, context, and viewability in order to make this technology work.

Consumers have evolved their behaviors when thinking about making a purchase. As more of their world becomes reliant to online, the level of research that many consumers put into purchases can be evident in their online behavior. To keep up with today’s consumers, targeting technologies are constantly being developed and redeveloped to understand consumer trends and correlations. We know the end goal of these advancements is to leverage all possible signals from the consumer like search, social, and retargeting in order to serve the most appropriate ad. But, we also need to respect consumers by not serving ads at every possible moment, to the point where we actually choose not show an ad if these signals or correlations are not being met. Relevant ads become more valuable to the consumer and advertisements become more credible. A win-win scenario, right?

Let me explain a little more. As advertisers, we can no longer just rely on simple contextual clues about a consumer. For example, we may glean that Person X is a male in his 40s, an avid traveler for leisure, and interested in ice hockey. Based on this information, we can figure out what sites Person X visits to reach him…but we’re missing a whole realm of additional opportunities to reach him. Another incredibly valuable layer that advertisers are missing is understanding the context of the user; why the person is reading the article, who shared the article with them, what type of mindset are they in when they received the article, or if they are searching for something specific.

With breakthrough technology, we now have visibility into how consumers are using “dark social” versus public social media platforms. Since more than 50 percent of any site’s traffic is through dark social, a user’s mindset can be deciphered to understand the impact of private shares – suggesting a deeper relationship with the shared content. Think of the information that you share directly with a close friend via an email or chat; you are more likely to open it since it’s relevant to you and from a trusted source.

If we could serve ads based on more connected information, would that not peak more consumer interest? Gaining deeper insight into the consumer’s context gives us a better understanding of the right moment when an ad that’s both welcome and relevant should be served. Most of these technologies are largely unavailable on a programmatic, real-time basis today, however I expect this to change quickly this year.

Aside from understanding how and why people came to a specific page, grasping how the page’s content correlates to where a consumer may be in the buying process should also be taken into consideration. Uncovering previously unknown predictive correlations may yield higher results dependent on where a consumer is in their purchase decision; for instance, are they just entering the research phase or are they a loyal customer?

Similar to old saying, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If an ad is served on a page and no one sees it, does it make an impact?

If an ad is not viewable on a page, there is a significant waste in ad spend. According to a recent eMarketer report, ad verification is a growing concern for advertisers. According to Integral Ad Science, approximately half of U.S. banner impressions that were served in 2013 were not even seen. Ad verification services are increasingly being added to media budgets to verify not only fraud, but to ensure ad viewability. Given the increasing transparency of viewability, publishers and advertisers will start to demand solutions that are in-view. It’s my prediction that a minimum of 95 percent viewability will be the norm within 12 to 18 months.

Aside from an ad being visible and above the fold with relevant content, it also needs to be engaging. This sounds pretty obvious, right? The new ad baseline will be built upon premium ad experience and will translate into higher levels of engagement, interaction, and relevance for the consumers. Imagine the results with consumers who are served relevant premium ads that are viewable, and served at key moments of intent.

In 2014, we’ll see the advertising ecosystem mature based on some of the innovations mentioned above to deliver much more value to everyone…in real-time. From programmatic ad placements evaluated in real-time based on viewability metrics, to a deeper a understanding of a consumer’s intent and context when reviewing content, we’ll see new systems that include conditional logic that processes all of this data to improve the overall ad experience (and dramatically reduce poor experiences.) Sounds like the future, and that’s pretty exciting.

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