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8 Industry Leaders Share The Thoughts on Ad Tech’s Future

8 Industry Leaders Share The Thoughts on Ad Tech’s Future

Getting past the black holes and revelations of 2020 was a tough challenge. Ad tech is far from a collapse due to the pandemic, yet still sensed the echoes of the deep crisis being intertwined with every other business on the market.

Apart from the global recession that benefited some technologies and disrupted others, ad tech had several local earthquakes that prompted the industry to reflect and react. The death of cookies and IDFA, new privacy regulations, ad format popularity shifts, and the arrival of new, yet-to-explore technologies put some veil on our idea of what’s next. 

Will we ever get out of this black hole of uncertainty? We interviewed eight experts from Google, Freewheel, LiveRamp, Epom, and beyond on what they think about thorny issues of ad tech’s nowadays. 

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Which 2020 events affected the industry the most, and how should we act now? 

Vijay Ram Kumar, founder & CEO at Automatad

Chrome announced that it will phase out the support for third-party cookies, Safari released newer ITP versions to patch up the loopholes, and more importantly, the recent Apple’s iOS 14.3 update positioning privacy as one of the factors users should consider before using an app on their iPhones. The implications of iOS 14.3 shouldn’t be underestimated. 

Interestingly, there’s a common theme here. The advertising ecosystem relied on third-party cookie data so far. As it was available readily, publishers (or ad tech vendors) didn’t have to work for it actively. On the contrary, if you’re selling a subscription product, you have to have a strategy and actively see how you can get the users on board. So, the industry now has to work for its data and convince users to take the deal for accessing the site freely.  

Yaroslav Kholod, director of programmatic operations at Admixer

In 2020, the industry faced doubled pressure from the coronavirus outbreak and privacy initiatives of walled gardens restricting access to user-level data for independent ad tech.  

Besides the pandemic impact, we’ve got another uncertainty matter to deal with in 2021. Different things make walled gardens postpone the restrictions, but independent adtech should continue its efforts to establish a transparent identity framework. We welcome the TheTradeDesk Unified ID 2.0 initiative and all the work that is being done within the IAB Tech Lab Rearc project.

How will the industry cope with the privacy issues you mentioned? 

Yaroslav Kholod, director of programmatic operations at Admixer

Ad tech already developed several identity solutions for the new privacy-centered landscape, such as Unified ID and ID5 solutions. Nevertheless, those solutions are predominantly cookie-based and may soon turn obsolete. We should also consider that competition between these solutions won’t make a benefit for the end user. 

Data control becomes a complicated and confusing task for such a person. So I believe that the industry has no other way but to unite and establish a transparent identity framework across all the ecosystems, accessible for any company with no barriers.

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Michael Sweeney, head of marketing at Clearcode 

Pretty much every company in the programmatic advertising and ad tech industry will need to change how they operate to maneuver the privacy challenges. 

For example, publishers and advertisers should start focusing on using their first-party data to power their advertising activities (if they haven’t already), and ad tech companies should make changes to their tech to help support publishers and advertisers in achieving this. 

Vijay Ram Kumar, founder & CEO at Automatad

The only way to ensure privacy and compliance is to put users in charge. And this is only possible when we unify and rely on standard ID solutions. It makes things easier for both users and the open web. Particularly, Unified ID from the Tradedesk has the leverage now and the scale to lead the market.

What’s your prediction for ad tech in 2021?

Jörg Vogelsang, head of publisher growth at Liveramp and owner at 101con

With a more and more recovering industry, we should see strong growth in programmatic globally in 2021. And this will also be powered by more formats becoming available. First Connected TV is already lifting off and will open up the living room for real-time and true user-centric advertising. 

Of course, the extensive inventory sources are partly locked and not available within the open market. Still, it seems likely that this will change as standardization and broader accessibility ultimately drive more revenue. And programmatic will go further. 

Lina Lugova, head of marketing at Epom 

More and more large enterprises are bringing programmatic in-house. According to our research conducted on the state of programmatic in-housing in 2020-2021, 48% of brands have partially done it and will move further in the following years. 44% of them hope to increase ROI by such a decision, 34% think about better cost-efficiency.

The price of building a solution from scratch still bites and reaches millions per year. That’s why I predict the rise of white-labeling in ad tech when brands buy a ready platform from a provider and rebrand it as their own. It seems like a good compromise: yes, you don’t have direct access to the code, but all ad operations become completely tailored and transparent. 

Stéphane Printz, managing director at Comcast, sr. regional director at FreeWheel 

The pandemic has changed direction, especially in Germany, and the cutting of advertising budgets has made it difficult for all operators in the sector to achieve the objectives set at the beginning of the year. On the other hand, there was an acceleration in adopting advanced TV/digitalized solutions that allowed us to launch an effective and scalable CTV product on the German market. According to our study conducted with Colab, 68% of advertisers will invest in CTV more in 2021. 

Abhinav Choudhri, ad ops director at AdPushup

New forms of advertising: The sale of smart devices has exploded in recent years, which also is a lucrative avenue for advertisers to grab. For instance, the concept of intelligent audio ads that would perform actions based responses is also in trials.

Jakub Vachal, senior app specialist at Google

Machine learning helps businesses to free up resources to be strategic about their marketing strategies and focus on the big picture and its opportunities. Among them are to follow the continued rise of at-home online activities and the increase in screen time, accelerate the shift to mobile-first behavior, and increasing customer expectations for products to deliver a fantastic user experience. 

If businesses tackle these challenges and leverage the opportunities they are set to develop meaningful and long-lasting relationships with their customers.

Your advice for ad tech industry players. How should they advertise in 2021, and which tools should they focus on?

Jörg Vogelsang, head of publisher growth at Liveramp and owner at 101con

To be successful in the future, ad networks need to focus even more on their specific USP or niche. Whether it be special formats or channels, they can facilitate better than others – perhaps based on their particular technology or offer top-notch yield management layer & service that combines different SSP partners and related technologies. 

In any case, it’s not just selling ad space to campaigns but a more complex combination of technology & services which will grow their businesses. So they don’t need to focus on only one or two specific tools but need to have a comprehensive understanding and expertise of many tools and technologies along the programmatic process chain. 

For brands, consumer trust should be the underlying theme for their (online)advertising efforts. They should make sure to obtain consent for personalized advertising – on all channels. A CMP will be crucial to use & ongoing optimization of the integration plus getting consent in channels like email, various messengers & mobile phones.  

Some brands might be tempted to wait for the big walled gardens to sort out the technical details on identity – to avoid the effort and hard work being connected to implement advertising identity. But this could be an expensive mistake it will very likely just make the «man in the middle» even stronger while literally disconnecting the brand from its customers. 

Lina Lugova, head of marketing at Epom 

The primary brand’s point of now is to survive the post-coronapocalypse. Here and now, brands should focus on 2-3 strong suits of their business. Your audience should clearly understand what your brand or agency is about. Such awareness gives them the feel of stability and trust in your specific expertise. 

Both brands and networks should pay specific attention while signing up with a particular provider. To reinforce your business with a robust solution, make sure it allows you to set up custom targeting parameters, transparent optimization algorithms and provide data solutions compliant with new regulations on short notice. 

Abhinav Choudhri, ad ops director at AdPushup

As for publishers, they should focus on optimizing mobile inventory for advertisers, as the world is shifting toward mobile devices. Mobile inventory is going to become even more valuable in the nearest future. 

The lessons we’ve learned today 

A lot is left to be done with privacy issues in the following two years. Google, Liveramp, and iAB are already making some announcements to the industry, but the development of a unified solution that will work for everyone is far from the upshot. The time constraints will likely motivate the ad tech giants to introduce the final solution by the end of 2021, though. 

Experts expect the mass adoption of new forms of advertising such as programmatic audio, CTV, interactive ad units, and DOOH. It’s not easy to impress the user after decades of intense bombardment of advertising content, so this seemed to be quite inevitable. The DSPs of today and tomorrow will likely support a variety of non-standard ad formats to please the eye of the user.

And lastly, 2021 will be a year of genuine transparency and an authentic client-oriented approach. Human-centric service becomes more of a priority; it becomes a necessity. Custom development opportunities and white-labeling will also loom larger. 

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