Why the best days of digital media are ahead of us

by Ana Lopez

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

The word of the year for 2022 feels like something straight out of science fiction: permanent crisis“a long period of instability and insecurity.” If you’re in the media and advertising world, that’s very similar to what’s going on right now.

But despite the lightning fast change (and a very scary October in which the free fall from ad-supported blue chip companies like Meta, Snap, and Google), digital media is not really in permacrisis or even crisis. It is in constant flux and 2022 was no exception. In fact, I’d say all this change is a good thing.

The first banner ad debuted less than 30 years ago. Search ads are even younger than that. Social media originated 18 years ago, but TikTok has only been around for six years. Digital media technology and tools are still in their infancy. Another brand new medium developed from the ground up? Television. It took TV almost 100 years to get going, and it still surprises us every year. We are in the early days of digital media. As wonderful and indispensable as the Internet is in our lives, the templates we use today remain simple and unappealing; too many sites, even the really good ones, are full of underperforming and poorly integrated ads. It’s hard to gauge what works, and advertisers are still not sure what they’re buying all the time. Everything is fragmented and complex; there is too much friction to get basic things done.

That’s why the increased rate of change we’re seeing is a good thing, and I believe we’re about to discover the potential of what digital media can really be. These trends tell me that digital media’s best days are upon us because:

Related: 5 digital marketing trends to know for the decade

Privacy resets the game

We’ve spent years collecting data about people to advertise to them. Our industry chose to invest in collecting personal data from people and has taken years to do so. This has come at the expense of progress as an industry in other technology solutions, such as contextual advertising, which are less invasive and more useful. Advertisers used this data to create creatives based on coarse personalization (such as your name) rather than focusing on real signals such as attention time and involvement. It has been lucrative for platforms, but people find it annoying and creepy when we stalk them on the internet. It is also becoming increasingly uncertain for publishers and advertisers. While audience targeting initially provided interesting insights into people like never before, it is no longer effective and will not stand the test of time when it comes to emerging environments and platforms – or future privacy regulations. Huge punishments waiting for publishers and advertisers to circumvent the law. Fortune will favor those who now move away from cookies and identifiers.

Context is everything

Every advertiser I’ve spoken to believes that creative execution will ultimately be driven by contextual technology. So, why aren’t advertisers still faster at understanding context in the current ways it can be leveraged at scale today? Why don’t brands use deeper contextual insights to determine strategy, creative and more? Technology has already advanced to the point where it can understand the context of a digital environment. It can interpret words, videos, audio and metadata and provide a comprehensive understanding of the environment to match this with dynamic and attractive creatives. By doing this, digital advertising can produce something that consumers find useful and enjoyable (without personal data), regardless of where it is displayed. We have the technology; let’s do this.

It’s time to revisit stats and focus on attention

Growing up, ads like Calvin Klein CK1 fragrance in magazines caught my eye – I can still remember those ads. Today, the creative is lost in the clutter, people skip pre-roll ads, and the metrics we use for success are flawed – yet we keep doing them. We need to rethink how we measure the success of digital advertising campaigns. With so much competition in the digital advertising space, having a visible ad doesn’t always guarantee success. We need to find ways to grab attention and understand what drives people to take action. Through advanced contextual and attention solutions, we can identify the content and confirm whether the ad resonates in the environment. And then real-time optimization engines can be used to programmatically deliver the campaign in the most effective way. It’s a win-win-win combination.

Related: 6 marketing metrics every business should be tracking

In-game advertising is the next big thing

Every brand marketer knows that gaming is huge. They play them, their children play them, everyone does it. And yet, in-game advertising, especially intrinsic in-game advertising, is untapped and highly coveted: they enable marketers to reach consumers at their most receptive by integrating with the game world itself. There are more than three billion gamers in the world – with editions of some groups more than six hours play simultaneously. Talk about an engaged audience. Right now, most of the ad inventory is available on mobile, but consoles and big screen games are about to come into their own. In-game advertising is expected to grow at a rate of 11% per year and close to reaching $18 billion by 2030. Early adopters benefit from an uncluttered advertising and media landscape and an unprecedented scale.

CTV is a great unstoppable freight train

CTV spending increased Last year 57% to $15.2 billion and is expected to more than double in the coming years. More importantly, 76% of video buyers are considering this CTV a “must buy” in their media planning budgets, as CTV allows them to leverage data and formats not available within linear TV. So why are there no brand safety solutions, no contextual understanding of the content, and no new ad formats? It does not make any sense. Are brands simply not aware of the advancements in these areas and what is available? Why do we still rely on pre-roll in CTV instead of new formats to suit current customers? Innovations such as AI, contextual intelligence and the widespread availability of more non-linear ad formats will make CTV ads work harder, and with Netflix and other premium streamers adding ads it will become even more important in an advertiser’s mix . Advertisers who discover the medium early will also be the early CTV winners.

The recession is real, but there are plenty of opportunities

Economic uncertainty, the appreciation of the US dollar against other currencies and inflation are very real at home and abroad. Point. And advertising spending is being cut. But digital still remains the best and most effective way to target and reach consumers, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon (remember, the average American Spent 8.2 hours glued to their phone). Digital marketing is no longer optional for brands. It’s a critical investment, and savvy marketers will use the current advertising climate to their advantage — to get noticed, break through, and get ahead. After all, when competitors cut corners, that could be your moment to stand out.

Related: How to Build on Your Digital Marketing Momentum in 2023

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