A 'naughty or nice' list: the best and worst ad tech & digital media trends of 2017

The ad tech industry is a fast-moving and innovative environment. It’s also very competitive and full of gimmicks and buzzwords in place of technology and real solutions. Santa’s a little preoccupied this time of year, so I thought I’d give him a hand with a “naughty or nice” list—the best (and worst) trends in ad tech and digital media—to help marketers break through the hype and kick off the New Year with confidence. See which ones are meaningful – and which ones lack substance.


Ad quality

After P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard challenged brands to “stop giving digital media companies a pass,” we saw growing demand for better brand safety, ad fraud and viewability standards. Digital media companies are beginning to respond with improvements in fraud prevention, transparency and accountability. The greatest impact comes from all three of these areas working together in concert, which is becoming the new standard. There’s still work to be done, but it’s encouraging to see continued progress as poor ad quality can negatively impact advertising performance and cause long-term damage for brands.

People-based media

Even though the industry has been talking about people-based media for some time now, this year we saw more and more brands demonstrate their commitment to reaching consumers with tailored messaging. The key is to ensure you’re talking to real people across all their devices and digital touchpoints, and not just cookies. While not everyone is truly delivering on the promise of one-to-one marketing at scale, brands are moving in the right direction. I encourage all companies to work towards delivering only relevant, meaningful messages to individuals on the right device and at exactly the right moment.


Measurement may not be the most exciting aspect of marketing, but it’s among the most important. Brands want more accurate measurement of their advertising performance, and digital media companies are responding by (finally) abandoning last-click attribution for more advanced and effective measurement methods and metrics – like incremental return on ad spend.


Non-validated metrics

Let’s face it: the trust is gone. Marketers have been “burned” too many times by digital media companies’ miscalculated metrics related to how consumers are interacting with content on their platforms. Attribution or measurement that isn’t validated by a third-party partner has always been questionable, but this year it was increasingly troubling to some advertisers that rely on such platforms for content distribution and monetization. Digital media companies must strive for transparency and accuracy to ensure they are truly driving results or they will continue to face more backlash.

DIY solutions

Some things you can do yourself, while others you should leave to the pros. Too often, I have seen marketers take the DIY approach and try to piece together multiple technologies to activate their CRM data for digital marketing. The result is an underperforming, money-wasting ecosystem. It takes an investment of time, talent and capital to build robust platforms that can bring that data to life, accurately reach consumers at scale and build personal connections. Marketers who take the DIY path typically spend more time refining and fixing, and ultimately lose sight of the true cost of ownership. Their time and resources would be better spent on driving their business rather than learning martech skills.

Trends that overpromise and under-deliver

AI, VR and blockchain are the future, or so they say. These buzzwords have been getting a lot of attention lately, but are they actually a sound business investment? While there’s value in staying on top of emerging tech and it’s fun to think about how they’ll shape our world in the future, they represent just one facet of a product or deliverable and are not a strategy on their own. Marketers need to do their due diligence and understand what’s underpinning these tools so they can ensure they’re good for their business in the long run and not just a short-lived (and expensive) gimmick. Read the fine print before buying into the hype.

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