Three digital marketing trends dominating marketers' thoughts right now

Each year the ad tech industry flocks to Dmexco to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing digital marketers and publishers.

Building on recent years where concerns around brand safety, viewability and GDPR dominated, delegates and exhibitors seemed more optimistic. Conversations shifted from outlining problems to providing more solutions on how to improve transparency and trust throughout the digital marketing and publishing chain. Ads.txt implementation across the landscape and rapid adoption has driven the conversation forward.

Of course, we still face many challenges: a fragmented marketplace; evolving relationships between ad tech vendors, brands and agencies; not to mention navigating a new data economy.

Despite these ongoing obstacles, there was a sense that the industry is on the cusp of real disruption – from new technology to future consolidation – paving way for a more simplified and effective future. Here’s some of the notable trends that captivated the dmexco crowd.

The need for simplification and the move to in-housing

Something that won’t come as a huge surprise is that the market is looking for simplification.

Complex supply chains perplex the smartest of marketing professionals. Both marketers and publishers can be overwhelmed with choices about which vendors to use and the best ways to reach their objectives.

While we are seeing industry consolidation, there are still many players left in the mix, resulting in confusion. A fragmented supply chain coupled with a lack of transparency and understanding has therefore led to both brands and publishers questioning whether they’re getting the most bang for their buck.

This concern was expressed by WPP earlier this year, calling for partners who offer ‘simplicity and flexibility to deliver efficient, effective solutions – and therefore growth for their clients’. This strain on relationships between brand and agencies is resulting in more marketers exploring in-housing, in a bid to gain more control of their digital media supply chain.

Publishers also want partners that deliver maximum ROI for their inventory but with a transparent supply chain and optimal advertising experiences served to their consumers. GDPR has encouraged us all to think more about the consumer and put more onus on trust.

For brands, in-housing their programmatic buying can feel like the right way to find that transparency and control over budgets and margins. Rarely do brands need to bring teams fully in-house, however. If the desire is increased engagement and control, this can be achieved through training and development implemented by their media agency or DSP suppliers.

We are seeing the growth of more hybrid relationships between brand marketers, their agencies and technology providers – ensuring everyone understands all the features and benefits that come from technological solutions. This provides greater control over the contractual relationships in the supply chain.

Advertisers are looking to implement more holistic solutions that make the overall ad experience easier and more streamlined, giving them maximum control and measurability via one login and interface. This is all part of a maturing industry that enables advertisers to engage more deeply in programmatic execution. It can also unlock more customer insight from marketers’ data with greater control.

Growth of programmatic and buzz around connected TV

As more advertisers move to new ways of buying and working with partners on hybrid models – to give them more understanding and greater control over spend – we’re seeing even greater investment in programmatic.

This is reinforced by the IAB revealing that 90% of those who participated in its recent European Programmatic Market Sizing Report stated that their programmatic investment will increase over the next 12 months.

When talking about programmatic there was much optimism around the opportunities in connected TV, as well as audio and digital out of home. There are emerging solutions for digital out of home but it remains relative nascent. The buzz around audio is both in the streaming space from podcasts and music providers, and uncertainty around the shift to voice search for the industry. Connected TV requires work on seamless delivery, and ensuring the ad delivery scales across the range of displays available.

Naturally, there will be challenges to the growth of programmatic. With the rise in hybrid teams, issues will crop up with recruiting people with the requisite skills, as well as providing relevant training. Campaign performance coupled with GDPR will also continue to create obstacles that we have to overcome.

GDPR – work in progress?

This time last year we were pondering the ‘what ifs’ regarding the implementation of GDPR. This Dmexco, we reflected on the new data economy nearly four months in – and it’s fair to say that that GDPR is the start of a journey in a new data economy globally. Already California is looking at implementing similar legislation and we’ll see more countries around the world adapting their digital economies to bring consumers more control.

Given the complexity and evolving nature of data governance, there is (and always will be) concern regarding how we best navigate data. A popular view from the event to help guide this journey was for industry wide participation in the IAB Transparency and Consent Framework.

The framework allows publishers to provide consumers transparency into the third-party partners they work with. Being in line with this framework is a good step forward to help eliminate rogue traders and improve the overall experience for consumers.

In a rapidly evolving industry like ad tech we’re always going to come across new challenges. But this Dmexco reminded us that with challenges comes disruption: to ways of working, solutions and goals to make ad experiences even better. If you’re willing and able to embrace the disruption and adapt, you are much more likely to be back at next year’s conference.

Simon Halstead is head of open demand EMEA at Oath

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