How to protect the sustainability of digital advertising

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M&C Saatchi Performance consider the growth of digital advertising and question how to act more sustainably.

Since the first banner ad in 1994, digital advertising has grown exponentially, with digital spend expected to overtake traditional ad spend in 2019. Technological change has caused a revolution for advertisers, but continuing this upward trend will prove challenging for marketers in the coming years. The digital ecosystem is constantly evolving, and it is essential for marketers to keep pace, ensuring the continued progression of advertising and stagnation is avoided.

With advertising playing the modern currency of the internet, companies like Facebook have built their business models off trafficking user data,generating over $15 bn from ad revenue in Q4 of 2018 alone. However, increased scrutiny on the use of data through scandals such as Cambridge Analytica has resulted in the demand for business models to change. The introduction of the GDPR was a critical step in allowing individuals to regain control of their personal data, but in this changing landscape, brands and media owners need to adapt their approach to secure the longevity of the industry.

Update your metrics to understand effectiveness

Traditional metrics of views and reach are quickly becoming outdated. Data can now provide a much more granular view of audience engagement and marketers need to be harnessing this to accurately understand the effectiveness of ad campaigns. Moving away from traditional viewability metrics allows us to concentrate efforts on measuring high quality engagement metrics instead such as, sessions per user, quality time spent, or frequency of visits. In 2017, the Financial Times tested selling inventory on a “cost per hour” basis to ensure that users are reading and engaging with both paid media and content. Results demonstrated a significant uplift in brand recognition and a positive association for the reader and ensured 100% viewability of five seconds or more for advertiser. Buying models like this will create a more equal value exchange between brand and consumer.

Use innovative creative ideas to drive engagement

With an increasing number of ads on webpages, brands are at risk of their ads being visually and mentally blocked out to the point of ‘banner blindness’. Modern consumers, especially the digitally native generations, are also increasingly wary of online ads and even paid search results, therefore the innovation of user-friendly creative formats is important for overcoming inevitable ad fatigue and increasingly shorter attention spans. Creative formats such as free wall journalism, where publishers can monetize content using survey questions, and video pause formats, where ads only appear when a user pauses their show, have already started giving users back their sense of control. These alternative formats give people the agency to choose what ads to engage with and, ultimately, let them decide how they wish to pay for the internet.

Continue the evolution of advertising

To ensure the survival of the advertising industry as we know it, agencies, brands, content developers and publishers need to earn the trust of their users. Advertisements need to earn the user’s engagement in a better value proposition. By adapting, marketers will encourage the continued growth of the industry and secure the sustainability of digital advertising.

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Kim Cooling is a planning director at M&C Saatchi Performance.

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