Five Digital Marketing Trends for 2016

Five Digital Marketing Trends for 2016

From publisher alliances to the rise of the retail trading desk, Rubicon Project’s GM international, Jay Stevens, discusses the five digital marketing trends that will shake up our industry in the year to come.

Pru Quinlan
Posted by Pru Quinlan

1. Rise of the retail trading desk

Retail brands have been delving into the world of publishing for some time, creating custom content for their sites around recipes or seasonal allergy guides and selling media against the editorial. The next logical step is for them to become retail trading desks too.

The reason is simple: the point of sale and CRM data supermarket chains are constantly gathering is richer than anything any media agency or brands have access to. This data runs both offline and online and brands desperate to better understand their customers would jump at the opportunity to access it.

One example of this could be a leading supermarket chain approaching Unilever or P&G and offering to run campaigns on their behalf that leverage the retailer’s customer relationship management (CRM) and purchase data in exchange for a certain amount of media spend.

Some global retailers have already been experimenting with this approach, notably Amazon and Walmart, and even domestically we have seen Coles leading the way, but 2016 will be the year the global retail sector really wakes up to the potential of the retail trading desk.

2. Publisher Co-operatives go global

Co-operatives allow publishers to come together to pool and package first-party data along with their inventory, offering advertisers access to finely targeted audiences, bought programmatically, at scale. In essence, it’s about becoming greater than the sum of their parts.

We’ve already seen Publisher Co-operatives become increasingly popular in Europe with La Place Media in France, HOPPex in Hungary and PPN in Greece, the latter two of which launched earlier this year. Elsewhere the global Pangaea Alliance (made up of The Guardian, CNN, The Economist, Reuters and the Financial Times) and RPA Media Place in Argentina launched on the Rubicon Project platform in the second half of the year.  Most recently in October, New Zealand’s first publisher co-operative launched, where premium publishers Fairfax Media, Mediaworks, NZME and TVNZ joined forces to create KPEX.

As the digital beasts of search and social continue to dominate online ad revenues, alliances like these will become increasingly popular for publishers eager to boost their digital businesses so in 2016 we expect the trend will go truly global.

3. Getting closer to a fully automated media landscape?

Technology and data are evolving at such a pace that the next five years will see more change than that of the last 50. This change is around how we understand consumers, and how we plan and buy media on behalf of advertisers. Simply, it is becoming automated, removing manual effort and supercharging the effectiveness of marketing communications.

These benefits are now starting to move far beyond the ‘traditional’ programmatic environment and into media channels not normally associated with automation. In fact, it won’t be long before unified platforms emerge that can connect a media buyer with all the various media types on offer.  2016 will be the year the early signs of this utopian ideal begin to emerge.

4. The end of the publisher waterfall is close

In the publishing world, the process of programmatically trading ad inventory normally sticks to the classic waterfall structure – whereby publishers sequentially offer their inventory through various sales channels, starting with the most valuable and moving down the chain if no buyer bites.

However there is an alternative model that helps publishers eke out more revenue from their inventory, saving a great deal of time and effort in the process. Header bidding, also known as advance bidding or pre-bidding, is a technique that involves publishers inserting code at the head of their pages, allowing inventory to be offered to multiple ad exchanges simultaneously before making calls to their ad servers.

Normally, a publisher’s ad server has to pick just one pool of demand a time, a process which artificially caps publishers’ revenues, lowers CPMs and for those publishers on DoubleClick For Publishers using Enhanced Dynamic Allocation, give Google’s own sources of demand a unique advantage. Header bidding eliminates the inefficient and wasteful process of pushing inventory back and forth and, most importantly, creates a level playing field for both publishers and advertisers.

To date, tech issues have held this trend back – not least the impact the complex code involved has on page load times. But, these technological hurdles are rapidly coming down and 2016 will be the year that the dream of an effective unified auction, where demand sources compete side by side, becomes reality.

5. Automated guaranteed will finally come of age

Programmatic technology has been a great success for publishers and advertisers alike. But digital marketers have come to appreciate that advertising is not always a one-size-fits-all proposition, and the open ad exchanges normally associated with programmatic are not for everyone.

While some publishers and advertisers may not want to play in the open market exchange buying world, many still want to take advantage of the benefits of automation. It’s for that reason that automated guaranteed has been gaining traction and is set to be a key trend in 2016.

Automated guaranteed solutions allow buyers and publishers of all shapes and sizes to automate their direct sales processes within private exchanges, making the antiquated manual process of planning and buying a thing of the past.  It isn’t new, but the technology that will allow automated guaranteed to go mainstream is maturing. The direct buying and selling of online ads is finally catching up with the ad tech revolution.