Looking Back On 25 Years Of Digital Advertising

Looking Back On 25 Years Of Digital Advertising
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When AT&T launched the first-ever digital banner ad on Wired in 1994, it’s hard to believe anyone knew what had just been created.

“Have you ever clicked your mouse right HERE? YOU WILL,” the ad boasted.

And they did. A significant 44 per cent of users exposed to the “You Will” campaign went on to click onto the AT&T website.

Despite a 44 per cent click-through rate now being relatively unheard of, digital advertising has soared over the past quarter of a century.

Speaking at Adobe Symposium 2019 in Sydney on Thursday, Adobe head of AdCloud APAC Phil Cowlishaw gave a ‘then and now’ analysis of the digital advertising world.

“The world has fundamentally changed for marketers and consumers,” he said.

The 44 per cent click-through rate AT&T has now dropped to an average of 0.05 per cent, Cowlishaw pointed out, while investment in digital advertising is up 2,528 per cent from 1999, with the majority (44 per cent) of expenditure now in search.

“In digital advertising paid search is incredibly measurable,” said Cowlishaw. “You serve an ad, the user clicks on it, they navigate to your website and you’re able to drive the ROI.”

Change in consumer behaviour 

“Everything that we do today is about choice and control,” he said. “We choose to watch what content and when we watch it, what medium we watch it on.”

Almost 50 per cent of Australians now bypass linear TV and access their content by connected TV, while 13.6 million listen to digital audio.

And this is changing the way digital advertisers operate.

Scripted content is today more popular than ever and the consumers now expect a personalised experience.

“This shift – and digital enables us to do this – is a shift from advertiser-led, so mass medium like TV, to consumer-centric,” he said.

“One to one transformational experiences, at scale, delivered with velocity enabling people to be able to really connect.

Balancing privacy

But even with the expectation of personalisation, consumers care about their privacy more than ever.

“You’ve got the rise of privacy and privacy challenges, and what that has really created is a significantly more aware population of what is happening and how brands are using their data,” said Cowlishaw.

‘Cookies’, which track consumer behaviour and collect data, have been a topic of discussion in recent times.

Web browser Firefox recently started blocking third-party cookies by default, while Google Chrome is believed to be making similar changes in the space.

“When you think about the shift from cookie-based advertising and cookie-based tracking, the laws and the changes, especially GDPR, have all been about consumer consent and consumer control,” Cowlishaw said.

“The cookie isn’t just going to vanish overnight, what it is all about is enabling consumers to have a lot more control about what is happening with their data and how they’re being tracked.”

The result could be consumers engaging with brands on a case by case basis.

A recent Adobe study found 56 per cent of Australians opt out of sharing their personal data with some of the brands they engage with.

And this could soon become the norm in digital advertising.

Cowlishaw predicted that consumers will be willing to engage “beyond the cookie” on a brand-by-brand basis.

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