GDPR and blockchain: the next stages in programmatic advertising’s evolution?

This year has been one of vast technological development across the ad tech industry. Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning have continued to establish themselves as key drivers of intelligent advertising and personalisation across the programmatic ecosystem.

Meanwhile, Blockchain technology has rapidly increased its presence across the sector and is now presenting advertisers with a host of new ways to both diversify and secure their platforms as they look ahead towards the next 12 months.

Progression of programmatic

The new year is also set to herald a new era of evolution for programmatic advertising technology.

Recognised by advertisers for its unprecedented ability to streamline the process of ad buying for advertisers worldwide, programmatic technology is now firmly positioned at the forefront of automated and data-driven decision making for advertisers, so much so that it is now predicted to account for 100% of all advertising trading execution by 2020.

Advertisers are not only embracing programmatic solutions to improve the efficiency of their ad spend; many are now also using the technology to address industry wide challenges, such as fraud, ad blocking and a lack of transparency.

Yet, a new year has begun and new technologies continue innovating, the once aggressive progression of programmatic advertising is beginning to decelerate. While it is still expected to grow at an average of 28% in 2018, hitting US$ 64bn globally, this rate is much slower than what we have seen in the last few years.

This is a likely sign of the technology entering a new stage of increased maturity, as it continues to prove its value within the sector.

GDPR and its impact on programmatic intelligence

The evolution of programmatic advertising technology will not only be impacted by its own loss of momentum. The forthcoming introduction of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May is set to transform the way programmatic advertisers both collect and process the personal data of consumers. Once enforced, GDPR will require programmatic advertisers to be more transparent by obtaining active consent from customers for the use of their personal information, and will also give consumers the power to remove their accumulated historical data from any database they wish.

Yet, with today’s programmatic advertising technology so inherently reliant on consumer data to provide intelligent and automated ad targeting, these unavoidable regulation changes may well undo much of the progress made in enabling automated and personalised advertising, which has been largely generated by the rise of the AI trend in recent years.

This machine-led technology is currently used by programmatic advertisers to collect smart data on consumers and tailor their messages accordingly and has been an asset to the programmatic ecosystem of late. However, the implications of GDPR could somewhat restrict the extent of the role that AI-driven technology plays across the sector in the future. This will create significant challenges for the innovation of programmatic advertising and could deputise its ability to offer advertisers an effective ad buying process.

With this in mind, I believe that today’s programmatic advertising technology can simply no longer provide brands with the level of both automation and transparency now required for success in the sector.

Coupled with ever growing concerns over fraud and transparency, it is now important that programmatic service providers welcome the potential of other emerging technologies, which possess the capabilities needed to address the aims of GDPR and ensure both secure and efficient advertising, to continue advancing throughout 2018.

Utilising Blockchain to enhance programmatic

One emerging technology that will undoubtedly have a significant impact on programmatic advertising in 2018 is blockchain. The technology itself has garnered many column inches across many industries since its conception a few years ago, and the ad tech sector is no exception. The nature of the technology can undoubtedly provide some obvious benefits for advertisers adopting programmatic strategies.

Its ability to create an immutable record of transactions and provide users with a full audit trail of every transaction makes it an instrumental asset to increasing security. By providing advertisers with an irrevocable receipt of transactions, blockchain can work to reduce or even eradicate the risk of ad fraud. What’s more, it also increases transparency over expenditure, by enabling advertisers to see exactly where their budget is being spent and exactly who they are transacting with.

With blockchain able to drive security and reduce concerns amongst advertisers over issues such as ad fraud and transparency, advertisers themselves will be able to devote more time to increasing the efficiency of their audience targeting and improving the personalisation of their advertising strategies. As more come to realise its benefits, it is likely that we will see a rise in the integration of blockchain within automated ad buying processes in the coming months.

As the digital advertising industry continues to strive for both successful automation and creativity in equal measure, it is vital that programmatic embraces the capabilities of new technologies to continue its innovation over the coming months.

Yet, with GDPR bringing new challenges surrounding the handling of consumer data and with the growing concerns over transparency and fraud still plaguing the industry, programmatic advertising as we know it will have to undergo a huge transformation to both evolve and remain dominant in the year ahead.

– by Zheng Zhang

The perfect partnership: when AI and machine learning meet marketing

Marketers have found themselves in an industry that’s always on its toes. There are more social media platforms than ever before. And, while they might present more opportunities to reach your audience, they also mean a lot of other voices to compete with. It’s never been such a flooded market to get a voice across in.

On top of that, consumers understand tech more than ever before. They know when they’re being marketed to, but will only tolerate that marketing if the subject matter and content is timely to their current place in a purchasing cycle or relevant to them. Sounds like a lot to handle, doesn’t it? Well that’s just every day for those in the marketing industry. A campaign will only work if it’s tailored to the right person at the right time and on the right platform.

Imagine conducting that outreach manually. Most marketers have thousands, if not millions, of individuals in their CRM systems. As well as an email account to contact them on, each of those individuals will, on average, have 5.54 social media accounts.

That’s a lot of data to analyse on a lot of people and a lot of places to be manually tailoring content and sending it out to. It’s a struggle to comprehend how it can be done without taking up hours of a marketing team’s day – or without human error.

Right platform, right message

Given there are so many channels to reach consumers, it has reached the stage where human marketers are incapable of analysing data themselves to completely profile their own digital or social media sentiment manually, let alone that of customers – even attempting to get close to it by physically setting up different campaigns to target each of their different audiences is extremely time-consuming.

A whole marketing function could spend innumerable hours drilling down and analysing data to create customer profiles, before taking even more time setting up the latest campaigns to go out across different platforms to reach different audiences. And, in such a fast-paced industry, letting things delay by even a minute likely means you’re late to the party and miss out. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, consider how that time can be better spent – with the team actually focusing on developing creative, head-above-the-parapet content to send to consumers and get their attention, rather than dedicating man hours on the grunt work of sending basic messages out.

So, what’s the answer?

Well, this is where marketers need a platform or a program that can conduct data analytics with added machine learning and artificial intelligence to support their campaigns. For any marketer serious about driving interactions with their audiences cross-platform, AI and machine learning is a dream come true. Marketers need a solution that will tap into their existing audience data for them and analyse it. Then they need to bring in the latest digital and social media activities of those customers to ensure it’s building a ‘single view of the truth’ based on the latest market and brand insight – all in real-time. That’s half of the job done. But, the true beauty of AI and machine learning isn’t just in the analysis, it’s in the execution.

A program run with AI and machine learning can automatically work out which of your current marketing messages need to go to which audience – and on which social or digital platform. All with as much intervention as the marketer deems appropriate. Both AI and machine learning take the profiles and uses it to take care of personalisation – and with content tailored to their preferences and previous behaviours. In such a complex, saturated marketplace, we’ve hit a point where an AI/machine learning program is the only way to be running that outreach at scale.

Marketers have a lot on their plate to get the job done. Right people, right time, right platform, right message – and all at scale? That’s far more than a marketer can hope to achieve manually. But, getting AI and machine learning on-board in their marketing outreach can do the job and more – making sure consumers are getting the personalised content they require to interact with the brand.

– by Akhilesh Ayer

Is current digital ad research adequate?

Only 5% of media and marketing professionals currently believe that the commercial research studies on digital advertising are of good enough quality.

The data, from a survey of 220 industry professionals carried out by Inskin Media, found that 57% thought that the commercial needs of the company owning the research is the biggest obstacle to the production of useful content.

23% reported that most of the time they disregard commercial research projects, with 19% considering the majority of them to be absolutely useless to them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is research agencies were regarded as producing the highest quality research content, while media buyers and media sellers were regarded as producing the worst kind of content.

“The industry has been deluged by studies on digital advertising over the last decade, most of which is used as a Trojan horse to promote a sales agenda,” said Steve Doyle, Inskin Media’s CCO.

“Unfortunately, much of it isn’t fit for purpose and it’s tended to tar everyone with the same brush. Paradoxically, it’s also created the problem of undermining genuine findings even if the company doing the research has a commercial interest in proving them, so the results are mistakenly ignored.”

Doyle also added that he was well aware of the “irony of producing a research study saying research quality is inadequate”.

Explaining the method

So, what is the current acres of commercial research failing to do? 61% of the survey respondents say that quality and detail are the most important factors in making research good content. 54% cited relevance as the most important factor.

A couple of suggestions really resonated with respondents as methods to try and improve the quality of commercial research. 71% said an independent industry body ‘seal of approval’ would be useful, while 70% would like to see detailed methodology sections become standard.

“The rise of online survey platforms means anyone with a few hundred pounds can produce one but hopefully the industry will start demanding far more rigour and detail about the methodology, as well as taking into greater account the agenda of the company producing it,” says Doyle.

“Indeed, the support for an independent seal of approval is reminiscent of what’s happened in Germany. The major trade bodies along with Google and Facebook launched ‘Qualitätsinitiative Werbewirkungsforschung’ – an initiative to increase transparency and quality in advertising effectiveness research.”

The media and marketing professionals surveyed prefer to hear research insights in face-to-face presentations (56%), with infographics (45%) and trade magazines (37%). Of all the methods cited, webinars were the least popular with 14%.

– by Colm Hebblethwaite

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