Will There Be A Redefinition Of Digital In 2017?

jaclynstewart_sellsiderThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Jaclyn Stewart, senior director of publisher services at The 614 Group.

Publishers spent much of 2016 working through the significant challenges presented by ad blocking, privacy and user data regulations and the residual effects of measurement and verification.

However, what’s happening to the industry at a macro level is most interesting to me when looking ahead. While discussing what’s on the horizon for 2017 with my colleagues Sharone McGovern and Rob Rasko, we saw several major themes emerging that will have lasting impacts on digital advertising, including consolidation and a potential redefinition of what digital means.

The industry is undergoing a major sea change toward stabilization. Ad tech consolidation will continue on its current trajectory, which will relieve some of the space’s clutter and noise but will likely trend toward private equity acquisitions versus the old model of hoping to be bought by one of the big guys” such as Google or Facebook.

M&A across the industry was strong in 2016, illustrated by the acquisitions of Opera and Sizmek. This will continue into 2017 and beyond and will hopefully result in the ability to work with fewer partners with the same if not better results.

Automation efforts will also increase. Programmatic advertising is projected to soar 31%, keeping with the trend of shifting dollars from direct deals to programmatic. However, growth of programmatic revenue and demand will further highlight the inefficiencies of executing programmatic deals for publishers. The pain points include accurate revenue reporting across partners, optimizing partners in real time and managing discrepancies between first- and third-party data.

Consolidation and automation will further impact the job market. It stands to reason that fewer ad tech companies and more automated tasks would lead to fewer available jobs, but there will be growth in systems management and data engineering, to name a few, which will offset the loss in more tactical industry jobs. While this is a nationwide issue that affects multiple industries, it will be more pronounced on the frontlines of the technology industry, where spending five or more years at the same company has been the exception instead of the rule.

So, while a decline in any job market is difficult, the opportunities growing from these shifts are going to be exciting and innovative. What does an ad ops career in an AI or VR environment even look like?

FB And Google Vs. Everyone Else

There was a lot of talk about the great advertising duopoly known as Facebook and Google, but that will likely be downplayed in 2017. The position of Google and Facebook and their share of the entirety of the digital ad spend is well documented; however, I believe in a longer-term media future where we question overall measurement and how ad spend is defined. Are internet provider costs part of ad spend, for instance? That money is used to power the ads that are served, so why not? That’s just an extreme example of what could be called into question.

This may be the year when industry leaders begin redefining digital and what makes up the established advertising revenue reports.

Making Measurement Companies Play Nice

One thing few people seem to want to discuss publicly is that the current suite of vendors benefit from the discrepancies that plague the market.

These discrepancies give them an advantage. A 20% higher count is better for some, and a 20% lower count is better for others.

As we redefine measurement, vendors will need to play a part in that conversation. The vendors that find a way to cooperate will be successful. Eventually, consolidation will decrease the number of players in this space, but their offerings will be more robust.

Overall, I predict the defining characteristic of 2017 will be fewer, better and more transparent companies. I look forward to the year ahead and to watching our industry continue to work through its growing pains as we increase advertiser confidence in digital advertising, in its ever-expanding definition, and find the most effective, ethical and innovative ways to reach consumers.

Follow Jaclyn Stewart (@614GroupJackie), The 614 Group (@614group) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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