Interactive Advertising Bureau
14 September 2021

Member Guest Post with PubMatic - Audience Addressability is the Digital Advertising Industry’s Opportunity to Reset, Rethink, and Reinvigorate

In this week's member-guest blog post, Fiona Ellis-Smith, Associate Director, Advertiser Solutions at PubMatic shares her thoughts on the future of audience addressability for buyers. 

This year has been the year that we’ve seen the digital advertising industry really take stock of the challenges that need to be addressed to create a fair value exchange and chart a way forward. Advertisers and publishers are forging deeper relationships than ever before and defining new ways to make consumers’ digital content and advertising experiences great again. 

What are the biggest changes?

There is now a wide acceptance that as an industry we need to reset and rethink the consumer value exchange and remove the ‘big brother is watching you’ fear factor. Publishers are focusing on diversifying their revenue streams beyond the black and white of paywall or advertising. Through communication and collaboration, advertisers and agencies are able to leverage the opportunities that publishers having more control over their data presents for them from an audience addressability perspective. 

Another big change is the realisation that in order to provide a truly valuable experience for consumers and a fair value exchange for publishers, tech companies, and advertisers, we need local data and local solutions. There’s a real opportunity for local, independent publishers, tech, and data companies to harness their expertise and compete on a level playing field with the big players. By offering advertisers with custom solutions that are built to solve for the unique characteristics, regulations, and consumers in each market, we’re taking a big step towards building an ecosystem that can leverage both the power of scale - powered by alliances - and local expertise. 

Consumers have, for a long time, been vocal about what they dislike about digital advertising; however, the interpretation of this has been fragmented, extrapolated, and ultimately consumers’ concerns have not been sufficiently addressed. Today, we’re seeing the voice of the consumer being taken more seriously and solutions emerging that give consumers more choice than ever before. 

Premium publishers are offering consumers multiple ways to access content, such as 100% ad funded, part ad funded, free, but only in exchange for data. We’ll see more flexible models emerge as publishers learn from these early offerings. Content that is built on consumer data works - e.g. Netflix. When advertising is involved, we need to tread more carefully as the user experience is very different compared to receiving content recommendations. By educating consumers about how the decisions to show certain ads are made and giving them the choice to change the way they access content if they’re not happy, addressable audiences will continue to grow. 

What is driving the current changes?

When GDPR came into effect there was a sense in the industry that the ecosystem would change at the flick of a switch on May 25th, 2018. Today, regulations, standards, frameworks, and targeting options are evolving in a fluid manner, resulting in different strategies emerging. All of these strategies are designed to meet the same goal - make the digital advertising industry better. 

There’s also a greater sense of collaboration rather than a battle for control. There is an understanding that publishers need to maintain a certain level of control to preserve their user experience and that when publishers have this control, advertisers are better able to engage consumers. This has put publishers in a position to choose who they work with and partner with tech companies that share their values and vision for the future, and support them in building the right solutions for them. 

For example, platforms that enable publishers to test multiple ID solutions are in a great position to grow and shape the industry because they enable publishers to gather insights into the benefits that each solution brings. By facilitating this test and learn approach, these platforms are feeding vital, data-based knowledge into the industry, which is something that has been lacking in the past when there has been a tendency to keep learnings in siloes. 

What will digital advertising look like in 2025?

2021 is the moment of change that we’ve needed for several years, and there’s no doubt that current endeavours to build post-cookie addressable audiences will cause digital advertising to look very different in 2025. Of course, no one has a crystal ball, but our predictions for the future are as follows. 

Publishers and advertisers will be working together in ways that we’ve not even begun to see. There will be joint initiatives designed to inform consumers in non-tech speak about their options - not simply an opt-in to having hundreds of companies tracking them or none at all. In tandem, customer data platforms (CDPs) will evolve to provide more flexibility and be easier to interact with on an ongoing basis rather than a one off. 

There will be more logged in users, and as a result, there will be more tailored content and advertising that exists in harmony with that content in a non-creepy but personalised way. This will increase consumer trust and engagement with digital advertising, and the voice of the consumer will have shifted to focus on what they like about advertising, not what they don’t like. 

In the TV world, connected TV (CTV) will continue to grow, and as with digital, consumers will have the flexibility to choose how they want to pay for content - financially or with data, which will safeguard content providers’ revenue. 

The digital advertising industry is closer than ever before to making advertising that works for everyone, and it’s clear for all to see that we’re on the cusp of great change. Collectively, we’re responsible for driving this change and keeping ourselves accountable. The next five years will continue to be uncertain times, but the post-cookie, consumer-friendly, addressable opportunity is closer than ever. 

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