in Online Advertising

Is it time to abandon IAB standard ad formats?

I spoke on a panel this week about media innovation alongside Andrew Girdwood of LBi, and moderated by Amit Kotecha of Quantcast.

Two topics dominated the discussion: native ads and data.

Native isn’t just advertorial

Native formats attract a certain amount of derision (“it’s just advertorial”) – one of the reasons I don’t like the name. Ben Thomson uses the name “in-stream” advertising, and I think that works much better. Ads that match, complement and enhance the editorial content.

If you don’t think an online advertising format can match, complement or enhance editorial content, then make your way over to Google and do a search. AdWords is the Adam and Eve of in-stream formats.

As Facebook marches forward with it’s in-stream, newsfeed advertising that works brilliantly on desktop and mobile, you have to ask what is the future of the humble banner ad?

The original banner format (468 pixels wide by 60 high) is now 20 years old. It was an attempt to take another medium’s advertising format, press, and make it work online.

Though other standard formats have come along since, ask yourself this question: are IAB standard formats part of online advertising’s future, or part of its past? Surely it’s the latter.

For an industry that loves to talk about disruption, let’s take the bold step and ditch standard formats. Publishers and advertisers need to focus on the future.

Data and the power struggle to define the audience

At the start of the panel, Andrew and I were asked what we thought the most important tech innovation of 2014 was for advertising. Andrew said Facebook’s relaunch of Atlas; I said the data management platform (DMP).

Ultimately we are both getting at the same thing: the key to success in online advertising is in your audience data.

Facebook are trying to re-define this by talking about showing ads to people instead of cookies, and using Atlas as the tool to do that. It’s a strong story, especially as Facebook has so many data assets. Not only are people logged into Facebook almost permanently, social logins and like buttons are littered across the web.

When it comes to unifying users people across devices, Facebook is the only game in town. Despite many others, including Google, trying to build statistical models to do this, Facebook has real data because of the enormous logged in audience. I’m extremely bullish that Facebook will challenge Google’s dominance as online advertising budgets grow.

DMPs have also made larger advertisers realise that they are sitting a lot of 1st party data that could be used for advertising campaigns. CRM data in particular can be extremely valuable.

It’s also made advertisers think hard about who should own the data used in and generated by advertising campaigns. I expect marketers to ask hard questions to their agencies and media partners in 2015.

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