Digital advertising reached a tipping point last year. It not only began to draw advertising dollars away from TV, but it antagonized users on the mobile web in ways undreamed of several years ago. So there’s nowhere to go but up, and we predict 2016 will be an up year for smart brands. As Felix Salmon said, we have reached Peak Adtech.
Here’s what we think will happen:
1) Ads couldn’t have gotten more intrusive last year. So this year they will be using different, less annoying formats, and consumers will tolerate them more. They will grow more native both in format (Instagram ads) and in content (better use of data for targeting.)
2) Smaller publishers with ill-defined audiences will not be able to exist on ad revenues, and many of them will fold. At present, there is an unlimited supply of undistinguished publishers, and they’ve been just getting by. However, with ad blockers being used more and more, they will have to attract a subscription base, deliver more differentiated content, or just go away.
3) Even the largest publishers will be attracted to platforms like Medium and Facebook, which have already aggregated the audiences. We will see unusual revenue sharing, partnering, and collaboration. Even the Washington Post, which has overtaken the New York Times in web traffic, will be encouraged to participate. New business models will evolve slowly.
4) The number of stories read in-app will increase in 2016, both because ad blockers and ads have both conspired to make mobile web browsing untenable.
5) Publishers will gravitate to cleaner, faster-loading Amp pages even if revenues may suffer somewhat. A great example of how Amp pages work is in Nuzzel, a news aggregator, where some of the stories are Amp pages and some are not. The difference in load times is amazing, and causes readers to spend more time on the Amp pages. Simply put, the experience is better.
6) And here’s something we’ve been saying for a long time: good creative MUST come back.
Salmon tells us this won’t happen quickly. “Ads have been getting increasingly annoying for years; they’re not going to suddenly become demure and well behaved overnight. But, for the first time since the web was invented, 2016 will be a year when adtech is forced into retreat. It’s going to be great to see it on the back foot for once. The change is going to be wonderful not only for the mobile web, but also — eventually — for creativity in the online ad industry. When brute force and invasions of privacy don’t work any more, that’s when creatives start to really show their value.”