Trends, once, again.

Change is a big theme this time of year, the only time we seem to be collectively on board with change is now, at the changing of the calendar. 

Oh, funny life.
In any case, we all enjoy taking a look back, and a look forward, at trends, methods, tools and strategies that worked well, and not-so-well, in each our respective pursuits.

In mine, the world of technology and advertising presents some interesting things to talk about.

This past year, for example, header bidding, technology that enables content publishers to effectively bid their content across channels, optimizing both the content’s reach and its lifespan, was hands-down one of the most disruptive technologies in adtech. 

Looking ahead, some other interesting stuff is coming and 2017 will no doubt usher in some changes that will benefit people both inside and outside of the ad world:

chatbot_dmChatbots

Chatbots are hardly a new thing but their most creative and effective use cases come from China and WeChat. WeChat combines Facebook, Amazon, Whatsapp, Instagram, Skype, Tinder, traffic apps, financial services apps and so much more into a single, aggregate app that audiences are bonkers for.

WeChat designed their successful experience around China’s mobile-first generation. Meanwhile, in the U.S., many kids have still grown up using desktop and laptop computers. That is changing quickly. My own 5-year-old, for example, only occasionally uses a laptop, mostly to Skype with friends and relatives. Most everything else he engages with is on a phone or tablet.

Messaging app players in the U.S. are obviously now attempting to emulate WeChat’s success by catering to the mobile first generations in the States. Messaging bots in Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s Messenger means the bot market will explode in 2017.

This is good for regular folks, too, because bots, counter-intuitively, can make online experiences more personalized, allowing users to engage with companies, products and services in friendly ways that can eventually lead to human connection on the backend, without the pressure at first. This isn’t to say there aren’t obstacles yet to be overcome, such as overall bot awareness and making discovery a friendly experience for the average bear. These challenges will most likely be a primary focus for companies like Apple, Facebook and many others.

a robot reading a bookMachine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

By far, of all the buzzwords buzzing this year, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence buzzed loudest. In the year ahead, some ad campaigns will no doubt be clever and powered by backend machine learning algorithms to improve speed, ad targeting and arguably increasing ad effectiveness in connecting to people more effectively through personalization.

These technologies may hold value for publishers by minimizing costs. We shall see. It is important to keep in mind, however, that it isn’t just data that powers the success of these tools but the quality and accuracy of data. So, in 2017, I suspect we will see more ad tech providers working to clean up their data-streams and the overall quality and accuracy of the data they collect. Otherwise, while attempting to utilize dirty data for AI and machine learning applications, it’s garbage in, garbage out. In other words, this should be the Holy Grail for advertisers – clean data.

facebook iconFacebook

It’s not a real PoV without mentioning the Facebook.

Facebook shut down both ad platforms it acquired last year – LiveRail and Atlas. Meanwhile, they continued evolving their overall “portal” philosophy. By now we’ve all prolly read about their Orwellian publishing policies, inflated measurement of video views and, most recently, the countless fake news articles within the Facebook ecosystem.

It is important to take notice of all the new business lines they launched: Events, Food Delivery, Game Room, Marketplace, Jobs Ads, Workplace, Professional Services, Features, Music, Stories and more. For all of you Yahoo! and AOL refugees out there: have we seen this movie before? How does it end?

platformsPlatforms

Video has surpassed mobile as the growth vector du jour, which is no surprise because we knew this at the beginning of 2016.

Traditional media platforms (television) still hold merit where reach is concerned but more and more people are making the move to new media platforms (like OTT and mobile video). Programmatic advertising loves this. These new media platforms are more amenable to using the latest technology. However, despite the promise of a bright future, the reality of video advertising in 2016 showed growing pains, including a lack of quality inventory that created less-than-awesome user experiences, a phase that will likely need to cycle through before anyone delivers the potential value of the video ad market.

big fish eating a small fishAcquisitions galore

Ad tech is fragmented beyond belief and continues to be mired in a “mid-life crisis.” A consolidation trend is underway and there were several major acquisitions including Adobe-TubeMogul ($540M), Salesforce-Krux ($700M), AT&T -Time Warner ($85B), and a successful $84M IPO by the Trade Desk.

Chinese companies kicked off the acquisition trend in the early part of 2016, closing deals like Media.net ($900M), Opera Software ($600M), Smaato (148M), NativeX ($25M) and more, which kicked States-side investors into action.

a dude wearing a vr headsetAR vs. VR vs. MR

Pokémon Go took everyone by surprise. Overnight, the game went completely viral with thee best AR (augmented reality) experiences to date, creating an entirely new market segment but, more importantly, creating a culture open to the possibilities of this truly revolutionary technology. How many people have you seen walking around, “catching them all”? The outcome of that is a proliferation of AR gaming and entertainment experiences that will no doubt look to ads for ways to monetize them.

VR (virtual reality) will continue strong, too, but is more well-suited for immersive experiences in entertainment and gaming. AR is arguably better suited for collaboration due to its less-obtrusive requirements. Not to mention, first time users can sometimes react quite strongly ; )

My curiosity lies in whether or not we will see more mainstream MR (mixed reality) experiences gain popularity. This is the future of combining platforms: gaming, VR, entertainment, computing, mobile, AR, etc. all untethered by their hardware platforms, potentially integrated into LED wallpaper or surface veneers. Imagine!

Better Stuff

I see 2017 returning to user-friendly video formats that will be short form and personalized. Snapchat is already onto it and other, big players following. To scale this technology, it will be interesting to see who acquires who in 2017 and 2018.

Taking this all a step further is Snap Inc, er, Snapchat, who released Spectacles, a hardware and strategy designed to curate exciting interactive experiences using consumer-captured video. Imagine just 50 sets of spectacles at a live event. What can the aggregate stream be made into? AR? VR? MR? We are already instead creating AR/VR/MR experiences in 3 dimensions of concerts from countless angles.

The future is rad, multi-camera in a whole, new slant!

Summary

The downside: we hate advertising. Advertising isn’t what it used to be, it’s more insidious. More and more of us are sick of it than ever. Ad blocking is growing in popularity and people are smarter, more hip to tricks and demand more value for their time, as they should.

The upside: the emerging technologies mentioned above are not silver bullet-solutions to these challenges, however, they will hopefully inspire those in advertising to give people more for their time and engagement, returning more value, by motivating publishers, developers and marketers of all kinds as they continue working to expand their reach and influence, to deliver more efficient, effective and engaging formats and stories for us all.

Thanks for reading.