When 5G Gets Here It Will Be Awesome; Also Bad

5G, the supercharged fifth-generation of cellular wireless, is being touted as the next best thing since, well, since true 4G (because LTE really isn’t 4G after all, is it?). It will be the Hennessy Venom GT, which reaches up to 270 mph, (or if you prefer a comic book reference, let’s try the Silver Surfer) of the mobile internet, promising to accelerate advancements in AI, blockchain, IOT and AR and VR, just to name a few emerging technologies. It’s even a potential home internet killer. The reduced latency alone could be enough to speed up adoption by both consumers and businesses alike. Picture a real battle royale on Pub G or Fornite on your smartphone without interruption. The possibilities sound extremely fascinating, but 5G’s impact on digital media advertising is being watched closely with a little bit of a side eye.

At least that was the message at the recent AdMonsters DC Meetup: The Next Mobile Wave and it will also be a topic of discussion at Ops 2019 in the Hello 5G: Where Are the Opportunities? session, led by Marketing, Strategy, Emerging Technology & Innovation Consultant, Jeremy Lockhorn.

For starters though, we won’t really see the true impact of 5G until about 2021, because dumb pipes. But seriously, it’s going to take a lot more than some new 5G-capable phones and carrier marketing schemes to bring us any closer to that reality any time soon. 5G networks just aren’t ready for prime time yet. Besides Samsung’s 5G handset won’t be available until May 2019 and we probably won’t see a 5G iPhone until 2020. And given that they lead US market share, that’s where we’ll see most of the users.

5G Will Usher in a Richer, Better User Experiences

For the digital media and advertising industry, 5G presents an opportunity to deliver a better user experience and rev up all creative to run along with the faster load times. 4G already ushered in the era of mobile video in tandem with the mobile traffic boom, but with 5G ads will load extremely faster minimizing the delays we’ve become accustomed to (plus, it will improve viewability). 4K Ultra HD video ads will become more of a reality, but will that be what users want?

“Will user adoption come first or will it be the agencies pushing it?” wondered Nora Okonski, Director, Revenue Operations, Axios, at the recent AdMonsters Meetup. And it’s a really good question.

“Mass adoption of 5G is a ways away,” explained Walt Houseknecht, Executive Director, Operations, Politico. “ Until mass adoption, we as publishers are going to have to be diligent in understanding what segments of our audience can and cannot be exposed to the richer advertising experiences 5G should make possible, while clearly communicating these opportunities (and limitations) with our advertising partners.”

The adtech ecosystem—the exchanges, the SSPs, the DSPs and the DMPs—will also need an upgrade in order to complete programmatic auctions in the few milliseconds that 5G should be able to deliver ads. Today, the process is just too slow, and users often turn away, which results in lost revenue.

Mo’ Bandwidth, Mo’ Problems

Another issue likely to present itself with the advent of 5G is a second coming of the rise of ad block users. In the US, one in four internet users say they block ads, which is roughly about 70 million people. While 5G will eliminate the frustration of slow loads for users, it could also encourage brands and agencies to ramp up practices that users currently find intrusive and creepy. Jim Hirshfield, Head of Sales, Americas, GeoEdge, cautions against this. Just because hypertargeting and location targeting will be enriched, it doesn’t mean everyone should go overboard.



“I worry that with 5G, more bad behavior in targeting will follow,” said Jason Tollestrup, Vice President, Programmatic Strategy, The Washington Post. 5G will bring about a slew of efficiencies in content delivery and location targeting and with those capabilities will come new measurement models.

Then there’s the concern that malvertising will only get smarter. As it stands in the ad industry today, any war against fraud is always defended with new and better way to do damage. 5G could make this back-and-forth dance between fraudsters and fraud fighters even more aggressive.

“It will make things better but it presents an opportunity for fraudsters to do more stuff,” said Tollestrup. He also worries that agencies will want to measure everything.

If you think revenue models are complex today, they’re going to be even more so in the not-so-distant 5G future. For instance, mobile network operators will play a greater role in the advertising ecosystem, perhaps charging OTT providers for accessing their networks or charging brands to deliver highly-targeted messaging via location-based services to reach people wherever they are—in their cars, in stores, at live events, and maybe even in their homes. And we haven’t even gotten into their role in managing trusted identity and how they might monetize it.

Adding the carriers to the advertising mix is going to be a big headache for publishers, but that’s not the only concern ahead. For publishers who haven’t thought about their mobile strategies or revamped their sites to accommodate all of 5G’s super abilities, there’s going to be major problems. If your site has way too many scripts or you’re partnering with way too many vendors who require a lot of tags and code and you haven’t found ways to optimize, your load time will become an even greater factor in your ability to monetize. In the 5G age, users will come to expect everything to be 100x the speed it is today. The best advice is to think mobile first—progressive web vs responsive web—but also provide alternatives for non-mobile users.

“You have to design mobile first,” explained Houseknecht. “We understand that the majority of users consume on mobile, but we can’t ignore those who don’t.”

To be clear, it’s really not so much that 5G will be a bad thing for digital media and advertising as much as it may encourage bad actors to do even more. Plus, the entire digital advertising ecosystem will have to rethink and rejigger a few systems and practices in order to benefit from the opportunities that the technology presents to not be left with their slips showing.

Learn all about 5G’s opportunities for brands, agencies, publishers, and platforms at Ops 2019.