We’re a month deep into 2022, and digital media and ad tech is already facing quite a few surprising twists and turns.
Google pivoted from FLoC to Topics API as a primary third-party cookie replacement in Chrome, Microsoft is emerging as an ad tech giant, DEI is becoming less about lip service and more about actions tied to business outcomes, like supporting a more equitable advertising ecosystem, digital ad spend is consistently moving into areas like CTV, OTT, and audio, and, according to eMarketer, a whole lotta money is moving into PMPs away from the open exchange.
I caught up with seven of our AdMonsters friends — Garrett Johnson, Assistant Professor, Questrom School of Business, Boston University; Simon Harris, Director Trade Desk, DPG Media; Melissa Chapman, Founder + Principal, Part Two Consulting; Ericka S. Riggs, Chief DEI Officer, Omnicom Specialty Marketing Group; Myles Younger, VP, Go-to-Market, Data, Media.Monks; John R. Osborn, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Turnstil; and Walter T. Geer III, Executive Creative Director, Experience Design, VMLY&R — to talk about what we can expect to happen in digital media and ad tech for the rest of this year. Or at least we can all dream, right?
They talked about how things are changing within Google’s Privacy Sandbox, how media and ad tech consolidation will be an even bigger theme this year, how the talent crisis and DEI are reshaping recruitment and management, how brands are tripling down on acquiring first-party data, how ad interactivity is going to be key to CTV/OTT’s success, and how publishers are moving into a position to own the conversation around advertising creative.
The Privacy Sandbox Shapes Up
The ongoing move to privacy-centric technologies will be the biggest sea change in digital advertising since the onset of programmatic. In 2022, Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox moves from a discussion phase to a testing phase in preparation for a launch in Q4 and third-party cookie deprecation in Q3 of 2023–though a further delay is possible.
So far, FLoC/Topics API has received most of the attention, but Privacy Sandbox proposes a suite of technologies to replace the many uses of cookies including targeting (i.e., Topics, FLEDGE), measurement (e.g., Core & Cross-Environment Attribution APIs) and fraud prevention (i.e., Trust Tokens API). Now that it’s becoming increasingly clear that these changes will happen, this industry will be racing up a steep learning curve to understand and implement these technologies. To help, we wrote a short article (with Julian Runge & Eric Seufert) previewing these seismic changes and their consequences for digital advertising.
The Privacy Sandbox Takes Shape
In 2021, the big Google’s Privacy Sandbox news wasn’t one of origin trials, but that the rollout of these initiatives would be delayed until 2023 and be overseen by the UK competition authorities. This year, Topics API is replacing FloC and we can expect to see testing of FLEDGE and Core Attribution Reporting API, as well as more refinement within the Privacy Sandbox with the big news story of 2022 being the results of these tests.
If 2021 proved anything it was that gaining consensus in this area is hard and my prediction is not that everyone will be happy with the results, but the hope will be that they are suitably effective for the majority and will be ready by the start of Q4, which is when Google says the first transition period begins.
Media Consolidation Continues
As businesses prepare for the death of the third-party cookie, many are still looking to create alternatives to Google’s approach to marketing, by building out their first-party data scale and depth. We saw a good example of this in December 2021 when Vox Media strengthened its content fortress with the acquisition of Group Nine. I anticipate that more media companies will do the same. To have a meaningful first-party offering, scale is key, so look out for further media consolidation in 2022.
Privacy 1st AdTech Is The Hottest Ticket In Town
My final prediction is that it won’t just be media companies that buy up their competition to future-proof their offering, ad tech businesses will also try to do the same. Just five days into 2022 Magnite announced it was acquiring Nth Party, a cryptography specialist that will help enable privacy-compliant audience data sharing.
I predict that this is just the beginning and companies that offer novel privacy 1st targeting and segmentation capabilities will be in high demand, indeed businesses like Permutive and InfoSum will be the target of significant interest, conversely, ad tech businesses that do not put privacy first will find life increasingly difficult in terms of winning new customers and exits.
No More ID Solution Toe Dipping & The Talent Crisis Is Real
More Testing and Implementing ID Solutions
First, because third-party cookies are going away, we will see a lot of hustle. Publishers have to figure out what to really do, less theory, more testing and implementing. Making bets and running with them. Publishers are going to have to get serious about making big investments in both tools, time, and resources. That goes all the way from testing identity solutions to acquiring more brands to expand their footprint. While at the same time participating in the industry conversations that will impact how this all plays out.
The Talent Crisis Is Real
Second, the talent crisis is real. It won’t be good enough to wait it out or poach from other companies, neither approach is embracing the reality we face. Delegation (outsourcing) and automation need to go into overdrive. Putting true partnerships in place and then being real and strategic about what is needed to ease the labor and manual impacts businesses are facing. While at the same time working toward increasing the funnel of candidates coming into our industry. We need more smart people who are excited to plan in digital media.
DEI’s Importance Ramps Up
In 2022, I predict the importance of DEI will continue to grow beyond surface trainings and compliance policies. DEI leaders have become more targeted and measured in their approach to making DEI become fully institutionalized throughout organizations. DEI trends will center around the types of efforts needed to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into every policy and process, with an emphasis on work culture and people.
- Incorporating non-traditional recruiting methods and talent
- Examining flex schedules through a DEI lens
- Policy & process redesign to remove bias
The employee experience will factor high in the company’s competitive advantage. The success of a company will not only be measured by the goods sold and services rendered, but by a work culture that transparently upholds its values, intentionally creates belonging and inclusion, ensures equitable policies, and commits to a flexible work balance strategy.
Happy, productive employees, contribute to the making of loyal customers, which makes a solid business reputation; all contributing factors to higher profits.
Brands Triple Down On First-Party Data Collection
Brands are doubling (and tripling) down on acquiring first-party consumer data in order to stay competitive. Brands are inviting consumers into “value exchanges” with things like sweepstakes, curbside pickup, pre-order sign-ups, etc.
Firstly, we’re going to see this pick up in 2022, and secondly, we’re going to see this get formalized at scale. I expect more tech startups automating / streamlining / scaling this, and I also expect the major media and social platforms (e.g., YouTube, TikTok, Snap) to release new features that scratch this same itch for brands where the goal isn’t necessarily views / clicks / conversions; the goal is data and meaningful consumer interaction. I think we’re talking coupons, product recommendation and discovery apps, rewards programs, celebrity collabs, livestream shopping, ultra-personalized or limited-release products, NFTs…and interesting combinations of all those things! The ingredients are all there, but in 2022 it’s going to accelerate and mature as a part of the ecosystem. Maybe it will even get its own box on the LUMAscape.
CTV & OTT Get Hyperactive
In 2022, look for advancements in interactive advertising on streaming CTV and OTT platforms. It will be the kind of year that surprises us in the change from rudimentary interactivity to discovery of the “holy grail”.
Hulu’s use of clickable display “advertorial” on the right side of the screen while video runs on the left is still pretty basic “push” marketing and available now. By the end of 2022, the increased use of audio command remote controls by consumers (vs. today’s cumbersome entry with letter-by-letter clicking) will begin to allow for form filling, requests for information, and even purchases. The trick is to find the right consumer “pull” experience to take advantage of these tech solutions.
Another rudimentary form of interactivity is ads with QR Codes or Flowcodes, where the consumer takes a photo and visits a website or landing page later. Even viewers selecting one of two or three different ads from the same advertiser is currently an option on some ad-supported services today.
The holy grail is a technology solution that allows the consumer to quickly interact with an ad without being interrupted or taken away from the content they are enjoying. This kind of consumer engagement is very valuable to advertisers, lucrative to content providers and if the consumer experience meets viewer needs, a real win-win-win for stakeholders.
Let’s meet up a year from now to see which ad ops teams at streaming services have harnessed the potential of ad interactivity in the CTV/OTT sector, and perhaps share a toast from the holy grail.
Publishers Shifting Into the Creative Driver’s Seat
The entire ecosystem of advertising is broken for so many reasons. The largest reason is the fact that we work in silos. Agencies work alone. Media agencies work alone. Publishers work alone. Ad tech companies work alone. And because of this, we’re all going after the same pieces of business and we’re going with these broken ideas. So, my hope is that we see more of these individuals coming together in 2022.
In this cookieless world that we live in, publishers could and should be playing a larger role in terms of identifying beautiful, compelling solutions that work for their platforms. As much as I appreciate everything the IAB has done, standardizing solutions has also made this space very boring. It’s time for publishers to take a bolder stance in creating smart, engaging, uninterruptive, impactful solutions that target consumers in an appropriate manner allowing them to care about the brands that want to reach them.
While much of this is left up to the media agency side, it’s time we all come together to create these solutions that are better for the space. It all boils down to reach, right? I would love to see how publishers back into how they take standardized formats and standardized assets and pull them into dynamically creative solutions that people really want to see. If publishers come to the creative folks and inspire us, then that stuff will end up in pitches that can influence the buy-side.
To read more of our predictions for 2022, check out: