Best of AdMonsters Wrapper 2021: Top 12 Stories in Digital Media and Ad Tech

In 2020, AdMonsters launched The Wrapper, featuring a curated selection of ad tech news and analysis.

Our aim, with The Wrapper, is to summarize exciting news items that catch our eyes and link them to wider developments in digital media and advertising. And we also point you in the direction of great podcasts and compelling industry voices to follow on social media.

A lot of exciting happenings went down in 2021, from failed FLoC trials to increasing ad spend shifts to digital after a tumultuous 202o to the big tech crackdown to Apple’s many privacy updates upending how mobile pubs monetize their apps and we tried to catch it all.

Here’s a look back at the Top 12 Wrapper issues of 2021.

Guess Who’s Back? Advertising Spend Makes A Comeback

2020 was a tumultuous year for publishers, but signs that we’re rebounding couldn’t be more clear. For instance, just take a look at this U.S. Ad Market Tracker, a collaboration between MediaPost and Standard Media Index based on total ad spending by the major agency holding companies.

You’ll note a steady growth over a period of four months, starting in August, that came after a precipitous decline in ad spend starting in March fueled by the impact of Coronavirus. Overall, digital has been the major media catalyst for growth, expanding 29.3% in November.

Also in this issue: The New York Times Weathered COVID With First-Party Data; 2021, Say Hello to Email; Ding Dong, Adobe Flash is Dead

66% of Marketers Say Audience Beats Context, Pubs Disagree

Lotame’s new report, Beyond the Cookie: The Future of Advertising for Marketers & Publishers, reveals that, while 66% of marketers don’t think contextual targeting is enough to replace audience targeting, 69% of pubs believe context will win in a post-cookie space. It also notes that just 38% of pubs are searching for a solution to the end of third-party tracking, and 16% are using more contextual/intent data while looking for a more permanent solution.

Also in this issue: Virginia Gets Closer to Passing Consumer Privacy Reg; Facebook Fudges Numbers; TTD Hands Over Control of UID 2.0 to Prebid; Maryland Passed a Tax on Digital Advertising

We’re Not Ready for the Cookiepocalypse

While 67% of data leaders report that their organizations are prepared for the impending loss of third-party cookies and identifiers, a staggering percentage of the industry is concerned about future limitations for targeting (45%), as well as for ad campaign measurement (41%), according to a new report from the IAB. Those numbers reek of bewilderment. No? Then why, oh why, is the industry still spending inordinate amounts of cash on third-party data?

Also in this issue: Is Your CMS Killing Your ROI?; Disney, Discovery, and ViacomCBS are Building Their Own Ad Tech; YouTube Unveiled Plans to Tap Into the Rise of CTV

Core Web Vitals Delayed; Browsers Say No to FLoC

If Google’s new Core Web Vitals benchmarks for the “page experience” became the standard for how sites get ranked in search today — most sites wouldn’t rank highly at all. At least that’s according to analysis from SearchMetrics (reg wall), which parsed over 2 million webpages and found that only 4% of them got “good” scores across all three of the Core Web Vitals. (Interestingly enough, Google’s own YouTube didn’t score well at all).

And: While FLoC testing has commenced on Chrome, other browsers—Edge, Safari, and Firefox—are pushing back on Google’s cookie replacement. The triad of browsers joins the Brave Browser, which knocked the Big G’s cookie alternative for not really being a privacy solution last week. Vivaldi also won’t be participating in the FLoC trials, and DuckDuck Go has released an extension to block FLoC.

Also in this issue: Ad Spend Coming Back Strong; Ad Tech CTV Alliance; Cookie Death Will Compound Ad Tech Issues; Contextual Raises Another Round

🌯 PulsePoint Grab Gives Internet Brands In-House Programmatic Pipes

Two quick thoughts came to mind when we saw the news that Internet Brands was acquiring health-focused ad tech platform PulsePoint. First: Internet Brands wants to bring programmatic capabilities in-house. Second: Is Internet Brands, with its 250 million monthly uniques, and a variety of advertising offerings, now the 800-pound digital media gorilla when it comes to health content?

Also in this issue: Apple Vs. Everybody: The Saga Continues; There’s Gold in Them Thar Connected Devices; The Duopoly Continues to Dominate, Even in the Midst of the Pandemic; OpenID Comes to Linear TV to Target Audiences and Measure Campaigns Across Screens

🌯 Will IP Address Signals Disappear Next?

Third-party cookies are near death, there’s more unknown than known about UIDs (Universal IDs) and FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), and now, IP addresses are soon to be a targeting method of the past.

Also in this issue: The Audio Boom Continues; Pubs in Search of Post-pandemic Revenue Streams; CTV Is Only Growing

FLoC Trial Ends, None the Wiser

“We’ve decided not to extend this initial Origin Trial. Instead, we’re hard at work on improving FLoC to incorporate the feedback we’ve heard from the community before advancing to further ecosystem testing,” wrote senior software engineer Josh Karlin in a Chromium Blink development forum.

Also in this issue: USA Today Launches Paywall, But Who’s The Target Audience?; How Has Working From Home Shaped Ad Blocking?; The End of Big Tech?; TTD Vs Walled Gardens

What Will Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Mean for Newsletters?

Spoiler alert: It’s not pretty. Many publications opine that Apple Mail Privacy Protection is going to drastically change the way newsletter marketing takes place and that said marketers must readjust their strategies now before changes go into effect.

Also in this issue: Apple’s ATT Privacy Changes a Boon for Amazon?; FTC Refiles Lawsuit Against Facebook. Is It for the Wrong Reasons?

Whaddya Mean Newsletter Subscription Fatigue?; Half of U.S. Consumers Prefer AVOD

Alex Kantrowitz, writer of the Big Technology Newsletter and the book ALWAYS DAY ONE: How The Tech Titans Plan To Stay On Top Forever, said that the rumblings of newsletter fatigue are mere rumblings. In fact, he believes the opposite is taking place and he dubs it the “Newsletter Network Effect.”

And: Two recent reports, one from Future Today and one from Roku show that consumers love AVOD content, including the ads, because they don’t have to pay much for subscriptions with free ad-supported TV.

Is Google Double Dipping?

Talk about inflating ad deals. In an unredacted lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, it was discovered that Google takes between 22-42% of each ad transaction that moves through its system. This is anywhere between two and four times the amount rival ad exchanges take.

Also in this issue: Did Google and Facebook Collude Against Apple?; How Apple’s Privacy Changes Really Hurt

IAB Europe in Breach of GDPR; AI Runs Globe and Mail Paywall

Google and countless other advertisers rely on IAB Europe’s consent management system, which has now been deemed in violation of GDPR.

And: AI runs Globe and Mail paywall. And it’s doing a stellar job. So much so that the company is offering it as a SaaS product. Named Sophi, it controls home page placement of stories and the metering of stories—how many free articles a consumer gets before being prompted to subscribe.

Could CMA Commitments Delay Cookie Cutoff Further?

The ICO’s (Information Commissioner’s Office) outgoing commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, posted a scathing opinion piece where she “warns the industry [behavioral advertising industry] that its old unlawful tricks simply won’t do in the future.”

Also in this issue: The Lingering Impact of the Long Goodbye to Third-Party Cookies; Are Content Creators and Influencers > Media and Brands?; Making Ad Tech and Advertising More Sustainable??