Display's promising comeback
For long, online Display Advertising has played a second fiddle to Search. Ofcourse, it has also been plagued with many issues such as high fragmentation, price transparency, limited level of audience targeting capabilities and lack of alignment of media buys with ROI goals. This has been the primary reason for ‘Display' to lag behind ‘Search' that took the center stage for digital marketers for last four years.
But, the rules of game are changing fast. Display Advertising ecosystem is undergoing complete transformation. The emergence of new technologies is not only redefining how Display Ads are bought and sold, but also how we leverage this channel in the overall marketing mix. Most marketers would already be aware some of these Online Advertising technology intermediaries such as Demand Side Platforms (DSPs), Supply Side (SSPs), Data Providers & Exchanges and Data Management Platforms that are now part of the ecosystem.
We are still very much in early days of this new paradigm. Meaning, the buzz really started with Google acquisition of Invite Media in June 2010 - a premier DSP based out of US. They are expanding internationally quite rapidly and the word on the street is they will be in Asia quite soon. The Rubicon Project, a key player in yield Optimization technology for publishers, raised a total of US$ 60 mn (over 2 rounds) in 2010. They also took over Fox Audience Network business in 2010 and have already established presence here in Asia.
And there is Blue Kai, a firm specializing in Audience Data based online marketing. Blue Kai runs an Audience Data Exchange and provides Data Management Platform for advertisers, ad networks and agencies.
But, why are we talking about them now?
2012 is likely to the very different for the industry in Asia. Consider the multiple platforms that are already here or are in the process in the setting up operations in Asia. Here's an indicative list of all the available networks and platforms.
So, what does this mean for marketers, how does it impact the industry and what can one expect in 2012. Here are some thoughts that marketers should consider while signing of the next Display campaign -
1) Platform based Real Time Biding - It should be no surprise that more & more display budgets will be deployed through automated platforms. Demand Side Platform (DSP) technology enables advertisers and agencies to use "real time bidding" to buy display ad space, and to optimize display ad campaigns, across multiple advertising exchanges, all in a single interface. The platform based buying offers significant advantages -
i) Access to Global Inventory Pools
ii) Price Efficiency
iii) Campaign Optimization
iv) Price Transparency
v) Reporting Dashboard
2) Prominence of the Audience Data - Audience data will play much more significant role in the planning of the Display campaign. Marketers will have to start working on ‘Data' strategy to maximize the effect of the Display campaigns. This will include - a) creation of right audience segments b) deeper partnerships with relevant publishers for their audience data c) 3rd party providers and data management platforms. Marketers will also learn that audience data actually holds key to success of display campaigns of the future.
3) Agency Trading Desks - The concept of ‘agency trading desk' is already beginning to take shape in some form. There are a number of Media/ Digital agencies that are working on either a proprietary platform or setting up a trading desk in partnership with a DSP platform. 2012 should see a roll out of Agency trading desk with atleast couple of agencies.
4) Performance Focus - Display campaigns will be planned for performance and ROI goals just like search. The technology and tools are available for marketers to maximize the effect of Display. Marketers will realize, in some cases, Display working better than Search for delivering performance. Yes, it will happen.
While the benefits of the technology are quite obvious, there are things to watch out for -
1. Most of what we see in Asia are hybrids and are not fully integrated platforms. Be it real-time bidding technology or lack of Asian ad inventory or Audience Data. Any missing piece in the puzzle could just take the fizz away.
2. Any platform operating as black box with no access to dashboards & control to clients is not being transparent. It is critical to know that there are no ‘markups' and how much DSP is charging for it's platform services.
3. Another important piece would be what kind of the delivery capabilities are being built into the system. Can it be used or optimized for performance advertising on CPA basis or would it just be source of cheap inventory.
The fact remains that we are yet to see DSPs in action. Most of them are still very US focused and are yet to prove their capabilities in Asia.
There are some other interesting questions at an industry level that still remain unanswered and make this space extremely exciting to watch for -
1) What happens to future of Ad Networks, will they continue to exist in its current form or will they evolve themselves with a different business model or a different proposition?
2) Will online publishers finally get their due given the yield optimization technology and data assets that they own?
3) How will the Agencies of the future look like? Will online media buying function transform into trading desks that work on campaign optimization and generating profits for clients?
4) How will agencies with trading desks manage conflict of interest given their own proprietary platforms?
5) How would marketers navigate in such an environment? Will they work with one service provider or work with multiple providers and cast their presence as wide as possible?
6) Is the market size in Asia big enough for all the intermediaries? Wouldn't this lead to further commoditization of Display. How would DSPs differentiate their positioning in the marketplace?
How does this all pan out? Well, only time will tell. But, one thing is sure; it will bring huge opportunities to marketers who are willing to learn and leverage the display channel effectively.
Have fun navigating the world of Display 2.0!
Vikas Gulati is Asia Pacific vice president at Sprice.com