Saturday, June 17, 2017

We found a Dr. Doom for Digital Display Advertising – or did we?

This article summarizes a recent research report that forecasts the end of digital and display advertising as we know it as consumers move away from experiences in which they can be interrupted.
I recently read an article summarizing a recent report from Forrester – the venerable research group based in Cambridge, Mass – that, for all intents and purposes, seemed to be ringing a death knell for digital display advertising. This article essentially points to a future where AI and digital assistants are the dominant technological framework for our everyday existence and states the obvious… display may not necessarily fit into those mediums as they exist today.
The idea here is that the shift away from traditional display advertising as it exists today is a near certainty because of a handful of factors including: (1) lack of transparency from publishers to advertisers on the impact of their very sizeable ad spend; (2) consumer indifference to the interests of advertisers looking for their attention; (3) fewer opportunities for consumer interruptions on interruption-friendly devices, which themselves are disappearing; (4) digital display that may not be as impactful as marketers and advertisers would like it to be, based on a single, albeit poignant statistic – that “only 40% of the $7.4Bn of display ads pitched in 2016 were seen by consumers”.
On the surface, one cannot help but notice the irony of a tech world eager to evolve new technology and grab more advertising cash by creating more devices that may short-circuit the growing allocation of funds for display advertising. Since the new devices being introduced require a potentially shift away from traditional display advertising. After all, one might argue that Siri, Alexa, Echo and all their other friends, can’t exactly show catchy ads in their current form today.
While all these points (especially point #3 and #4 above) make sense, one must acknowledge the flip side of the argument, which is that innovation is good. Anyone remember the first iPhone? Compared to today’s iPhone, that thing was not exactly a marketing agency’s dream at the time, yet it has created an ecosystem that thrives and drives billion’s today. Same for the advent of search and Google. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, nobody in television advertising could readily see how Google, YouTube or anything else would change the ad world, yet today, we have an arguably more buoyant multi-billion-dollar marketing industry thanks to the new media opportunities spun out of these innovations.
In my opinion, the Forrester report and Lisa Lacy’s article are less of a death knell for display and more of a wake-up call that there is the potential opportunity to move into a new mode of advertising that will shift the way consumers are reached, as more people embrace the new and perceivably less interruption-friendly devices. In essence, the way to capture the consumer’s attention may be shifting but marketers and advertisers have to adapt or get ahead of the technology to influence the direction of technological evolution and the art/science of reaching consumers.

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