Ben John is the CTO of Xandr, AT&T’s advertising and analytics company.
2021 is bringing new sets of challenges that impact business and consumers at every level. To drive growth, businesses need to connect with potential customers, which requires an in-depth understanding of their consumption habits and behavior. Advertising has long been a means to reaching such customers, but doing so in an increasingly complex environment fueled by endless consumer touchpoints and engagement models means technological innovation is at the center of success.
Technologists hold the keys to unlock real change, whether it be from a consumer, advertiser or content owner’s point of view. As we enter a new year focused on providing each of these groups with the technology they need to move forward, there are three major focus areas and opportunities for technologists to lead the digital transformation in the advertising ecosystem.
1. Provide a better viewer experience.
Linear TV advertising budgets are continuing to decline and shift toward digital channels, like over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV (CTV). According to Magna Global, national linear TV spend is expected to shrink from 14% of total U.S. ad spend in 2021 to 8% of total spend in 2025. This is a direct reflection of the new and diverse consumer journey, which can go from mobile, to desktop, to OTT, to linear and back again within a single day. For the most part, what is consistent across each format is advertising.
A core challenge is ensuring a seamless transition of viewership without ad fatigue. To overcome this challenge, technology to support capabilities like frequency capping, which creates a limit on the number of times a consumer is exposed to the same ad, and competitive separation, which checks to make sure that a publisher’s collection of ads don’t compete or conflict with each other, is necessary. This is an exciting engineering challenge to tackle, as it requires gathering real-time and batch data across many touchpoints, aggregating billions of records (in a privacy-safe way) and empowering advanced decisioning tools.
2. Help buyers and sellers adapt to new realities.
Recognizing this new and diverse consumer journey, brands are looking to become more strategic and efficient with their spend by reaching target audiences across TV and digital in a single campaign. At the same time, media owners need the ability to connect with buyers directly so they can continue to easily capture linear demand, which comprises the majority of their revenue in spite of declining overall spend, while maintaining flexibility and control.
Successful platform partners are responding to these needs by facilitating collaboration across TV and digital investment groups through converged offerings, primarily focused on planning, reporting and insights. Having the right technology to understand reach and audiences across screens, inform budget allocation and optimize marketing investment through combined reporting and attribution will prove critical for buyers. Technology that can forecast audiences, allocate inventory, holistically plan and report campaigns and generate demand across linear and digital media will be equally as important for sellers. Underlying across capabilities is the need to build and implement workflow automation for both traditional and digital TV players. Such automation will not only lay the foundation for these capabilities, but it will also help seamlessly facilitate revenue-generating spend across the growing number of available touchpoints.
3. Remain compliant with data and privacy policies.
It’s no secret that the impending loss of third-party cookies and the increasing number of data privacy laws, while beneficial and quite positive for consumers and the entire community, bring major implications to the entire advertising ecosystem. Expanding upon buyer and seller collaboration, heightened investment and usage in commercial IDs, contextual signals and modeled audience signals that can be leveraged by DSPs and SSPs to maintain audience-based campaign strategies while achieving scale and profitability are coming to the forefront.
Developing and implementing advanced technologies that understand the sentiment on a page and its full context can help advertisers avoid appearing on negative or controversial content, and provides a way for media owners to ensure revenue, all while accounting for privacy regulations and shifting dynamics in the advanced advertising landscape. The complexity comes with the volume and fragmentation of data, presenting an opportunity for engineers to build solutions that enable better consumer experiences and business growth.
The growing intricacies of today’s media landscape, demonstrated by each of the points above, mean thoughtful product structure must be top-of-mind for engineers and technologists. Implementing reusable platform elements that can continuously be built upon over time, rather than become stagnant and inefficient, will help ensure a pace of technological advancement that aligns with that of the market. And as advertisers and media owners seek out technology solutions, this thought process should be a requirement for any partners, so that they can continue to achieve and surpass business goals.