Five online ad issues to watch for in 2014
Everything buyers and planners need to know about hot topics
December 3, 2013
As the new year draws near, media buyers and planners have a lot of questions on their minds, and certainly one is what will happen in the looming debate over native advertising.
This week the Federal Trade Commission will undertake its first examination of the issue, with an eye to further investigation in the coming year.
The big question: What is an ad, anyhow?
It’s always been pretty easy to tell in offline media what’s an ad.
Magazine ads are labeled at the top of the page. TV shows go to commercial breaks. And newspapers ads are usually offset by boxes and lines.
But on the internet, it’s always been harder to tell what’s advertising and what is not, and it’s become even more difficult with the advent of native advertising, essentially the web’s version of product placement.
Native advertising is designed to look like editorial and formatted the same as the other content on a site. On Facebook, for example, it’s a post that shows up in your newsfeed looking just like status updates from the brands you’ve liked.
Advertisers see native advertising as a promising growth area. EMarketer predicts native ad spending will go from $2.36 billion this year to $2.85 billion next year and hit $4.57 billion by 2017.
But the FTC is wary. Wednesday it will hold a one-day inquiry focused on whether web surfers are being confused or misled by the ads.
Though no immediate action is planned, the commission could enact stricter regulations in the coming year requiring sites to designate native advertising as such, much the same way it ordered bloggers to disclose any freebies or compensation they received in a 2009 ruling.
Along with the uncertain future for native advertising, here are four other hot topics media buyers and planners should be following in the new year.
2. How will Google’s new algorithm impact search?
Search engine optimization has never been a perfect science, but it was tossed for another loop earlier this fall, when Google introduced Hummingbird, its latest search algorithm.
This new system is both more personalized and more localized in the past. It delivers results based on previous search history and location. That means that one person’s search results will be very different from another’s.
It also makes SEO and online advertising that much more difficult to target, because the results of each search are unique, unlike under past algorithms.
3. Will the revived Do Not Track Kids act pass?
This bill, being pushed as an addendum to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, would bar companies from tracking kids without their consent and require the creation of an eraser button that would delete kids’ browsing history with one click.
Privacy advocates say the bill’s passage should be a no-brainer, but advertisers fought hard against the addition of DNT options to web browsers, arguing web surfers actually benefit from being tracked because they won’t be served irrelevant ads.
4. Can social media advertising evolve beyond Facebook?
Facebook has become the internet’s No. 2 advertiser, and Twitter commands high rates from a number of well-known companies. But beyond those top two, social media advertising still lags.
Upcoming sites like Instagram and Pinterest began experimenting with ads over the past two months, and their efforts will be closely tracked in the coming year. After all, even with Twitter’s ad prowess, it still has yet to turn a profit.
5. How fast will programmatic advertising grow?
Programmatic advertising, which is essentially real-time bidding using an auction-like system first popularized by Google, will hit $4.66 billion next year, according to eMarketer, up 38 percent over 2013 and accounting for 22 percent of all online ad spending.
It’s becoming a more and more important part of the equation. Earlier this year Facebook rolled out its own RTB system, FBX, and Twitter is pushing to do the same.
This is of immense importance to buyers because programmatic buying has become so popular it’s also moving offline. Earlier this year IPG introduced plans to automate half of its buying over the next three years, and buyers worry about the impact that will have on their jobs. As RTB evolves on the internet, it will do so offline as well.
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