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"Brand suitability will become the new gold standard": IAS discusses digital ads in 2020

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

At the beginning of each year, Integral Ad Science (IAS), a digital ad verification provider, launch a trend report called the Industry Pulse. This year, the report, 2020 Western Europe Industry Pulse, surveys the digital advertising industry to see what the key trends, technologies, and challenges media professionals expect to drive change across the industry this coming year.

We spoke with Paul Nasse, managing director, Northern Europe, to find out more.

Q: We’re excited that IAS has launched their latest piece of research – what’s the aim of this report?
For our latest piece of research, the Industry Pulse Report 2020, we surveyed digital media professionals across Western Europe, including the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Our aim was to find out the key priorities, most troubling challenges and the exciting trends set to top the digital advertising agenda in 2020. This is an important piece of research for us, and our partners, to gauge what the industry is thinking as we enter the new year and, in this instance, a whole new decade.

Q: What were some of the most important findings for you in this year’s report?
Brand suitability is a big focus for us as a company this year. Our report found that the rest of the industry mirrors this sentiment, with 82 per cent placing contextual targeting as the biggest industry trend in 2020. It’s incredibly important that the industry transitions from the binary focus of brand safety, towards the more nuanced and customisable approach of brand suitability.

A second insight was how data privacy still remains top of mind for our industry, with 45 per cent perceiving data privacy as the top challenge in 2020. As the primary media challenge of 2020, it’s not surprising that an overwhelming majority of media professionals also foresee this greater importance of contextual advertising in 2020, ensuring ads are personally relevant to the target audience.

Finally, programmatic came out as an important point of discussion for respondents across Western Europe. Targeting relevant audiences was the top programmatic challenge for our respondents, whilst it was also considered to be the most vulnerable environment for ad fraud. It’s clear that the industry is now taking programmatic as a serious consideration for effective campaign targeting, however there are still some important challenges to overcome.

Q: So, unsurprisingly, as a publication we are specifically interested in mobile. What insights did you discover on this topic?
The report reveals mobile will be the dominant media force in 2020, cited by 87 per cent of respondents as their number one priority for 2020. This was closely followed by digital video at 86 per cent, signalling a shift in industry efforts to align with changing consumer habits and the growing appetite for on-the-go, short-form content.

The study findings, however, show an awareness that increased spending could also trigger a rise in ad fraud. 40 per cent of media professionals consider mobile in-app display and video formats among the most vulnerable to fraudulent activity. Effectively optimising mobile campaigns against malicious attacks will be very important in the year ahead.

Q: Let’s home in on programmatic – what is the latest on that hot topic?
When it comes to programmatic technology, emphasis seems to be moving from media quality assurance to advertising effectiveness. Over half (52 per cent) of respondents cite targeting the right audience as their top programmatic advertising challenge, with inability to reach desired performance goals coming in second (45 per cent). Concerns around viewability and brand safety were previously a top concern for automated advertising. However, this latest report shows concerns have now reduced, with these factors now listed as challenges by only one-third (34 per cent and 32 per cent respectively) of media professionals.

Q: So, good news for programmatic! What about the issues of trust and transparency in social media?
It’s a positive conversation here, too. Despite continued conversations around transparency, social media remains a vital element of digital campaigns. While just 73 per cent of media professionals feel platforms could provide greater clarity around brand risk levels and 63 per cent want more openness into viewability measurement, this anxiety hasn’t reduced desire to invest in social media. In fact, concern has significantly fallen over the last year, with only 35 per cent of UK-specific respondents stating that a lack of transparency will negatively affect 2020 social media spend, in contrast to 70 per cent in the 2019 IAS Industry Pulse Report.

Q: We know there have been positive steps made with ad fraud, and yet it remains an issue. What’s the latest here?
Results from our report point to positive progress in the fight against online ad fraud. In comparison to the average global fraud rate for desktop display (11.7 per cent), 55 per cent of respondents believe their ad campaigns experience lower levels of fraud exposure.

Further analysis broken down in the full report, however, suggests this enthusiasm may be partly due to limited understanding. Although knowledge of common types of ad fraud such as bots, falsely represented sites, and malware is high, with over 70 per cent of respondents claiming familiarity, the wider ad fraud toolkit is less well recognised. In the year ahead, addressing low familiarity with risks such as invalid proxy traffic (54 per cent), hijacked ad tags (49 per cent), and cookie stuffing (49 per cent) will be essential.

Q: What’s a lasting piece of advice you’d give to our reader based on learnings from the data?
There is a significant opportunity in 2020 for positive change in the digital advertising industry. It is clear that 2019 was a year that stimulated growth, greater understanding and more trust in technology. Brand suitability will become the new gold standard for digital. The industry must adopt this approach to achieve reliable precision that lands content in an environment aligned to brand values, without compromising on scale or ROI. Secondly, ensure you have an effective line of communication with all your partners across the ecosystem, to improve transparency around data and information. This will be key if we are to continue moving forward as an industry.

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