EnContext Media Blog

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Reviewing The Top 3 Display Advertising Topics Of 2016

crystal ball

Columnist Rob Rasko takes a look at how last year’s predictions from a publisher survey panned out and shares what he expects lies ahead for marketers in 2016.

In December of 2014, AdMonsters partnered with The 614 Group (my employer) to conduct a publisher survey to gain insight into the (then) current state of ad tech and what advances 2015 might bring to the marketing industry.

Now that the year is winding down, I’ve taken some time to look back to see how these predictions played out and consider how the year ahead may unfold given what we know now.


Every technological advance comes with a learning curve, and programmatic is no different. Our survey asked publishers, “What is the average percent difference between your programmatic ad rates and your direct-sold ad rates?”

The majority of respondents said the shortfall was more than 50 percent.

Why is this the case? Our best answer is that the industry was still adapting to the uncharted programmatic frontier, and the spread represented mistakes publishers were still making in their setups. While learning to master the tools, some may have ended up selling inventory too cheap programmatically.

A year later, there is no reason to have such a large gap. In fact, the spread between programmatic and direct pricing is entirely up to you.

The controls are there. And, just as when selling directly, if you want to give a discount, you can. If not, that’s your call.

The larger question confronting us in 2016 is the value of the header bidding. This question will boil down to a conversation about unified auctions versus header bidding, or, put another way, should bidding take place in the header or in the ad server? But that’s a question large enough for a piece of its own.

Native Advertising

Shifting to native advertising, we asked the question, “How pervasive will native be in 2015?” Ninety percent of respondents said it would be somewhat or very pervasive.

Recently, Justin Choi of Nativo (disclosure: client) and I exchanged thoughts about what the year ahead would look like with regard to native advertising. He said, “Advertisers will shift more of their budget away from display and allocate more to native. Native will mean ‘effective’ to advertisers.”

His perspective nods to the concept that digital advertising needs to be more engaging and less disruptive to the consumer experience, an old concept with lots of new life in a world of constant discussions regarding ad blocking.

Consumer choice is driving this conversation from an advertising ideation to distribution perspective, and when done right, native certainly gives the users more choices, as the content the user is interested in is part of the experience of the advertising and not simply behaviorally targeted.


According to our survey, viewability was predicted to be digital publishing’s biggest challenge in 2015, with more than 60 percent of respondents agreeing this would be the year’s highest hurdle to overcome. We still have a lack of comfort around use of the standards regarding viewability, but we have made a huge amount of progress in this area.

While there have been tremendous advances in the fight for more viewable ads, the industry isn’t much closer to coalescing around a single operational implementation of the standard. There are still many viewability vendors and, while there may be only a handful of leaders, the differences in their methodology and measurement make it hard for buyers and sellers to transact universally on viewability as a currency.

We expect the number of vendors to consolidate over the next year, and some of the basics of viewability will become easier to implement. However, we expect that there will continue to be challenges in making the data actionable.

Dealing with discrepancies, pricing questions and forecasting delivery will be a major focus in 2016.

More than 60 percent of respondents indicated that they did not think digital publishers would reach a high level of ad viewability in 2015. In my analysis of the poll’s responses, I was more optimistic than the respondents, and I still am now, although the path to viewability may have taken a different road than we originally thought.

Publishers do not want to sell ads that don’t have the opportunity to be seen by humans, and advertisers don’t want to buy them. Because of that, publishers have prioritized their effort to increase the viewability of ads to bolster the confidence of buyers and the overall industry.

Last month, I hosted the third Summit in The 614 Group’s Brand Safety Series, which featured a panel covering The State of Viewability. When asked if our industry will be transacting on viewability by next year, Zachary Chapman, VP of Global Digital and Publishing Sales at ESPN, said, “As a standalone currency, maybe not, but it is interesting if it is used as a quality assurance layer — viewability is one portion of a bunch of other things that might make it very viable.”

He makes a good point — viewability as the basis for transactional currency is something to think about as things shake out.

Larger Statement For Consideration In 2016

During my opening remarks at our event, I used the words, “EMBRACE SCARCITY.” Conceptually, this is going to be a critical theme for 2016, as we focus on how to drive higher rates and how to position ourselves for a brighter and grander future in the media business.

Source – Marketingland.com