A vast array of technologies and trends are transforming online marketing. Because it’s hard to wade through the changes, we’ve whittled them down to six that are significant.
The death of the click through—maybe for real this time. Advertisers and publishers have been predicting—and hoping for—the death of the click-through rate for years, complaining it’s a highly inefficient way to measure an ad’s success, especially for brand advertising. Click throughs aren’t dead yet, but efforts like startup Moat’s “Kill the Click” campaign, which focuses on time spent mousing over an ad rather than clicking, should help dig its grave.
The merging of mobile and desktop. The dividing line between mobile devices (especially tablets) and desktop/laptop computers seems to be blurring. Apple, for example, has been incorporating features from its smartphones into its desktop operating system, and Jefferies & Co. predicted recently that Apple’s two systems—OSX and iOS—will merge completely. Meanwhile, ad servers like Google’s DoubleClick are trying to integrate their desktop and mobile offerings.
The persistence of supercookies. Researchers have found that major websites—specifically Hulu and MSN.com—have been following visitors with a file called a “supercookie,” which continues its tracking even after users delete it in their Web browsers. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t go over well with consumers. When called out, Microsoft and Hulu apologized and claimed to stop the practice. Don’t look for them to disappear completely, though—supercookies are legal.
The beginnings of ad-tech consolidation. Earlier this year, Andrew Bloom, vice president of business development at MediaMind, said, “The notion of consolidation is a wet dream for people in the industry.” And the dream may have started, sparked in part by Google’s acquisition in June of AdMeld. The latest deal came in September, when ContextWeb and Datran Media merged to create PulsePoint, which promises an easier way to create cross-channel campaigns.
The rise of HTML5. Once a dominant format on the Web, Adobe’s Flash has struggled to stay relevant, especially after Apple declined to support the format on the iPhone and iPad. Publishers and advertisers have shifted their attention to the newer, more mobile-compatible technology, HTML5. Even Adobe, which continues to defend Flash’s usefulness for games and other applications, has announced a separate product to help designers build ads in HTML5.
The value of specialized content. According to ad intelligence company SQAD, the CPMs paid for display ads held relatively steady over the past year, but things get more complicated when you compare different categories. Entertainment and finance sites saw their average CPMs increase by 50 cents or more, while automotive, lifestyle, and home/fashion sites went down by at least the same margin. SQAD’s conclusion? Specialized content still makes money.