It's All About the Experience

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Customer Engagement
Marketing
Last year was a rough year for the ad tech industry. Companies like Rocket Fuel, Turn, PubMatic, Collective, and Centro all cut jobs in 2015 amid a downturn in ad spend. The message was clear: Advertisers and their partners need to do a better job of helping brands reach consumers.

Last year was a rough year for the ad tech industry. Companies like Rocket Fuel, Turn, PubMatic, Collective, and Centro all cut jobs in 2015 amid a downturn in ad spend. The message was clear: Advertisers and their partners need to do a better job of helping brands reach consumers.

Aligning ads with a mobile-first audience and creating a less disruptive experience were some of the solutions industry experts offered up during AdExchanger's annual Industry Preview. Here are highlights of the trends that advertisers and marketers are focusing on to deliver better consumer experiences in 2016.What's Next in Storytelling
As people spend more time using smartphones and tablets, brands must engage their audiences in a way that's aligned with mobile behavior. Vertical video and cinemagraphs are two examples of how brands are hoping to engage mobile users. Compared to horizontal videos, videos that are shot in a portrait style that arguably delivers better results since people tend to hold their phones upright.

Snapchat is one such vendor that has been encouraging marketers to shoot vertical video ads. Earlier this year, the messaging app told the Daily Mail that vertical video ads have up to nine times more completed views than horizontal video ads, reported Daily Mail North America CEO Jon Steinberg.

Cinemagraphs are a new take on GIFs. A cinemagraph is a type of GIF where only part of the image is animated and the rest remains static, creating an image that stands out from the common GIFs, noted Ari Lewine, co-founder and chief strategy officer at TripleLift, a programmatic solutions provider.

But ad units must be scalable. Lewine referred to the issue as "a tale of two cities" where a lot of highly tailored creative isn't accessible on programmatic platforms. While Lewine didn't specify how it'll happen, he was optimistic that "modern content will become transactable via demand-side platforms, supply-side platforms, and real-time trading."

Strength in Data
Data integrations and insights are also essential for a better customer experience. As such, companies are racing to make it easier for marketers to make sense of their data. "When you're a marketer working with dozens of companies, it's hard to know what you should be looking at," observed Brian Andersen, a partner at investment firm LUMA Partners. Therefore, expect to see more M&A activity among data management platforms and attribution solutions as companies continue to build out their technology stacks, Andersen said.

Companies also continue to snap up data resources. Christopher Wong, VP of strategy and product management for IBM commerce marketing solutions, discussed the logic behind Big Blue's acquisition of The Weather Company's B2B, mobile, and cloud-based assets. "Anyone who assumes they can provide all the data a marketer needs is wrong," Wong noted. "So when The Weather Company said, 'We have these assets, would you like to figure out how to use together?' We of course said 'yes.'"

Digital weather services are a rich source of user data, Wong explained. The Weather Company's app, for instance, provides location data that IBM is combining with its other data sources to power its new Watson IoT unit and Watson IoT cloud platform.

Getting Smarter about Native Ads
Noah Brier, CEO at Percolate, a web and mobile marketing software provider, agreed that more ad units, particularly "native" ads are being traded programmatically, but marketers still need to weigh the cost of producing native ads versus less specialized ads. "Native ads tend to require more work and marketers have to consider whether the value of placing a native ad in one place is higher than distributing [ads] across many places," he said.

And while native ads are becoming more sophisticated, the effectiveness of an ad ultimately depends on the customer experience, pointed out Liz McDonnell, marketing director at The New York Times. For instance, the growth of people consuming content via a smartphone or tablet means brands must design native ads that also suit a mobile experience. "It's been said before, but mobile is crucial," McDonnell noted. "Over half of The New York Times traffic is on mobile, so we're thinking about how to monetize our mobile traffic [and asking questions like] what is a mobile-first paid post? If I were only to distribute this on mobile, what does that mean?"

These questions are critical, McDonnell added, "because it's all about the experience in the end."

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION