Blog: Big issues facing digital in 2017

From walled gardens to ad blockers, Tom Fotheringham, GM of Accuen, dives into some of the topics that will keep teams busy this year.

By: Tom Fotheringham

Wrapping up this week’s columns from the recently released 2016/17 CMDC Media Digest is Accuen GM Tom Fotheringham with a list of some of the top digital issues he expects to be keeping teams busy in 2017.

Programmatic from the edge to the core

Starting as an efficiency play across remnant inventory, programmatic has moved from the edge to the core of digital media buying. Accounting for 21% of the total digital media buy last year, programmatic is expected to consume 36% of the total digital media buy in 2017, quickly gaining traction for how it leverages data and simplifies the buying process (Source: eMarketer).

In addition to these early benefits, the next stages of programmatic will access more premium inventory and will be bought on an audience guarantee, rather than by impression. This will usher in a new era for digital media, and marketers will begin to see more and bigger media bought through programmatic.

Access to quality inventory

In 2015, advertisers leveraged private marketplaces as a way to buy more premium inventory (comparative to the open exchange). Although a giant leap for the industry, these private marketplaces were still lower quality than what could be accessed through direct buys. Now we can access inventory that guarantees price and placement commitments while transacting through data-driven decisions. This shifts more control to advertisers on premium inventory, previously dictated by the publishers using their own data and technology.

The rise of the walled gardens

Walled gardens are drastically shifting the industry landscape, and the remodel has just begun. Because Google, Facebook, AOL/Verizon and Amazon have tremendous user bases across their devices, each can tout not only extensive global reach, but cross-device capabilities. More importantly, the big four gardens have unique self-declared and intent data and owned inventory that can only be accessed through their platforms. The walled garden dilemma for brands is important because the future of addressable, one-to-one communication with consumers and the shift from impressions to audience as a currency for media transaction, is brewing within these walls.

Enhancing the user experience

A 2016 study by IAB Canada found that one in six Canadians uses ad blockers to limit ads served to them online. The most frequently cited reason for ad blocking is intrusive ad formats that contribute to visual clutter, according to iOS ad blocker Crystal. People don’t hate ads; they hate being interrupted. But with inexpensive CPMs, and below-par, third-party data, advertisers have taken a “more is more” approach with serving banner ads. This has resulted in interruptive formats, harming the user experience and tarnishing brand impact. The remedy is contextually relevant, non-invasive formats (such as native) that contribute to the online experience, rather than detract from it.

From big media to better media

Programmatic has made waves beyond digital media, and we are seeing its impact surface in radio, out of home, print, and even television. Although still developing, data-driven decisions and automation are re-shaping industries whose buying methodologies have been unchanged for decades. Nascent today, these media will continue to develop this smarter way of buying.

Yesterday, marketers incorporated programmatic on the media plan for added efficiency. Today, marketers recognize the importance of programmatic to transact on display and video across mobile and desktop devices. But technology innovation is changing more than just the way we buy digital, and tomorrow, marketers will need to be fluent in programmatic, as it will span across all of their digital and traditional media.


Tom Fotheringham is GM at Accuen. The column originally appeared in the 2016/17 CMDC Media Digest, a definitive guide to the business of media that has been issued for over 30 years, compiled by senior media professionals from CMDC membership.