Whenever I go to expos where large groups of advertising technology companies are gathered to win the business of publisers, agencies and everyone else in the online advertising ecosystem, two things still strike me:

  1. Vendors like to offer “simple, easy solutions” even though…
  2. There are no simple, easy solutions to this.
  3. Every vendor claims its technology is “unique” or “revolutionary”, while…
  4. It isn’t and it isn’t.

The marketing slogans emblazoned on t-shirts, stress balls, marketing bumph and much else thrust in my direction at Adtech London this week claimed things such as: “Online advertising remains a highly uncertain activity… it doesn’t have to be”. It’s a world in which seeking more traffic brings success and more success brings traffic.

Whether the user wants to see the advertising content placed in front of them is rarely mentioned. As long as you can buy/borrow/steal the right data that can place a relevant ad in front of a target audience, then there’s a 0.2 percent chance they will click on it, and several companies along the adtech food chain will get paid as well as the publisher.

This isn’t to say many adtech providers don’t create value and revenue for partners, but that’s the overwhelming impression. 

Oh and full marks to the company who decided to hire a DJ for their stand.

From mass to quality

But aside from all that, there’s an encouraging movement among major publishers away from annoying, intrusive online advertising, bought and sold for a pittance in a headlong race to the bottom of flooded market.

Speaking at Adech London, Hamish White, head of emerging platforms at News UK explained the thinking behind The Sun’s reinvention as a paid-for digital product from an advertising perspective.

The Sun+ Goals app, which has exclusive clips from the Premier League as well as news and videos from Sun journalists, is sponsored by Paddy Power and Kia – but the main aim was to not interrupt the users’ experience

“We tried to place the clips in the context of our journalism… We think the blending of clips with stills and long-form stories has good effects on the user experience,” he says.

“We took a similar approach to ad propositions. We’re offering our videos as a paid-for proposition so it wouldn’t feel right to interrupt that with paid for ads. It didn’t feel right.”

News UK signed its sponsorship deals at a US TV-style “upfront” meeting of potential partners. And White claims that the key objective was to find the right partners on an exclusive basis, even though there was more money to be made by opening it up to the wider market.

Thus, the text and video adverts that appear in the Sun+ app are given the same treatment as all other content: “They sit unashamedly among the newsfeed.”

As White puts it: “Disruptive pre-roll certainly gives you exposure to the readers but it doesn’t give you impact.”

Off-target ad strategies

Data-driven advertising is the talk of the town – but is such trading missing the human touch?

ITV’s group commercial director, Simon Daglish, told an Adtech panel session that while video pre-rolls had the potential to grow as much as 50 percent a year for ITV, with the only thing holding back that growth being the company’s ability to create more bespoke online content.

However, targeting the right person with the right message remains a challenge: “I’m not the same person when watching my football team being awarded a penalty and when I’m reading my child a bedtime story. But the data says I am… You can get it really badly wrong.”

Using broad demographic data can mean excluding potential buyers, he says: “If a man comes into a women’s clothes shop do you say, ‘sorry sir you can’t come in’? …  If you’re just targeting just Marks & Spencer shoppers you’re missing the point.”

Image via Wikimedia commons courtesy of Derzsi Elekes Andor used undera creative commons licence.