The 5 Ways Digital Advertising is Changing in 2017

Eric Suliga, Creative Director

We’re exactly 116 days into 2017, meaning we're about 16 days overdue for a check-in on the state of digital advertising. If you’ve worked in this industry for longer than 6 months, you already have a taste for how quickly things change around here. If you happen to still be new to this space, let it be known that staying informed on the challenges and opportunities is essential for success.

2016 was a hallmark year for digital. Ad spending increased 20% from the year prior and is currently on target to be a $113 billion business by 2020.[1] Within the next 5 years, we can expect digital to account for over half of all advertising spend--a major accomplishment for an industry just a little over a decade old. Yet, there still remains a lot of room for improvement across the industry. From fragmented cross-device experiences to a continued lack of transparency in measurement, marketers have their fair share of issues to tackle in the coming year.

Here are five ways digital advertising is already transforming in 2017:

  1. Mobile’s Total Domination
Let’s start with an easy one. We already know that mobile has changed the game for marketers, but by 2020 it will become the single largest online advertising market out there.[2] U.S. adults are expected to spend 56% of their digital time on a mobile device this year, so it’s no wonder why ad dollars continue to follow suit.[3] What’s changing is how brands approach mobile. Initially, the majority of mobile ads were repurposed from desktop display, but this approach no longer works for today’s connected consumers. In order to avoid frustrating users and encouraging ad blocking, marketers are shifting focus to serve more personalized, relevant ad creative to their mobile consumers.
  1. Contextual Relevance Replaces Yesterday’s Native Ad
One of the primary ways marketers will master cross-device in 2017 is with native advertising. But this is the not the same “native” we heard so much about over the last several years. Advertisers are moving beyond yesterday’s advertorials and branded content to building entire ad campaigns around the user experience. Finding contextual relevance increases brand engagement without alienating the consumer. This is an ongoing progression of thinking that we expect to see more of this year.
  1. Programmatic Becomes a Staple
The industry’s trust in programmatic to deliver efficient, high-quality impressions is growing--which is why automated display advertising is expected to account for more than three-quarters of all digital display ad spend in 2017.[3] As the main driver of innovation for the industry, programmatic will continue to unlock real-time inventory so marketers can speak to the right consumer, at the right time and in the right environment using data. This year we’ll see more brands adopt programmatic (specifically private exchange) as a main media strategy--but we’re also going to see this automation seep into new areas, including native ad formats and audio.
  1. Time Spent Listening Increases for Digital Audio
Print and television aren’t the only traditional media formats disrupted by digital; broadcast radio has also undergone a tremendous shift as consumers turn to streamed audio programming instead. It’s this, and our general increase in connectivity and content multitasking, that’s made it so important for advertisers to use audio to deliver their brand message. With weekly time spent listening to digital audio expected to increase two hours in 2017 to 14 hours, 39 minutes per listener (up from 12 hours, 8 minutes), we can expect more brands to implement audio strategies to capture the attention of a highly connected audience.
  1. More Holistic Ad Measurement
Much of digital ad measurement has traditionally focused on digital results (i.e. web traffic, CTR, ecommerce conversions, etc.)--but this is changing in 2017. Marketers are looking for better ways to integrate online and offline measurement to create a more holistic view of a consumer across the entire path to purchase. Cookies worked when the majority of online transactions took place on desktop, but now that consumers use a number of connected devices to browse, research and make purchases, the industry is forced to look for new solutions that create richer identity graphs across screens, platforms, publishers and data providers. Sharper offline attribution is becoming key for demonstrating the real-world power of advertising.

As the industry continues to explore solutions to these and other issues, our duty as marketers is to relentlessly seek ways to make digital work for our partners, clients and brands. Delivering relevant, frictionless and personalized messages has always been the key to making an impression--digital advertising simply gives us the technology and capability to do it better than it’s ever been done before.

See it in action! Some brands are already taking their digital advertising to the next level. See how one brand tapped into lookalike targeting technology to drive a 93% higher conversion rate.

Sources: 1 eMarketer, US Digital Ad Spending, September 2016 2 Business Insights, The Ad Tech Explainer, January 2017 3 eMarketer, US Digital Display Advertising Trends 2017, January 2017