Unless you live under a rock, the economic environment impacted brands and agencies this year and the whole publisher ecosystem that goes with it (media cos, ad networks, etc). Full-year 2009 will mark only the fifth spending drop since Ad Age began ranking the 100 Leading National Advertisers in 1956.
As you can see from this chart, holding company stocks (MDCA, IPG, OMC, HAVSF, PUBGY, WPPGY) all tanked along with everyone else during late 2008 but have started to bounce back in 2009.
In the digital trenches, I witnessed an interesting divide really start to occur: this “social media“ phenomenon and hyper targeted and optimized display advertising. If you put a social media “guru” in a room with a data and targeting company, the conversation would probably be as bad as one of my dates when I first moved to Manhattan.
I put “social media” in quotes as I fundamentally do not believe that this exists in itself. I believe that all media can be social and it’s not new. Anyway – this year saw a continuation of thousands (over 15,700) of social media experts pop up on Twitter and even carve out little businesses for themselves as consultants/agencies to a few brands. The common question in 2009 that came across my desk was “what should be my social media strategy?” Twitter’s constant presence in the news in early 2009 and Facebook’s dominance in the social networking/graphing space has contributed to this “social media” trend.
Recently, Pepsi announced it was going to forgo its advertisement in the Super Bowl which we’ve grown accustomed to each year and put those dollars to work in a rather large social media campaign. I applaud their efforts to generate PR, but is this sustainable for them? Meaning, they are essentially putting the money to work in a cause marketing campaign… will this have impact?
2009 saw Dell racked up over $6.5 worth of sales directly attributable to Twitter and the almost-too-hyper/passionate Gary Vaynerchuk climb to 848k followers.
Hyper Targeting & Optimized Display
There has been a trend in the display space towards audience driven media. If you can identify an audience based on different characteristics stored in computer cookies, why not advertise to a handful of extremely targeted users? Data facilitators/providers like BlueKai, Exelate, Domdex, TargusInfo, Media6, Lookery, Rapleaf, Peer39, LucidMedia, Quantcast, and many others became front and center this year. Demand Side Platforms (DSP), or technologies that allow the dollar holders (typically agencies) get closer to the media (through exchanges and other sources) also became popular and a few closed significant funding rounds. AdExchanger popped onto the scene and started covering this entire space rather comprehensively. If you have not read their 2009 year end report, download it now.
2010 should be interesting for this industry as the government is looking into online privacy. Because much of the targeting is done through accessing anonymous cookies, this whole industry could be hampered or shut-down depending on legislation that is passed around ad targeting. There are a few startups, particularly the Better Advertising Project focusing on helping congress solve these issues. Personally, this would be a big bummer as I believe that if we can offer a much more targeted advertisement to users, then their overall experience could be much better.
Any media planner or buyer on Madison Ave has put a few social elements and optimized display on a media plan in 2009. I’m sure that this will still occur in 2010 but I’m going to hypothesize that the gap between optimized display and social media may widen and you might start to see shops specialize in one or the other (i.e. CPMAdvisors vs. Crayon).
The one thing that’s consistent is that the audience is in the center of all planning AND buying both in social and optimized display – the more we can learn about our audiences and serve highly relevant messaging to each audience segment will allow us to create better relationships. Better relationships between users and brands, means a mutually beneficial relationship for the agency and advertiser.
If you are interested in the Optimized Display & Hyper Targeting area, I’ve put together a Twitter list of thought-leaders in this space. You can subscribe to it here.