5 Trends to Monitor on the Gartner Hype Cycle for Digital Advertising, 2020

August 20, 2020
Contributor: Kelly Blum

The Gartner Hype Cycle highlights the 19 advertising technologies marketing leaders should prioritize over the next few years.

In today’s current dynamic and volatile environment, an agile approach is critical for digital marketing leaders, especially when it comes to advertising. Increased regulatory scrutiny into Facebook and Google, continued media supply chain disruption and volatile consumer spending are having a tremendous impact on marketers’ ability to implement effective and scalable digital advertising capabilities.

“Changes in the ad tech market will cause some existing digital advertising sectors and established supply chains to wither and vanish.”

“Significant changes to the marketplace, such as cookie obsolescence and dominance by Facebook and Google, combined with a rising level of consumer mistrust in ‘big tech,’ have created a tipping point for digital advertising,” says Colin Reid, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “These changes in the ad tech market will cause some existing digital advertising sectors and established supply chains to wither and vanish.”

Digital marketing leaders must be able to operate at scale and with agility to deliver consistent and controlled, but relevant, messages to a specific audience. Coupled with the polarization of consumer trust in digital media, brand safety is set to become a mainstream tool in the very near future for brands around the globe. 

The inaugural Gartner Hype Cycle for Digital Advertising, 2020 report reveals five technologies that will have the greatest impact on marketers’ ability to respond and adapt to emerging trends. These include advanced supply-side bidding, ad blocking, identity resolution, brand safety, and ad verification and viewability.

Advanced supply-side bidding

Advanced supply-side bidding (ASSB) is a technique that enables publishers to solicit bids from multiple sources to fill an available ad spot. It is the evolution of header bidding (profiled in last year’s Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing & Advertising) and part of a more general trend known as “supply-path optimization” that seeks greater efficiency and liquidity in programmatic media marketing.

Demand for ASSB is a clear signal that removing barriers to open competition in media markets can yield major economic benefits for buyers and sellers. Marketers should expect continued innovation and pressure to be directed at similar attempts to level the playing field by addressing impediments to a less-concentrated market. 

However, the impact of regulatory developments on ASSB remains unpredictable. As marketers bear the brunt of a pandemic-induced recession’s impact on media budgets, it will likely take ASSB at least three more years to reach the Plateau of Productivity. 

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Ad blocking

Ad blocking — the use of software to remove or filter the delivery of content identified as advertising from material published on the internet — has gained significant traction over the past few years. Most recently, major providers of browser software (including Google) fortified their native ad-blocking features and either implemented or announced plans to disallow all third-party cookies.

The attention and hysteria surrounding ad blocking have been recently eclipsed by concerns about the demise of third-party cookies and the chilling impact of COVID-19 on the digital ad market. Underlying issues with ad blocking are still very much unresolved and unlikely to stabilize within the next two years. In the meantime, marketers must look to better balance customer choice and engagement with increasing demands for transparency.

Identity resolution (IDR)

IDR holds great promise for marketers as they shift their sights to customer retention goals, do more with a stagnant or cut budget and apply first-party data to marketing programs. Targeting, measurement and attribution of ad campaigns, customer journey analytics and personalization all depend heavily on IDR. 

The technology is among the most active battlegrounds, however, in a volatile power struggle among business interests, privacy regulators and the largest digital platform providers — with consumers caught somewhere in the middle. Privacy obstacles put tremendous pressure on IDR practices, leading to its position on this year’s Hype Cycle — the Trough of Disillusionment.

The future of IDR depends heavily on standardization, or supporting a universal user token compliant with consent requirements, which has been a rocky road. Marketers who altogether abandon efforts at using IDR to understand and communicate with customers, and those that rely on weak enforcement or sketchy privacy workarounds to obtain personal data, all risk negative impact.

Brand safety

Brand safety has a renewed focus of late, as marketers pay more attention to the context in which their ads appear. Previously included in the profile for ad verification, brand safety is now a distinct attribute based on its unique requirements and trajectory, and is measured and managed separately from fraud and viewability. 

As publishers evolve their ability to filter content, marketers will have a more reliable and direct way to manage their ad buys. But as influencer marketing gains more investments, marketers will need to scrutinize the process of influencer selection more closely and look to technology to provide an efficient and reliable way to manage campaigns.

Ad verification and viewability

Ad verification and viewability, a fraud-prevention technology that verifies that humans and not bots are the source of impressions and clicks, ensures ads are visible and contract terms fulfilled. This technology has emerged from the Trough of Disillusionment into the Slope of Enlightenment due to the recent trend of provider acquisitions by strategic buyers. Many marketers look to third-party, unbiased vendors to evaluate whether ads get views from real people consistent with contractual terms, as they have a great deal to lose from ad fraud and viewability violations. 

Verification will be a necessary part of the settlement systems of buyers and sellers as the category moves toward maturity. Marketers will need to institute an approach to ad verification and viewability to ensure they can take full advantage of it and have confidence in the investment.

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