Digital Advertising is complicated, fake & hated, but …

(once every few weeks I contribute to a short newsletter for my blue hive colleagues about cool things in digital.  this is my most recent article)

Let’s be honest: online advertising is really, really complicated.  The most complicated and fragmented of the whole ecosystem is probably Display advertising.  It’s hard to really explain how it works, how it’s measured, how people interact with it, and how much it impacts the wider internet and digital economy — and I say this as one of the people within Blue Hive tasked with explaining it!

Luckily for all of us, I discovered this super handy interactive guide to the Digital Display Advertising Operations ecosystem.  Take a look and navigate through: it’s the best glossary / resource for understanding the Online Display ecosystem I’ve found.

So now that we’ve walked through the ‘ecosystem’, pause for a moment on this stat:121 billion dollars will be spent on Digital display advertising globally this year. That’s 22% of the global total advertising industry.  That’s crazy. There’s also a building stack of evidence that a vast majority of interactions with display advertising may be totally fake. There is certainly a lot of questionable traffic patterns in Asia.

Consumers hate display advertising, even though it supports the internet they love.  It can be annoying, it can slow down user experience, and honestly, who actually buys those diet pills?  One of the most popular ad blocking technologies, >AdBlockPlus, boasts 25million users on Firefox and over 10million users on Chrome.  Possibly more nefarious is a new project I spotted called Ad Nauseum, which not only blocks ads, but generates a phantom click on the ad it blocks, which could wreak all sorts of havoc on the ad network’s core ability to measure effectiveness.

These blocking technologies are so popular, advertisers are increasingly focused on the “as yet unblocked” digital channels: for example, Mobile Browsers don’t yet have effective ad blockers, nor do in-app ads or video pre-rolls.

The other way to get around Ad blockers is, well, to make better ads.  This takes a variety of forms, but one growing trend is user targeting and retargeting.  If a brand knows who they’re advertising to, they can present a message that uniquely matches that person’s needs and interests, which potentially means that the ads become helpful, not intrusive.  Facebook’s ATLAS network, or DeMYSTdata, to name a few, are trying to tell a more complete story about users to help brands tell the best story to the right people.