Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

PART 3: The Forecast: Digital Media & Marketing 2020 predictions

New Digital Age has partnered with Katzy Communications and The Advisory Collective on a research project, The Forecast: Digital Media & Marketing 2020, to discover predictions for digital media and marketing in 2020. Our panel of 23 senior stakeholders was as representative a sample as possible of both our industry as well as our society (in terms of gender, age and ethnicity. 

Contributors to this report, with the full list below, included Lara Izlan, ITV; Phil Livingstone, The Body Shop; Leonardo Oliveira, Vodafone; Jules Kendrick, JICWEBS; and Karen Eccles, The Telegraph.

In Part 1, we examined the macro-factors set to affect our industry in 2020.  Part 2 looked at the impact of changes in consumption habits and how a ‘Post-Brexit’ Britain might take shape for our Industry. 

Our third and final part in this series looks at two issues – the changing dynamic between advertiser, agency and publisher and the impending ‘Cookiepocalypse’. 

The death of the cookie

Much has been written already about ITP, the upcoming changes in Chrome, and GDPR finally getting some teeth. We asked our respondents to consider what they thought might change in 2022 regarding the use of data in digital. We prompted them to discuss whether it might be a case of ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’, or whether ‘The imminent demise of the cookie will see us go back to 1999, with the main differentiator between one ad & another being the content/publication it was placed in?’

Understandably, we had a broad spectrum of answers covering many different facets reflective of the fact that our panel span many parts of the industry. All who answered saw opportunity and in the main welcomed the coming changes, although views varied as to the what the impact and in turn the perceived effect that these would have on our industry.

Rob Webster at Canton Solutions and Juliet McCutcheon, Sales Director, Channel Factory agree that the walled gardens will continue to flourish, and that within them, paid search and paid social would be mostly unchanged. McCutcheon pointed to the fact that “walled gardens were where a lot of behavioural proxies exist, allowing brands to use search insights to track customer affinities and search intent.”

Morwenna Beales from ID5 warned that “If we go back 20 years in time, brands will have no choice but to invest all their digital budgets with the Walled Gardens, who will retain 1-to-1 addressability and measurement capabilities.” Phil Livingstone added “ I suspect the bigger players will close ranks to expand their walled gardens even more to protect their revenues. Is a three-horse race that exciting? I’d like to see a more level playing field for publishers”

There was agreement from a few of our respondents that publishe §rs had the opportunity to drive much of the change. Morwenna Beales, VP Key Accounts, ID5, talked of a “privacy-by-design solution, protecting users and enforcing their preference around personal data collection and processing, driven by publishers, making sure their data is protected and they benefit from better monetisation capabilities.” 

Karen Eccles at The Telegraph highlights the opportunity for publishers and brands to work together: “we’ll see new ways of partnering between publishers and brands, and I hope some of the brilliant technology that developed over the past years will be used positively to deliver smarter contextual solutions and consented targeting with a real value exchange for the consumer.” Tim Hussain from Ebiquity agreed that we would see a “refocus investment into more direct publisher relationships utilising better quality ad creative and sponsorship-style advertising” Eccles added that “Creativity and innovation will win above the changing face of technology. We don’t need third-party cookies to execute a brilliant idea.”

Beales cites the termination of third-party cookies as a “real threat for the industry because not only does it mean the end of user-level targeting, it also means no more campaign optimisation (frequency capping) and no more performance measurement (attribution).”

However Anna Forbes from The Trade Desk offers the opposing view:  “Cookies have been around for decades and the fastest-growing forms of advertising, like CTV and mobile, have never used them anyway. Cookies and other identity technologies will come and go but the fundamental value exchange isn’t going anywhere: advertising funds the internet and all of its great content, cookies or otherwise.”

Several respondents talked about the implications of browser-based targeting, with Paul Frampton commenting that “the best bet would be a browser-based ID through which everything else is managed or else GAFA just become more powerful”.  Starcom’s Amy Kean said “we should all be asking Google to join Mozilla and Apple in acting to stop browser fingerprinting, the sneakier alternative to tracking cookies. These alternatives, such as allowing the Chrome browser to monitor you directly, gravely risk us taking one step forward and two steps back.”

The upside

There was a feeling that the upcoming changes would help to weed out the many bad actors within the industry. Frampton said that he looks at this “from the positive perspective that it will drive innovation and the smart players will find answers. Third-party cookies were never devised to do what they do today and there are too many bad actors who profited from exploiting them. This evolution will shine a light on such players.” Hussain said he thought this would “hopefully make advertisers understand that the traditional principals of advertising are still relevant in a digital world; effective cost per reach of target audience, quality of impacts, and ads that are properly seen.”

All respondents agreed that we need to come together as an industry to effectively navigate the upcoming changes and make them work for the better. OpenX’s Gavin Stirrat said that “there has already been a lot going on behind the scenes as brands, publishers and adtech companies come together to determine a path forward. There is a clear need for a solution that addresses user privacy concerns first, but also provides a way for the ecosystem to receive the signals needed to enable key functionalities such as frequency capping, audience targeting and conversion attribution.”

Changing relationships

The final question we asked our respondents to consider was around the power balance and what changes, if any, they might expect to see in the relationship between advertisers, agencies, media owners, ‘other intermediaries’, and Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple or the Big Four.

In our responses, firstly was the view best expressed by Frampton, that “everything is up for grabs,  those that provide genuine value will win out.”  He believed the holding companies will reduce in size, though remaining strong, with their share reduced by a combination of independent shops and the Big 4.  His view that “publishers must have a clear tech and data strategy and deep knowledge of their audience in order to compete” was one that was also shared by several other respondents.

Exit Bee’s Yasser Hussain believes that “agencies will continue to be important, but for changing reasons.  As cookies get crumbled and contextual returns to the fore, we may see the return of the art of creative planning, with clients relying on agency advice and knowledge of media opportunities, rather than just being ‘order takers and order makers”. Webster agrees, and expects the big agency groups to go into slow decline as in-housing and consultancies eat their share: “they need to reinvent themselves dramatically, but will struggle to do so, forcing a slow, inevitable decline”.

A bright future comes with change

As Ebiquity’s Hussain sees it, ‘Advertisers rule and will no longer be looking to their media agencies for strategic advice on what they should do, they will be designing the strategies themselves.  Traditional media agencies will have to start to rethink their model of how they service advertisers and reshape more towards being ‘consultancy media operators”. 

Perhaps a more moderate view came from both Nene Harrison from Eley Consulting and The Body Shop’s Phil Livingstone.  Harrison sees sees a similar landscape, but has a little more positivity for the agency community, seeing “a future that includes more integration across the industry at all levels, with the interests of all parties becoming increasingly aligned. We’ve seen glimpses of this, where digitally-savvy advertisers have made the decision to move to an in-housed model but often maintain close relationships with their media agencies, which can support them by operating in a consultative, rather than transactional role”. 

Livingstone goes on to say that “agencies add value, as long as they continue to evolve beyond a simple transaction or trade in media.  Their value in in the thinking, strategy, ideas and execution — demonstrating this through a Black Box is the challenge that agencies must solve”.

Karen Eccles and Anna Forbes both continue this theme, but are more positive, with Eccles expecting to see “more direct major partnerships between brands and publishers based on mutually-known customers”, with Forbes moving on to say that “the smartest companies will find other like-minded, collaborative companies to forge relationships and build proprietary advantage for all constituents — and not let themselves be dictated to by the ‘Big Four”.

JICWEBS’ Kendrick sees things slightly differently.  She begins by pointing out that “following P&G’s Marc Pritchard’s call to action a few years ago, we’re now witnessing more marketers taking digital media trading and data in-house, at the expense of agencies, and the benefit of the big tech players.”  She goes on to wonder whether “Amazon, with its leadership in retail search and first-party data, will emerge as the undisputed third force in digital advertising.   Data will be key and both advertiser and agency will want ethics and good practice in digital.”

On the media owner side, Exit Bee’s Hussain points out that those who made decisions years ago to invest in quality content are seeing those decisions pay off, as are those who sought to entice users through innovative hybrid free/subscription/voluntary models.

Our anonymous respondent points out that “most of the power is held by the companies at either end of the industry, advertisers at one end, media owners at the other.  Agencies are trying to reinvent themselves, if they come with concrete values and expertise, delivering innovation and new tech to advertisers, then they have a place in the ecosystem.”  

Perhaps we should leave our final viewpoints to the advertisers, given that, after all, it is their money being spent which fuels the market.  As Leonardo Oliveira, Senior Gobal Brand & Media Manager, Vodafone, says, ‘Advertisers are in a much better position compared to a few years ago, regarding understanding, awareness, expertise, and knowledge.  We want a bigger say in the industry.  The context will be more challenging for agencies as consultant and partners, bringing additional value; advertisers want to stay ahead of the game and know how to get the best from their media spend, so the agencies and partners will play a big role in this, the challenge will be to keep up with the changes of the big walled gardens.”

So we seem to have broad consensus – collaboration will always win, agencies need to realign somewhat, advertisers know more and need to engage to get the best return. As Livingstone rather prosaically put it: “The recent wave of in-housing has been well documented, with some successes. If the numbers add up, it could make sense if you are a huge global advertiser. The clear majority retain agencies for their expertise, their network, their partnerships with media owners, etc.  I’m not sure there’s a power struggle, more of a tugging of a duvet during the night between consenting adults. Like any relationship, it prospers through open dialogue, trust and communication.’.

So, that’s it for 2020’s research project. We enjoyed putting this series together and hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed compiling it.  Thanks for reading!

Survey Respondents

Lara Izlan, Director of Advertising Data & analytics, ITV; Phil Livingstone, Global Digital Marketing Director, The Body Shop; Leonardo Oliveira, Senior Gobal Brand & Media Manager, Vodafone; Jules Kendrick, Chief Executive, JICWEBS; Karen Eccles, Director Commercial Innovation, The Telegraph; Rob Webster, Founder, Canton Marketing Solutions; Dino Myers Lamptey, Founder, The Barber Shop; Nene Harrison, Founder, Eley Consulting; Juliet McCutcheon, Sales Director, Channel Factory; Paul Frampton, President Europe, Control v Exposed; Tim Hussain, Global Managing Principal, Ebiquity; Yasser Hussain, UK Country Manager, Exit Bee; Jenny Stanley, MD, Appetite Creative; Amy Williams, Founder, Good-Loop; Anna Forbes, UK General Manager, The Trade Desk; Gavin Stirrat, VP Europe Partner Services, OpenX; Amy Kean, Head of Strategic Innovation, Global Clients, StarcomAnonymous, General Manager, global mobile app analysis company; Morwenna Beales, VP Key Accounts, ID5; Seun Odeneye, Managing Director UK & Ireland, Cadreon; Louise Nylander, Global Marketing Director, Unruly; Maria Cadbury, Founder, We Are Spring; and Fleur Bennett, Senior Director, Strategic Accounts EMEA,