Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The things that mattered the most in adtech this January

By Zoe Baptie, Account Director, Bluestripe Communications

Zoe is the resident adtech expert at NDA’s sister company Bluestripe Comms and our new monthly columnist rounding up the most important developments in the market each month.

It’s finally here. After nearly two years of industry chat about the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), it finally came into force as the new decade dawned. Just like its European counterpart — GDPR — things didn’t blow up immediately (so expect further industry chat and speculation). As we saw with GDPR, it’s going to take a while before we start witnessing the actual impact and fines being dealt out. 

And there will be, with one report finding only 14% of US companies are CCPA compliant. Much like the GDPR which saw some online publishers block European traffic rather than manage compliancy, it seems businesses are yet to take CCPA seriously.

With other States drafting up plans for their own data privacy laws, and with no magic paintbrush which automatically makes you compliant with the various different regulations  — which are similar in ways but vary in others — compliancy is looking like the type of headache that, until now, could only be brought on after one too many shots of tequila.

Adtech companies take note, because this was also the month the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) — the UK’s data protection regulator — issued a warning to any adtech company which failed to clean up and transform its data protection practices in the wake of GDPR, Digiday reports.

The investigation came from Simon McDougall, the watchdog’s Executive Director for Technology and Innovation, who led a six-month consultation, starting last June, into the compliance practices in adtech and real-time bidding. 

Currently, the ICO estimates many companies are failing to comply with the stringent guidelines which must be adhered to since the law came into implementation on 25th May 2018.

The ICO can issue fines to any business that breaches the law as much as 4% of the global revenue or £17.5m — whichever is greater. In the last year, British Airways and Marriott International have been hit with fines due to data breaches.

Also this month, not that you could have missed it as the industry is still awash with shock and surprise (really?), but Google Chome announced it will be phasing out third-party cookies within the next two years.

It was only a matter of time, as other internet browsers have already paved the way for a cookieless future with Mozilla’s Firefox enhanced tracking protection feature which blocks all third-party cookies by default, and ITP 2.2 used on Apple devices and software such as Safari.

However, as Google has more than 67% of the global monthly market share on desktop, and nearly 64% on mobile devices, publishers and adtech vendors alike will need to start putting the right strategy in place if they are to continue to provide relevant and targeted digital ads to internet users without the use of third-party data.  

The new year kicked off how the previous year ended. Following a string of mergers and acquisition announcements in the latter half of 2019 — Taboola/Outbrain, IAS/AdmantX — Unruly was acquired by Tremor from News Corp.

According to The Drum, the video advertising platform was purchased by Tremor for a 6.9% equity stake listed on the London Stock Exchange, which means News Corp receives roughly £15m, and a further £30m in revenue over the next three years. Unruly was founded in 2006 and was sold to News Corp in 2015 for £115m. As well as providing outstream video to 50+ News Corp titles, the company works directly with an additional 2,000 publishers.  

And finally, some good news this month came from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) Bellwether report and Advertising Associate and WARC Expenditure reports.

Firstly the IPA Bellwether survey found total marketing budgets had increased in Q4 2019 for the first time since the first quarter of the year. Brexit uncertainty weighed heavily during Q2 and Q3 last year which delayed decision-making. Yet, out of the 300 UK marketing professionals who contributed to the report 4% had immediately revised their total marketing budgets higher in the last quarter of 2019 following the general election. 

Online marketing looked to be particularly healthy as budgets increased by 7.9% as businesses look to adopt data-driven ad campaigns, embrace new online marketing technologies, and build their social media presence. The Bellwether forecast also predicts that 2020 will be a strong year with an annual adspend growth of 1.8%. 

This positivity in the industry was echoed by the AA/WARC expenditure report which found UK adspend rose 5.6% in Q3 2019 reaching £5.97bn — the 25th consecutive quarter of growth. The latest data revealed the growth was 0.8% ahead of the forecast, and predicts the full-year figures for 2019 to show UK adspend at £24.8bn — a 5.2% increase. The report suggests overall market growth is being driven by increased spend on online advertising, which saw percentage increases across every format. 

Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2020!