Forget gazing into a crystal ball to predict the future – that’s a job which falls to us and us alone to determine. As the ad tech industry continues to gain momentum and we see wider adoption of programmatic within digital strategies, we all need to take a collective step back, stop obsessing about what’s to come, and instead focus on the ‘NOW’ factor.

It’s very tempting when making predictions to reel off a list of impressive technological solutions, or focus on experimental concepts, like the use of Blockchain in advertising, just for the sake of shock, or because it sounds a whole lot sexier than what will actually play out in the coming year. Predictions shouldn’t be pure fantasy, they need to answer to the bottom line. In essence, we should be looking at ways to do our jobs better, elevating our learning in both in a personal and professional capacity along the way.

As such, 2020’s activities will scale based on a combination of today’s organizational behavior, an individual’s behavior, and industry behavior. We’ll see long-term strategies break down into smaller, more achievable short-term goals, which will allow businesses to focus on the here and now, improving their digital planning as a result.

According to Zenith’s ‘Programmatic Marketing Forecasts’ report, programmatic ad spend will reach $98 billion, amounting to 68% of the global digital media ad spend by 2020, and this is only going to get bigger. With this in mind, here’s the key programmatic predictions I think will be fundamental to the continued growth of the industry in 2020…

Why Hiring The Right Talent Is Key To Success

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I’ll start with the most important factor in today’s programmatic world, the ‘human’ factor.

If the past five years have belonged to the rise of AI and Machine Learning in our business operations, then 2020 will be the year where humanity becomes the key differentiating element to how successful our ventures will be. The days of man vs machine are over; collaboration is now expected between both parties, with the former leading the way in how this technology will be deployed for greater efficiencies. From an ad tech perspective, algorithms make us aware, but human insight fills in the blanks and is a crucial part to the overall success. Hiring the right talent that can consistently evolve along with this technology, with an agile skill set and an ability to adapt to changing business needs will be essential. I predict that after the pendulum has been stuck in favour of technology for so long, next year we’ll see it swing back in favour of humans, placing them at the centre for powering Programmatic 2.0 – the next iteration of growth.

That’s How The Cookie Crumbles, Right?

If there has been one narrative that has been overdone this past year more than all others, then it’s the ‘death of the cookie’ or the ‘cookiepocolypse’. Remember when ‘the future is mobile’ became the keynote of every event in the last few years? Well, the cookie will continue to crumble even more in 2020, but the story will shift away from the doom and gloom we have become accustomed to and instead focus on a practical solution. New privacy regulations, cookie blockers and changes to how browsers operate show how the ecosystem is changing – users want greater control and the likes of Apple, Google and Mozilla are responding by automatically blocking all third-party cookies, and therefore limiting the ability to track users online. Cue panic. Yet, this also presents an opportunity for publishers – now is the time to take steps to actively own their data. Everything that has been collected directly from their audiences in the past now needs to be nurtured to understand behaviours for better segmentation and targeting. The key is finding partners (tech vendors, etc.) who can help consolidate and organise this (now extremely valuable) first-party data to help enable a greater level of autonomy.

The Fraud Solution: How Engagement = Effectiveness

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We’ve come a long way since the data privacy scandals of 2017, with all stakeholders committed to cleaning up the ecosystem. We’re not there yet of course, but initiatives like the Coalition For Better Ads coming into play and a wider adoption of ads.txt are two big steps in the right direction. In my mind we now need to take this one step further in terms of publisher readiness and infrastructure to safeguard the future. I’ve spoken before about how engagement is the best barometer to measure success today, adding a layer of interactivity through things like high impact formats to really immerse audiences into the brand worlds they are engaging with online. However, before this can become a reality, there needs to be a commitment from publishers to invest in the infrastructure needed to run these kinds of ads, and a vision to see beyond current capabilities. Ultimately, it’s all about your viewpoint. Take the Lego advertisement above as the perfect example; if you put the building blocks in place early on, then the sky’s the limit to what you can achieve.

Eye Spy… New Channels To Target

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There are some emerging channels that will come into their own in 2020, enabling the next frontier of innovation for programmatic, but like anything, there are challenges to be understood first. We love to get carried away with a new trend, like voice for example, but in reality all this talk isn’t translating into action just yet, with 72% of marketers admitting they currently have no plans to optimize voice for search. That being said, I expect Audio, DOOH & OTT to be three of the biggest trends in 2020 for us to leverage. These digital platforms have been tried, tested and seen various levels of success in 2019, which show that the potential is there and should be nurtured. Our job therefore is to accept change, adapt to innovation and scale with creativity as this technology matures.

Welcome To The Enter-Gagement Industry

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Welcome to the all-singing, all-dancing programmatic circus of fun for 2020, where engagement and entertainment intersect, greater emphasis is placed on data usage and storytelling begins to mature through new and immersive formats. In short, this is the experience economy elevated to meet the increasingly high client, and by extension, user expectations. It’s no longer enough the provide an experience today, there now needs to be a level of entertainment attached as well in order to achieve the desired engagement outcome. Alongside this shift, we’ll see conversations around DMPs and their use come to the forefront, with a focus on campaign objectives right from the start so that the right creative solutions can be deployed, using CPE as the best way to measure effectiveness overall. On the back of this, I believe we will see more experience platforms emerge and provide the key to sustained future growth.

Deputy General Manager