The digital medium has been the fastest growing medium in the last few years. In fact, 2014 has been an interesting year with a number of developments taking place in the field which will have far reaching effects in the years to come. We take a look at some of the major developments and what they portend for the future.
Facebook's ad tech and mobile push
It has been a great year for Facebook in terms of business and in many ways it has fulfilled the trust shown in it by investors when it came out with its IPO, the biggest at that time, before being eclipsed by Alibaba this year. One of the major factors in Facebook's success last year has been the mobile network, which might be ironical considering that it was hardly earning a penny from this particular avenue till a couple of years back but the change has been and dynamic and shows a lot of what to expect from the new internet giant this year.
Facebook is playing the long game with ad tech and the price is dominance of the mobile piece of the digital advertising jigsaw. In the Q3'14 earnings calls, COO Sheryl Sandberg clearly stated the reason behind the relaunch of Atlas and investments in ad tech; “Consumers are shifting quickly to mobile and the advertising industry is not keeping up,” she said.
eMarketeer says that in 2014, Facebook’s share in the net mobile ad revenue globally stood at 21.7 per cent. Though this is still less than Google’s 46.8 per cent share, the numbers need to be taken in context. Google’s share in the mobile ad revenue dollars has been steadily decreasing over the last few years (from 52.6 per cent in 2012 to 46.8 per cent in 2014).
On the other hand, despite early criticism about a lack of focus on mobile, Facebook has shown remarkable progress in mobile over the last couple of years since its IPO. In Q3’2014, revenue from mobile constituted 66 per cent of the company’s total revenue as compared to almost zero in 2011.
The re-launch of Atlas, a platform it bought from Microsoft a few years ago further increases its standing as an advertising option for all advertisers. In 2015, we can expect Facebook to continue roping in advertisers on the Atlas platform. On the mobile front, it has already started approaching certain content producers to host their content on its servers and we could see more movement from it on this end. This is one company, in contrast perhaps, to the Google of the last decade, which knows exactly what it wants and is not afraid to go for it.
Twitter re-focuses itself as a platform for broadcasters
The Indian market is ripe for digital companies and Twitter is not one to let the opportunity go buy. 2014 might have been a landmark year for the micro blogging platform as it moves to showcase itself as the new platform for TV companies and broadcasters. There is a certain wisdom in this thought; the mobile is increasingly become more of a first screen rather than the second screen for content consumption, including video. Twitter's interest in controlling or influencing the mobile web was apparent even earlier when it started cracking down on third party Twitter applications on the mobile. The idea was clear; the mobile was the future and Twitter wanted to be the one controlling its destiny. In 2014, Twitter acquired TV analytics companies like Mesagraph and Second Sync. It also extended a partnership with Kantar (In 2013, Neilsen had started a 'Twitter TV ratings'). Twitter wants to provide advertisers, content creators and broadcasters with a research-based metrics to carry out promotions on the platform, and the efforts have paid off—a report jointly conducted by Fox Broadcasting, Twitter and the Advertising Research Foundation has found that more than 90 per cent of those who see TV show-related tweets take immediate action, that is, either watching, sharing or searching for content.
Programmatic gets a toehold in India
Programmatic buying and selling of ads has been a known concept in the West for a number of years but in 2014 it made its presence known in India. The idea of programmatic and RTB (real-time bidding) being that digital display ads can now be bought and sold automatically via pre-decided parameters. It is expected to make display advertising on the internet more efficient while providing more transparency to advertisers and media agencies alike. Such has been its impact that some say that in the very near future, more than 60 per cent of all advertising online will be programmatically done. In India, there are still some roadblocks that are preventing adoption, which include lack of enough knowledge about it, non-availability of premium inventory, among other things. But ad exchanges and media agencies all agree that now that the concept has entered the Indian mindset it is only a matter of time before it starts seeing the kind of usage it has already seen in the West.
The net neutrality debates reignites; TRAI's hand is forced
The debate over the freedom of the internet might turn out to be one of the most important of our generation. A long simmering argument; it ignited once again with the much-covered disagreement between Netflix and Comcast in the US towards the first half of the year. President Barack Obama had to finally step in and many of the biggest internet companies in the world like Facebook and Google have already extended their belief and their support to the concept that access to internet content should be free and available to all irrespective of type, mode or platform. In India, the fight has been strangely muted but in December, Airtel, perhaps inadvertently or perhaps in a smartly calculated move forced TRAI's hand. By announcing, and then retracting (due to public outrage, they claim), a separate data charge for VoIP services, they got the TRAI involved, who is now expected to come out with a consultation paper on net neutrality in early 2015. What TRAI's thoughts on the subject are is anybody's case but we could be looking at an issue that could have far-reaching effects on the country.
Advertisers & agencies once again look for options beyond display
The debate over the efficacy of digital display advertising is never-ending. It has as many proponents as it has detractors and even the latter agree that display advertising is hardly likely to disappear any time soon. However, this has not stopped enterprising companies from trying to figure out how to circumvent the restrictions of display ads. It is a valid consideration; a Google study during the latter half of the year, determined that more than 50 per cent of digital ads are actually not seen by viewers. The problem is not that acutely felt by Indian advertisers of course, since we prefer to trade in CPLs but Indian companies like Vdopia, m-AdCall, among a host of others from the country and across the world are experimenting with new ways of delivering ads that maintains that fine balance between customer retention and non intrusiveness. Definitely, these options will become an even more important consideration in 2015 as advertisers look at new ways to attract customers in an ever changing digital landscape.