The New Year is approaching fast and it’s going to be an eventful one for marketers. Between ensuring readiness for the General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) imminent enforcement, exploring new opportunities created by ongoing industry consolidation and collaboration, and future proofing businesses for the age of AI, 2018 looks set to be a year of further transformation for the industry.

We spoke to key representatives from the marketing and advertising technology sectors to discover how they expect the digital marketing landscape to evolve over the coming year.

Chris Dobson, CEO at The Exchange Lab - Future-proofing operations in the age of AI

“In the ad industry, machine learning and AI are on every company’s agenda, or should be. These technologies are fundamental to improving efficiencies by producing and delivering highly-targeted ad campaigns.

“There’s no disputing that AI and machine learning are already changing the way we work, and five to 10 years from now they may render our jobs unrecognisable from what they are today. This doesn’t automatically mean that machines will usurp humans from their desks – the human component in advertising will remain a staple for the foreseeable future – but business leaders need to plan strategically, and future-proof their organisations.

“It’s also important to take into consideration not just how AI might affect the ad industry, but also how it may affect the other industries we work with, and how in turn this might impact on us. Retail is a good example here; we’ve recently seen the launch of Amazon Go, which uses deep-learning algorithms and sensor vision to capture anything a consumer looks at or picks up in store. The level of data this type of shopping experience can generate about individual consumers’ paths to purchase will be critical to informing and tailoring advertising.

Ken Parnham, general manager Europe at Near - Consolidation and collaboration will continue

“2017 saw a spate of mergers and acquisitions across the marketing and advertising technology sectors; with a record-breaking 115 deals struck in the first quarter alone. Moving into 2018, consolidation momentum will continue at the same pace.

“Falling martech stocks have brought company valuations down to a more realistic level, and for larger players, it now makes more sense to enhance capability by buying up smaller vendors. This is not, however, to say that diversity is destined to decline. Rather, there will be a higher number of deals between complementary companies — such as the recent union of Adbrain and The Trading Desk — as smaller operators unite to reduce the market share of industry giants such as Facebook and Google. Indeed, with independent vendors such as OpenX, AppNexus, and MediaMath joining forces to share identity assets, choice for brands buying programmatically is set to increase; as is targeting accuracy across multiple channels.”

Alex McIlvenny, UK country manager at Ligatus - Native video markets will continue to expand

“There was a growing demand in 2017 for engaging content, which meant that native advertising became a real challenger to non-native ad formats. The year ahead will see video as a format for native continuing to grow – it already accounts for 35% of all spend on display advertising. But there does need to be more input from the governing bodies and independent standard setters on native placement standards, notably video, as the sector is evolving quickly, and with this growth likely to continue, we need consistency and clarity across the industry.

“Technical changes will also pave the way for native in 2018, as DSPs continue to migrate to the latest iterations of Native RTB compliance, enabling more trading on native placements for trading desks and clients. However we will also see more scrutiny moving forward as traders look for traffic, which is direct and authentic, rather than rebrokered or arbitraged.”

Thomas Bremond, international general manager of advanced advertising at FreeWheel - Transparency will be key for safer ad inventory

“For publishers, maintaining transparency in the digital supply chain and protecting video ad inventory will continue to be of key importance as we move into 2018. Brand safety will remain a priority for advertisers, with almost a quarter (24%) of UK digital advertisers stating it as the most significant aspect of media quality.

“What we must see in the future is a shift by publishers towards programmatic direct monetisation of ad inventory. A publisher-direct model provides a safer environment for advertisers as it gives more control back to publishers to pick and choose trusted buying partners. Premium video should be seen as a haven for marketers because it delivers high engagement in a brand-safe and viewable way, at scale on all screens.

“In 2017, we’ve seen publishers joining forces and creating alliances across Europe and there is no doubt that these dynamics will accelerate in 2018 as it enhances their reputations, improves efficiency and increases the scale of premium video content they can offer to advertisers.”

Lindsay McEwan, vice president and managing director EMEA at Tealium - Data will remain in the spotlight thanks to the GDPR

“This last year has seen the futuristic technology of science fiction movies enter the real world of business, catapulting companies into the fourth industrial revolution and encouraging marketers to evaluate their strategies through data-driven thinking.

“Tools such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and quantum computing, are becoming commonplace as marketers increasingly focus on the quality of their data to fuel digital transformation, and deliver the personalised experiences customers have come to expect.

“Data will continue to stand in the spotlight as we enter a new year, particularly as the much-talked about GDPR comes into force.  Marketers will be forced to evaluate their data management strategies to ensure compliance, and will subsequently create the much-desired unified view of the customer as a result of pulling their data into a centralised hub.”

Nick Welch, business development UK and Northern Europe at ADmantX - Brand safety must reach a deeper level

“Brand safety was – without doubt – one of the most talked about industry topics of 2017. Advertisers expressed their horror that seemingly basic brand safety protection was not in place, and some went as far as pulling ad spend until it could be guaranteed measures had been implemented.

"The trouble is, brand safety is a subjective concept. Therefore, a one-size fits all approach is limited. Keywords, whitelists, and blacklists still prevail in brand safety technology, but they will not guarantee the robust approach to brand safety so many advertisers are demanding.

“I hope to see a move towards advanced and custom brand safety in 2018. There is certain content – think illegal or pornographic – that no brand will want to be associated with. But there is also content specific to a sector or to a brand that could be considered damaging. That’s why brand safety must go deeper at the brand level. For example, most brands would have no obvious reason to withhold ad placements from a negative news story about travel. However, travel advertisers should work hard to distance themselves by proactively targeting away from this content.”


By Jonathan Davies, editor, Digital Marketing Magazine

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