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Digital Ads: A Bigger Seat at the Table, But Which Table?

Newly-released figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC show that U.S. Internet ad revenues continued their growth trajectory in Q3, reaching $7.88 billion for a 22% increase over the same period in 2010. These figures also show a 2.7% uptick from the revenues of the second quarter of 2011, as well as mark the eighth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth.

The numbers and general growth trend prompted David Silverman, partner at PwC to note that digital is taking a bigger seat at the table. "The ongoing increases in internet advertising revenues points to a new paradigm within the advertising world," he said.

"Moreover, even with a softened economy, digital advertising is making tremendous gains."

Silverman is correct: any number of figures and corporate reports show that digital advertising is posting steady growth. Silverman's comment, though, introduces the question of which technologies and strategies, exactly, are driving this growth. Other industry reports provide some hints as to emerging areas that marketers may want to watch or even try out.

Real-Time Bidding and the rise of the Demand-Side Platform

Nearly a quarter (23%) of the advertisers say they have moved budgets from search to display advertising in the past year, according to research conducted by Econsultancy and sponsored by the Rubicon Project. It found that two thirds of the advertisers and agencies polled in the US (68%) and 57% of those in Europe (including the UK) said they had increased their investment in online display advertising in the last year.

The research, which questioned over 400 advertisers and agencies globally, also revealed that over a fifth (23%) of the advertisers and agencies surveyed say they use a demand-side platform which takes an average of 32% of the media plan. This is highest in the US, where 39% of the advertiser and agency respondents surveyed say they buy display advertising through DSPs. In addition, an average of 34% of trading desk spend goes to real-time bidding (RTB): 41% in US and 34% in Europe.

The rise in RTB spend is reflective of more programmatic buying, as the overall buying strategies of agencies and trading desk gravitate in that direction, according to Kara Weber, SVP of Marketing at the Rubicon Project. "Yet, it’s not all about RTB. The research also shows that ad networks play a predominant role – clearly illustrating that the buyers are using multiple channels to maximize ROI, not yet placing all bets on the RTB marketplace. We'll be watching this trend carefully through 2011; we predict the shift to automated buying channels, including but not limited to RTB, will be dramatic in 2012."

Shift to Mobile

As online buying activity over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend showed, consumers have become strong users of mobile – and trend that is also reflected in advertising budgets.  According to a report published by Efficient Frontier and Macquarie Group, mobile spend is 6.5% of all search spend, up 2.7 times (270%) from a year ago.

In addition, ROI for search on mobile devices has climbed rapidly in 2011 but remains less than half of traditional desktop search. It also found that tablet usage has increased substantially and is now half of all click share on mobile devices and conversion rates on tablets are now comparable to that of desktop search.

Tablets have also made major inroads in retail where 77% of all mobile traffic is coming from tablets.

One company benefiting from this shift into mobile is Greystripe, which launched a mobile video ad format earlier this year.  The mobile video ad units were launched in June 2011. Since then, over 30 brands have run campaigns, delivering over 100 ad creatives throughout the Greystripe network on iOS, Android and the mobile web. Greystripe has already seen a 300 percent increase in the number of campaigns booked so far in Q4 of 2011 relative to all of Q3 2011.


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