Henny Penny and the state of digital marketing: The sky is not falling

Columnist and IAB VP of Marketing Chris Glushko says that despite digital advertising's challenges, it's continuing to grow at a rapid pace, and brands are getting better at harnessing its power.

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If one pays casual attention to marketing and media trade publications, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that the heyday of digital advertising is over.

Each week there are new stories about the challenges facing the industry: viewability, ad fraud, ad blocking and more. With these challenges, there’s the assumption that brands may no longer be willing to move ad spend into the medium.

But as the saying goes, money talks. A quick examination of the 2015 Full Year IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report (disclosure: IAB is my employer) makes clear that any assertion of digital’s decline may not only be premature, but completely off the mark.

Last year, digital ad spend in the US reached $59.6 billion. This represents a 20-percent increase over the then record-breaking digital ad spend in 2014.

Take a moment to read that one more time. Do these numbers describe an industry in crisis?

An evolving medium

So how is this happening? First, let’s remember that digital is still a very young medium. The first banner ad was served in 1994, just 22 years ago. Since that time, rapid changes in technology and consumer behavior have driven massive diversification throughout the digital media landscape.

The industry is far less reliant on display than it was even just a few years ago. In 2015, mobile ad spend hit $20.7 billion. That’s a 66-percent increase over 2014, representing a 35-percent share of all digital ad spend last year.

iabDigital video was up 30 percent in 2015, for a total of $4.2 billion. Aggregate social media advertising revenue closed 2015 at $10.9 billion, up 55 percent from the prior year.

As digital evolves, brands and agencies are getting better at leveraging it to its fullest potential. Mind-blowing creativity in digital is no longer the exception. It’s now the rule.

The marriage of creativity and technology is producing breakthrough work, unlike anything the world of advertising has ever seen. Want proof? Look no further than award-winning campaigns like Nike and Wieden+Kennedy’s “The Last Game,” Taco Bell and DigitasLBi’s “Taco Bell Mobile Ordering App” and Always and Leo Burnett’s “#LikeAGirl.”

Through enormous and calculated risk, superior new techniques and sophisticated, participatory storytelling, brands are surprising, delighting and moving the hearts and minds of consumers in ways never thought possible.

Tackling digital’s challenges

Now, don’t get me wrong. Digital’s challenges — viewability, ad fraud, ad blocking– still exist. It would be naïve to think otherwise. But brands, agencies, publishers and everyone in between are tackling these challenges head-on.

Viewability is now the standard on which digital media is transacted. And with viewability delivering the opportunity-to-see on every ad impression, it won’t be long until we have true cross-media audience currency and new metrics for engagement and ad effectiveness.

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) is organizing the industry in the fight against ad fraud, malware and piracy. Ad leaders are coming together to wage war on ad fraud through the new “Verified by TAG” initiative.

To fight ad blocking, major publishers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes and Wired, are connecting with consumers who use ad blockers, opening up dialogues and revisiting the value exchange between publisher and user.

And with ad blocking as the wake-up call, the digital advertising ecosystem is rethinking the user experience across the web to make it lighter, faster and safer. In the near future, we could see a web where consumers will no longer feel the need to turn to ad blockers.

Consumers are spending more of their time each and every day immersed in digital media. That’s not changing anytime soon. Smart and savvy brands know this.

That’s why digital continues to grow at a record pace. That’s why the entire industry comes together to solve its toughest challenges.

It’s easy to look at the growing pains of this still relatively young medium and say the sky is falling. But upon closer examination, maybe the sky is actually the limit. Digital’s best is yet to come.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Chris Glushko
As VP of Marketing, Chris Glushko brings 15 years of digital marketing and communications experience to IAB. He spearheads internal and external communications efforts with IAB leadership in line with the numerous capabilities of the organization—-public policy, mobile, video, professional certification, technical standards, and more. Various marketing campaigns under his supervision have effectively connected with publishers, advertisers, media buyers, ad creatives, technologists, and legislators, as well as consumers who turn to the ad-supported web every day for news, information, and entertainment. Chris resides in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife, Allie Carson, and canine companion, Willis. An avid live music fan, he donates a great deal of his spare time to supporting the Mockingbird Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has granted over $1 million dollars to music education programs for children.

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