The Ad Tech CEOs Make Their 2020 Predictions


There’s just under a month to go until most of us will be wrapping up the calendar year for the Christmas break, which means it’s time to start looking ahead to 2020. As is our annual tradition, VAN invited a host of ad tech CEOs to make their predictions for the year ahead in advertising. How will the industry adapt to increasing browser cookie restrictions? Will connected-TV start to really fulfil its potential? And will the tech giants continue to cement their dominance of digital advertising, or face a spirited resistance from the smaller players? Here’s our CEOs’ thoughts on the year ahead:

Norm JohnstonNorm Johnston, CEO, Unruly
Over the past year the abandonment of the cookie, the shift away from traditional KPIs like viewability, and the realisation formats should complement each other rather than compete, all indicate we’re focusing on the wrong parts of the advertising process.

When talking to global advertisers, the one thing they complain about time and time again is the lack of creativity in important areas like programmatic. Martin Sorrell knows this and it’s why over the past year he’s bought companies like MediaMonks and MightyHive that assist clients with this particular need.

A study from Nielsen recently looked into the parts of the advertising process that had the most impact on whether an ad campaign is successful or not. By breaking it down, it found that context made up 2 percent, targeting 9 percent, recency 5 percent, reach 22 percent, brand 15 percent and creativity 47 percent!

After all, you can select all the right formats, target the perfect audience, all in a premium environment, but if you’re creative doesn’t stand up, it’s all for nothing. My prediction for next year is as advertisers continue to realise the importance that getting the creative right has on marketing and business outcomes we will see a shift back to putting creativity first. And I for one can’t wait to see some of the amazing work that will be produced.

Mike ShehanMike Shehan, Co-Founder & CEO, SpotX
Next year will be exciting for a number of reasons. Fragmentation across the media landscape will continue to be a challenge for both viewers and advertisers, with more media owners building direct to consumer apps for connected TV and beyond. This will allow publishers to further develop their audiences while harnessing invaluable data.

Device manufacturers like Roku, Samsung, TiVo, and Vizio will become even more important players within the advertising ecosystem than they are today. As more consumers purchase their devices, they will continue to ‘own the glass’ which means they can control the ad inventory and its dividends. Advertisers will lean on these device manufacturers more because they harness a ton of proprietary audience data.

Rajeev GoelRajeev Goel, Co-Founder & CEO, PubMatic
Just as the proliferation of header bidding brought huge publisher gains in display monetisation and workflow, we can expect to see the same for video as we head into 2020. Server-to-server (S2S) mediation will emerge as the preferred monetisation solution for cross-platform video, as well as for the burgeoning CTV market.

Programmatic video monetisation has unique challenges, particularly around video player errors and latency, that are not addressed by existing header bidding solutions. Innovations in S2S mediation technology will solve for video-specific latency, automation and control challenges. Publishers that are able to capture yield and revenue benefits across all addressable digital video content – including desktop, mobile web, mobile app, OTT and CTV – will be positioned for success in the new decade.

Andrew Buckman, CEO, Sublime
Mobile is a unique and highly impactful channel, and advertisers are increasingly looking to innovate video ads for the small screen to engage users. Despite large investments into the medium, ad performance remains poor. This is largely due to advertisers trying to cut corners by using expensive made-for-TV assets and shrinking these to fit the small screen.

As we enter the new year, advertisers must adopt new ways to encourage consumers to interact with creative on mobile, for example by utilising swipes instead of clicks. Through ensuring video ads are created specifically for mobile, advertisers will not only generate high performance, but will maintain a positive user experience and brand perception.

An additional issue increasingly dividing the industry is the duration of ads – with larger tech platforms pushing for shorter and shorter ad formats, whereas advertisers want the classic 30-second ad to ensure the creative messaging is delivered.

Kim Perell, CEO, Amobee
2020 will be the year of transformation in television advertising, both linear TV and connected TV. This year alone, the viewership of YouTube, Hulu, Roku and other streaming services has grown over 35 percent to a $7 billion market in the US alone, according to a recent report from eMarketer — and this number will only continue to increase in the years to follow.

As advertising continues to transform with consumers moving seamlessly between screens, understanding how connected TV, linear TV and digital media work together is a massive advantage for both advertisers and broadcasters. In 2020, we will see the implementation of true converged media planning and connected audience data across all four screens: linear TV, connected TV, desktop and mobile digital video.

David DowneyDavid Downey, CEO, INVIDI
The evolution of TV is creating endless opportunities, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves – TV is not dead and will once again, not die in the upcoming year. Broadcasters are becoming increasingly smarter in understanding their audiences across platform as the convergence of linear and digital heats up.

In the upcoming year, we will see closer relationships between broadcasters and distributors as addressable linear solutions that are so prominent in the US, are activated across Europe with the ability to manage audience, data and forecasting across linear and digital. This year we witnessed more broadcaster coalitions evolve, 2020 will see similar coalitions start to materialise among distributors as the fight for advertising dollars with YouTube and Facebook continues.

Rich RaddonRich Raddon, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Zefr
2020 promises to usher in a new innovation cycle in ad tech innovation. Three key trends are providing the undercurrent for the new era of tech: privacy + trust, the diminishment of third party audiences, and dominance, and scrutiny of platforms.

As a result of these changes, marketers are going to be challenged to adopt contextual targeting stacks to adapt to the post-cookie world and reach consumers at scale, without PII. The brands that lean in on contextual data as a replacement of third party audiences for activation will be poised for growth.

Next year will also mark the evolution of platforms in the race for television dollars. Facebook, which is enabling a dynamic container solution for in-stream video, is primed to be a dominant player in TV replacement budgets. With their dynamic video-level whitelist targeting becoming more ubiquitous, Facebook may have the silver bullet for programmatic video: brand safety plus scaled audience reach. TV’s last stronghold was suitability and reach. Now, it may finally be in trouble.

Adam SingoldaAdam Singolda, Founder & CEO, Taboola
Next year, we’ll see brands prioritise what matters most: profitable growth, not just growth for the sake of growth. Historically, growth has meant spending more to build market share on the hope that market dominance will eventually translate into pricing power and eventual profits.

But that model will shift. As the cost of user acquisition continues to grow, 2020 will see marketers place a greater emphasis on loyalty. Mary Meeker cited this in her last Internet Trends Report, noting customer acquisition costs might be “rising to unsustainable levels.” Building long term relationships with consumers, learning how their affinities for things ebb and flow, and delivering constant improvement in marketing messages will be key to 2020 business success.

Zvika Netter, Co-Founder & CEO, Innovid
In 2020, TV will be the main viewing device, but in an “advanced” way. Digital video has been around more than a decade, but now it is making the move into television. Addressable connected TV (CTV) allows marketers the highest level of personalisation. In the U.S., viewers are already spending less and less time watching digital video on laptops, and next year we will start to see this trend emerge more in the U.K. and across Europe.

Next year, we will also begin to see “privacy first” discussions in the television space, as we did years ago with the “mobile first” concept in the mobile space. Since TV was previously not a connected device, privacy was never a discussion topic. With the current data privacy and regulation climate and the growing popularity of CTV, privacy is becoming a major discussion point. The next generation of TV and TV tools will see a “privacy first” approach, where data privacy will be prioritised first, followed by other aspects of design.

Lastly, 2020 will continue to deliver more precision in TV measurement, heading towards a future where every TV comes with a meter that reports what viewers are watching. This will make panels obsolete as we will have a full census at all times.

Rob Gabel, Founder & CEO, Tubular Labs
In 2020, social video audiences start being evaluated more like TV audiences as it works toward parity with other video mediums. Metrics like watch time and attention metrics are able to level the playing field more, expanding the revenue opportunities social video can provide for publishers and brands alike. The result is a more global method of evaluating video content that better prioritises audience size and demographics over the screen or platform it appears on.


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