The ad landscape faces another year of flux, with antitrust efforts starting to carve out a more level playing field for media organisations and AI tools promising new capabilities yet also threatening to compromise brand authenticity. This year will also see the endgame for cookies, leaving many marketers scrambling for alternatives. Meanwhile, consumers are clearly shifting to omnichannel viewing and CTV is showing significant growth. With continuous change across the industry, agility will be the key to success in the year ahead.
T minus zero for Google cookie deprecation
Cookies can’t be kicked down the road anymore and buy-side needs to catch up with sell-side peers in finding innovative alternatives.
“Google has committed to finally cutting third-party cookies from Chrome by the end of 2024. Though the involvement of the UK’s Competition and Market Authority has caused fears the deadline will be pushed again, Google’s current timeline still puts Q4 as the worst-case scenario for third-party cookie deprecation. Therefore, anyone hoping they can continue to kick the can down the road on finding alternative methods for targeting and attribution on Chrome will be in for a nasty shock.
Advertisers in particular need to recognize the urgency of the situation, as media owners have done a good job at readying cookie-free infrastructure by leveraging universal ID solutions, contextual targeting, and activating their first-party data to assemble addressable audiences. The sell-side have been the innovators here, and in 2024 it’s up to the buy-side to play catch up and explore the diverse range of cookie-free solutions that have increased across the market.”
Expect a push for greater transparency
From company culture, to the deprecation of cookies: transparency will be key across the advertising ecosystem
“There are still not enough women working in tech, especially in senior roles. If we want to make the industry a better place in 2024 then more pathways must be opened up for women and diverse talent. The key to attracting more women into tech roles is by nurturing the right kind of culture within the business – a culture that places value on integrity, emotional intelligence and empathy.
“This culture should revolve around transparency, with leaders explaining the ‘why’ behind strategic decisions. To build and grow a team, everyone needs to buy into these strategies, and be motivated by the prospect of working collectively to overcome challenges. Culture is a business asset that will not only attract the right people to an organisation, but the right clients and partners too.
“Over the next year I would also like to see a concerted push for greater transparency throughout the entire advertising ecosystem. Agencies and brands are changing the way they buy; demanding more control when it comes to targeting and measurement. With the deprecation of cookies scheduled in 2024, it’s vital that we build trust to deliver optimal outcomes for advertisers and media owners.”
The big guns’ dominance is on the wane
Media owners will look to take back control, especially in retail
“Fair opportunity is what all digital advertising players want and relatively few have, but the balance of power is shifting. There may soon be significantly fewer barriers to competition with antitrust efforts moving to dismantle ad tech empires piece-by-piece. Meanwhile, many media owners who handed over valuable first-party data to dominant forces in the early days of programmatic are now looking to take back control, especially in the retail sector. Although the jury is out on how these emerging retail media networks will fare, it’s positive to see media organisations independently harnessing their assets to unlock new revenue streams.
“Media organisations should now expand their ability to compete with the big guns. Adding precise attention insight to direct shopper data will amplify unique value, fuelling the ability to create richer audience segmentation and ad targeting packages, while meeting brand demand for granular engagement data. Ultimately, using attention metrics will help drive retail media’s efficiency, and help it grow as a viable channel in the year to come.”
AI’s flipside will threaten brand authenticity
AIs fast evolving tech generates convincing fakes and brands must work double time to protect integrity, build consumer trust and keep the truth intact.
“In 2024, AI’s impact on advertising will hit a critical point. AI’s ability to generate convincing fakes is making it harder for people to distinguish real from fake, a significant issue in advertising where truth is crucial. The technology is evolving rapidly, lowering the entry barrier and blurring the line between authenticity and artificiality.
The advertising sector faces a dilemma. It needs to balance AI’s creative and personalization benefits against the risks of AI-generated false content. This challenge is crucial for maintaining brand integrity and ensuring a safe, truthful online environment. Brands must use advanced AI to effectively understand online content’s intent and context. The focus on ethical AI use in advertising will intensify in the coming year, as brands aim to navigate this new terrain without sacrificing authenticity and trust.”
The quest for quality will be top of marketers’ minds in 2024
Programmatic dominance will continue, but buyers will wage war on waste.
“Programmatic’s dominance of ad buying is unlikely to be challenged in 2024. However, the opacity and complexity of the buying process means marketers can find themselves increasingly wasting their precious budget down inefficient supply paths on low quality impressions, when in pursuit of buying ‘efficiencies’. This must change in the coming year if marketers are to drive ROI even as ad budgets are buffeted by economic headwinds.
To do this there needs to be a paradigm shift in supply chain decisions. Buying needs to be smarter, with spend put towards ads that are actually seen by humans in safe and suitable contextual environments. Those who increase investment upfront to refocus emphasis on quality in their supply chain — including optimising against KPIs with growing importance like brand safety and suitability, contextual placement as well as supporting quality journalism, diverse content producers and measuring carbon impact — will see higher quality impressions, and ultimately, better ROI for companies’ macro objectives this year.”
FAST channels will continue to thrive
FAST channels promise targeting, measurement and addressability for advertisers, and speed linear’s decline.
“Linear TV will continue to decline, as consumers access their favourite shows and content through a wide variety of channels and platforms. With economic factors still impacting subscription services, free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels will grow in popularity with consumers – with marketers following suit.
“FAST platforms offer advertisers access to large audiences against recognisable, linear TV-type content, as well as on-demand content; combining the best of linear and digital. Since FAST is over-the-top (OTT) content, information is sent to the app and can also be sent back, providing a better understanding of who is watching. FAST can also be coupled with innovative targeting solutions, such as on-device technology, to make it more addressable, enabling brands to serve tailored, contextualised, and relevant content to key audiences.”
Advertisers will need to spend smarter
Marketers will increasingly rely on programmatic to secure flexible, fast, optimised performance across multiple platforms.
“As CTV continues its impressive growth into 2024 – bolstered by more ad spend as brands look for cookie-free alternatives – marketers will need to spend smarter in this highly-effective environment in order to stand out. They will also be hoping to reap the benefits of audiences flocking to watch two major sporting events this summer: the Paris Olympics and UEFA’s European Football Championship.
Increasingly next year, we will see marketers relying on programmatic buying on CTV to ensure flexibility, speed, and real-time optimisation as they look to reach audiences across a range of streaming environments. Similarly creative and dynamic ad formats – such as interactive ads with QR codes – will be utilised more to tap into the highly-engaged audiences tuning into these major sporting events, to drive performance directly.”
CTV’s rise will spur a scramble
As CTV attracts more ad spend through increased inventory, we will see other contenders jostle to prove value.
“Although CTV budgets will take even more from linear in 2024, decisions will be increasingly performance-driven as marketers feel the pressure to prove ROAS.
“The top guns – Disney, Netflix and Amazon – will introduce more ad inventory into the CTV space, boasting additional first-party data for targeting, alongside their premium brand and content. This will leave the rest of the space scrambling to prove their value, resulting in a further shift into programmatic and efforts to drive down CTV prices. Add to the mix the trend for Gen Z to spend more time on their phones and we see Google, TikTok and Meta getting more screen-share and driving CTV prices down even more. The traditional single screen unifying a family to consume content together is shifting as household members start to make their own content choices on multiple devices.”
Sustainable brands will come out on top
Consumers will gravitate towards brands that prioritise ESG efforts.
“Almost half of shoppers feel ‘very optimistic about the future’ in 2023 but over two thirds say that rising living costs and energy prices are curbing their spending. Big ticket items and luxury goods are feeling the pinch, and consumers are shopping around more, which potentially buys more opportunity for brands to forge connections with new customers in 2024. The best news is that there is fertile ground in the field of sustainability, with three in four consumers saying it is equally or more important to them than before that brands are socially and environmentally responsible, even in the current economic situation. Almost two thirds (64%) of consumers want to choose brands based on environmental and social factors, but lack enough information. This points to a knowledge gap that brands can fill in 2024 by communicating their core values to consumers, and making sure they practise what they preach.”
Driving success in the digital age
Brands will look to personalized pathways and interactive ad formats to close sales.
“In 2024, advertisers should look to interactive video to showcase products and increase consumer engagement. The dynamic nature of this format means they can create personalised pathways for shoppers, offering them a choice of items to look at, detailed product information and even real-time pricing and stock levels. Brands can also boost engagement through choose-your-own-adventure style videos, quizzes or even polls that uncover insights about their target consumers.
“By utilising the right technologies and partnering with premium publishers that match their audience profile, brands can drive conversions and boost ROI by giving consumers the chance to make a purchase directly within an ad. In-stream checkout features that enable brands to create a seamless path to purchase at the moment of inspiration will transform advertising in the year ahead.”