Changing Times (Again)

Every once in a while Spot-On likes to get a little high minded. And no, we are not inhaling.

We are instead contemplating trends worth noting for our customers. Here’s the first one, you might say the only one that matters: There are as many smart phones in the country as there are TV sets. And those phones – and we’re talking about iPads and tablets as well – can show good-quality video. Even without video, some mobile apps see audiences that rival in size those for TV shows.

That’s sparked two changes. One, cookies – those pieces of code used to identify characteristics associated with a group of individuals – aren’t as effective. Two, the rise of ad blocking software.

It is Spot-On’s high-minded opinion that ad-blocking software is less of an issue with folks looking at news and information sites – the best places to find voters. Blockers are most popular among folks who use phones for games, particularly younger men.

But there are other follow-on effects to the increase in mobile usage and audience size. Here are a few.

First, traditional news publisher see increased use of mobile as a way to reset their pricing and ad packaging.  They’re changing ad formats, creating new, richer ad units and generally being a bit more aggressive about how they sell – especially since on mobile they’re seeing no weekend drop-offs, common with desktop displays.

So prices for online ads are heading up. Not dramatically but the days of the effective $5,000 ad buy are gone.

This all comes as junk sites are getting the boot from pretty much everyone. The ad tech business – the backbone of what we and others do – is experiencing what people in our expanded hometown of Silicon Valley like to call a “flight to quality”. Translation: “People who sell junk are going out of business.”

This “flight” comes from the pressure brand advertisers like Coke and Toyota are putting on online ads to start performing. To keep their customers happy, reputable ad exchanges are pushing poor performing sites – sites they suspect are buying traffic, sites that deploy bots instead of showing ads to people – to the bottom of the barrel.

Bowing to pressure from brands, ad networks and exchanges are looking instead at measurements like ‘vieawability’. They’re monitoring sites to see if real people come by. There’s some talk about better monitoring ads, too. And there’s a lot of cranky behavior between advertisers and outlets about metrics

Meanwhile, over at the big websites and media outlets, there’s talk about new forms of advertising, new ways to show ads to readers and viewers that are not standard banners or little cubes with video pre-roll in them. These are more expensive formats that mimic the planning and consideration that goes into a TV ad. 

In short – and just in time for a presidential election – much of what political advertisers have been taking for granted is changing. And it will change again as ad tech companies merge, new ad formats are rolled out and publishers keep pushing to take control of their advertising.

Luckily, the brunt of that will be in the off-year. So look for even MORE change in 2018. Don’t worry, fearless readers, we’ll keep you up-to-date.

Want our read on breaking news? Follow us on Twitter. Or you can hang with us on Facebook. For those of you who like the more personal touch, Spot-On’s founder Chris Nolan will be part of a panel “How is Paid Media Adjusting to the New Normal?”  at the American Association of Political Consultants Los Angeles Regional Conference on June 14. Come join us!