Despite being half way through 2017, June was a month that posed more questions than answers for the future of tech; not only for the rest of the year but for years to come. Here’s what we learned.
Now or Never for Snapchat?
Whilst Snap’s share price has continued to fall throughout June, the month has seen Snapchat launch a bunch of products to prove it can compete. At the start of June Snap officially opened up its new self-serve ad option as it looks to attract advertisers of all sizes — check out this handy guide to Snapchat Ads. Meanwhile; Snap also released a Publisher tool for building video creative and a Certified Partner program to connect advertisers with 3rd party adtech tool providers.
Fuelling their ambitions further Snap signed a $100m deal with Time Warner to produce original content and advertising on the platform over the next 2 years. There’s also potential for Snap to jump onto the location-based ad trend after it acquired social map app Zenly to launch a new location feature, and acquired location analytics platform Placed to help prove their ads drive offline actions.
Can the duopoly really become a triopoly? Are marketers ready to take the Oath?
Oath is perhaps a more serious candidate to break the digital ad duopoly. In July 2016, Verizon agreed to acquire Yahoo and nearly one year on Verizon-owned AOL has continued to build out its digital capabilities including the launch of BrandBuilder suite, the self serve ad platform “One by AOL”, and mobile app header bidding product Smart Yield. Combining AOL with Yahoo to create Oath will mean a reach of 1bn+ users (targeting 2bn by 2020) and 50 media, technology and advertising brands. In melding Yahoo and AOL with its own mobile phone and internet data, Verizon is betting that it can capture more of the advertising dollars that are shifting online, specifically to mobile screens.
According to the most recent reports, Oath will seek a “differentiated” relationship with consumers from Google and Facebook. How? They’re aiming to combine scale, assets and data with a safe & trusted environment for users to engage with advertisers with the aim of being the largest, cleanest source of consumer traffic and data.
Apple take aim at Voice hardware market
Apple has joined the voice hardware battle with the launch of the HomePod. With the new iOS 11 due out in September, Siri will be a key focus with the ability to carry out actions with more apps including language translations and better understanding of context, interests and more. Apple calls this “Siri intelligence”.
Voice is gaining acceptance overall too with nearly half of global smartphones users using voice at least once a month, so it’s no surprise to see voice integration platform Snips raise $13m as they look to bring voice to devices beyond Alexa & Home. There will be obstacles ahead though; for instance, a recent Amazon policy change has led to problems for voice ad platform AudioLabs. We should also note Amazon’s launch of the Echo Show to integrate a screen to their voice device, as well as Alibaba’s reported Echo clone in China as the voice buzz continues.
Mobile finally taking a majority in Digital Adspend
GroupM downgraded its UK adspend projections recently as a result of political uncertainty and brand safety issues — though internet is still in double-digit growth this year at least and is being driven largely by mobile. MAGNA Global meanwhile is estimating that 54% of Global Digital adspend will be mobile, and with 5bn+ (and growing) unique mobile users, Mobile could finally be taking its thrown at the top of the digital hierarchy.
In geographic terms; whilst UK (+1.9%) and US (+1.6%) are key markets, growth is coming from Rising Markets such as China (+7.3%), India (+11.5%) and Russia (+9.6%) — markets where mobile has a heavy influence. Rising markets have been touted in Zenith’s most recent estimates too — specifically China, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Russia and Mexico; whilst MENA region will struggle.
Google’s EU Fine
Google was fined €2.4bn by the EU for abusing its dominance in Search this month — specifically in its comparison shopping services. It’s a bold move that ends a 7 year investigation, a span of time that has seen Amazon become the dominant online shopping player; whilst the rise of social commerce and improvements in online retailers’ online presence has changed the market vastly. Whilst the fine will do little to dent the $92bn+ Google has in the bank, their response to the fine and sanctions will be interesting to watch. The impact of giving smaller price comparison sites equal treatment, for instance, could be hugely damaging to the UX of Google’s Shopping Search that is currently reserved for retailers so takes a user direct to a product page. Adding Google’s competitors & other shopping comparison sites adds another step to the journey.
Beyond online search the move represents potential for fines elsewhere if, for instance, Facebook locks up markets using its 2bn monthly users or Amazon abuses its power in ecommerce.
Some other key things to watch for:
- Blockchain in the Ad Ecosystem. MetaX & DMA launch of Adchain — a blockchain driven ad platform — to provide an open and comprehensive record of digital ad transactions, a repository of trusted identities and smart contracts. This news comes at a time when the AdLedger Consortium recently met to discuss how blockchain technology can bring increased transparency and data security to the ad tech supply chain.
- Interactive & Playable ads taking off. With AdColony launching Aurora video ads — interactive video ads aimed at driving more engagement — and IronSource saying their playable ads performed 300% better than standard video ads this could be a space to watch.
- Rising power of the digital image. A month that started with Pinterest raising $150m followed by news around Snap and continued buzz over VR & AR is continuing to push the potential around visual recognition, search and commerce. Google unveiled Advr too to start experimenting with ads in VR.
- Tech giants taking over ad blocking. Whilst Google confirmed an ad blocker for Chrome and a funding choices tool to allow publishers to ask ad blocker users for micropayments; Apple and Twitter also announced an ad blocking solutions.
- Nana & Grandad on Facebook. According to the latest Ofcom report the term “Social Seniors” has been coined to describe the rampant rise of over-65s going online e.g. 4 in 10 over-65s now use a smartphone and nearly half of them have social profiles too.
- Experiential marketing focus. Customer experience is next key brand battle according to Salesforce, with tech — specifically AI — being key for driving such personalisation. The need for personalisation is evidenced by Salesforce research that suggests 52% of consumers worldwide were likely to switch brands if a company didn’t personalise communications to them.