The online advertising world is both exciting and challenging, as it often changes overnight. Blink, and you may miss out on a key development.

Smart players should position themselves ahead of the curve in 2015, strategizing and soaking in predictions about where the market will head next year. This approach will enable them to continue successfully building their business, whether as publishers, advertisers, or technology partners.

So what are some of the big ad tech marketing trends expected in 2015?

1. Programmatic targeting of content, not just ads.

Programmatic targeting of ads is now very common for brands and advertisers. In 2015, we’ll see a critical mass of publishers begin to leverage behavioral data to programmatically target content to optimize experiences for users on publishers’ sites.

Content will be personalized and specifically aimed at individual consumers on websites and blog pages, similar to the way ads have been targeted until now. Medium-to-large sized publishers will also invest in data management platforms and in-house programmatic resources.

2. Content marketing spend will need to deliver a more measurable ROI impact.

Currently, many popular and influential content marketing platforms are used to power native advertising campaigns. However, these types of campaigns have been treated as brand campaigns in terms of the metrics of success used to measure their impact, including page views, retweets, likes, and other, standard metrics.

In 2015, we’ll start to see more sophisticated means of measuring the impact of content marketing campaigns, leveraging multi-attribution techniques to understand the downstream impact on conversion caused by these higher-funnel marketing activities. For example, a brand might spend $1 million on a native advertising campaign but not understand to what degree — if any — that investment impacted ROI.

In 2015, marketers also will become more interested in correlating their spend on content marketing to a more measurable impact on overall sales and ROI, and technology partners will start to offer the means to measure that impact.

3. A critical mass of merchants will finally optimize their mobile affiliate tracking capabilities.

Mobile phone usage has continued to escalate, with 2014 seeing mobile devices and tablets overtaking desktop computers as the preferred means of browsing on publisher and retailer websites. While the browsing experience is now largely optimized for mobile devices, the same cannot be said for tracking of performance campaigns on mobile devices.

Conversion rates on mobile phones are significantly lower, many mobile browsers do not support cookies, and affiliate tracking technology is still playing catch-up on mobile devices. Next year, we can expect to see retailers work continuously to improve conversion tracking and affiliate payouts in order to satisfy the demands of their increasingly mobile publishers.

4. The startup bubble will deflate slightly and result in consolidations of a fragmented adtech startup market.

The last few years have seen an avalanche of entrepreneur startup companies, many focusing on the adtech space. While this has resulted in a great deal of innovation — publishers and advertisers have benefited from a wealth of choices for optimizing their ad spend — we’ll start to see this slow down as some of these companies struggle to raise successive rounds of funding.

In 2015, unfortunately, we’ll see many of these ad tech startups struggle and opt for consolidations with other startups.

5. Point solutions will struggle, and clients will shift their desire to want to work with more full-funnel marketing suites.

In a similar vein, some adtech companies offering point solutions will also start to struggle, as an overwhelmed publisher and advertiser community will prefer to work with fewer partners, opting for ad tech companies offering full-funnel marketing suites. This likely will result in further consolidations of the fragmented adtech market, resulting in stronger conglomerates offering their customers a number of key services combined.

6. Publishers will develop sophisticated in-house capabilities for behaviorally programmatic targeting of premium advertising.

Historically, publishers have worked with ad networks and other programmatic adtech partners to outsource their programmatic ad targeting. However, in 2014, a number of larger publishers started to bring this capability in-house, and invest in infrastructure to manage their audience data, such as data management platforms.

The success of these early movers will encourage more publishers to follow suit in 2015. Publishers will start to charge advertisers the same (or likely higher) rates that have historically been paid for run-of-site behavioral targeting inventory.

7. Ad blockers will become as big of a problem in 2015 as “viewability” was in 2014.

The increasing technical sophistication of the adtech market and the increasing demands on accountability by advertisers saw ‘viewability’ become a dominant theme in 2014. Technologies that can filter out automated bot traffic and determine if a human truthfully saw an ad are regularly used now despite it reducing impression metrics significantly. This movement will continue in 2015, with attention turned towards ad blocker software.

Ad blockers (in the form of toolbars and browser extensions) have quietly gained popularity by users wanting a faster, ad-free browsing experience. However, a little-known fact about these ad blocker companies is that they monetize by charging ad companies to let their ads bypass the blocking software. While a marginal problem in the early days, the popularity of these ad blockers means that ad revenues for publishers are impacted; on average about 20 percent, though up to 50 percent for publishers with a tech-savvy readership.

In 2015, we will see a variety of solutions emerge on the market, offering various experiences around user-driven personalization of advertising.


alicia-navarroCEO Alicia Navarro became an entrepreneur at an early age, with several ventures under her belt before Skimlinks. Alicia studied technology, earning the university medal for Computing Sciences at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. She worked for over 10 years in Internet applications, designing and launching mobile and Internet-based applications in Australia and the UK, where she eventually launched Skimbit and then Skimlinks. She now splits her time between London and San Francisco.

AI. Messaging. Bots. Arm yourself for the next paradigm shift at MobileBeat 2016. July 12-13 at The Village in San Francisco. Reserve your place here.