Trends in Online Advertising

Over the last 5 years we’ve seen galvanizing trends that have both propelled and wounded the ad industry. The things that helped or hurt us (the publishing and ad industry) aren’t always so obvious.

Ad Blockers

Ad blockers is all that anyone talked in Q3 of 2015. Some ad blockers made it to the top 10 most downloaded apps on iTunes and Google Play. We all ran around proclaiming Armageddon, yet ad blockers saved the industry. We started to pay attention to IAB standards a little more, and we started to balance user experience against our programmatic strategy. Ad blockers forced publishers to regulate themselves. It’s hard for people to admit, but shady, shakedowns like ADP have ensured that we do not become a Japan or China in terms of ad intrusions.

Fraud Traffic

Q1 of 2016 has been marred with reports of fraud traffic and the overall slow death of display advertising. While there’s some truth to both, we (the publishing industry) responded quickly and robustly to ensuring that fraud doesn’t speed up display’s (inevitable?) demise. Third party reporting and robust fraud traffic detection made it in to our solutions. Again, our stoicism turned a negative into a saving grace. Those publishers that survive(d) now have built more trust with their ad partners than ever.


With all the fancy big data, machine learning, targeting and retargeting in this industry, it’s funny that the biggest trend has been to simply answer the question whether the intended user has even seen the delivered impression. So much so that Google lost it’s accreditation for its viewability metric (in DFP) towards the end of 2016. Think about that. Arguably the worlds most sophisticated company with the most sophisticated algorithms (and hardware), could not reliably tell us if someone saw an ad impression. (It was a really bad year for Google). Again, the industry compensated by using third parties like MOAT. It’s another way we have slowed the death crawl of the standard IAB display unit. Good publisher now have more credibility with advertisers than, even, Google!

Ad Tech

While ad tech improved across the board, all those advancement were overshadowed by some client side javascript code: header bidding. Smaller exchanges were at the brink of death in Google’s walled chamber (DFP), but header bidding pulled them out and let them compete without incurring severe costs to users (load times). Suddenly, bids were visible to publishers, and it opened up a whole new wave of creativity on the supply side. More than that, it raised publisher’s CPMs while at the same time decreasing load times. This seems only like good news, but it also left some bad players who deliver low-quality or, worse, malicious fill. All the onus is now left on publishers to police, catch, and punish the exchanges in their HB implementation. While this issue occurred before, the problem multiplied when publishers implemented more and more ad exchanges.

I hope to tackle some of these past trends in our space. 

  • Rise of Pre-roll (and why it’s bad for most publishers)
  • Demise Native Suggested Content Widgets
  • Rise of Native & Sponsored Content (and why it’s great for advertisers and publishers, but awful for society)
  • The complete erosion of the separation between church and state in publishing
  • Beautiful ads that customers can value (as ads)


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