Reading the Digital Tea Leaves


Editor Note: A series of contributed stories that look forward to next year.

Fanscape founders Larry Weintraub and Terry Dry give their predictions.

Other predictions from Adam Wicks Walker, Chief Strategy officer of Hydra.

From Chris Aarons, CEO of Buzz Corps, Denise Zimmerman, President & CSO of NetPlus Marketing, and Kevin Barenblat, CEO of Context Optional are here

Jim Sterne, Jaffer Ali, Ken Miller and Dave Hendricks’ predictions are here.

And  from Chris Dessi, vice president of sales and business development at MIVA Direct.

2009: A Banner Year for Online Advertising

ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — If all news seems bad lately, then I may have some good news for ad networking and the interactive industry. The New Year is rapidly approaching and 2009 has the potential to be a banner year (pun intended). You say we’re approaching single digit growth for the first time in years? You say that the banner ad is dead? You say marketing budgets are flat? You say everyone is in a wait-and-see stance? It all may be valid, but there are also some signs that indicate 2009 will be a great year for online advertising. Here’s why:

We tend to have status quo in interactive as long as things are happily moving forward. Real change is usually driven out of necessity and hardship and that is just what has been raining down upon the broader economy and the online advertising sector of late. Tough economic conditions are causing marketers to put on the brakes and re-evaluate how they spend online. Marketers are asking all kinds of difficult new questions to their media suppliers. And those media suppliers, much like the American automotive manufactures, are finding they have to retool in response. And retool they must if they want to stand out or even just survive in this bear economy.

But how do we retool the already complex process of delivering media effectively? How do we respond to our clients with new levels of performance and return on their ad spend when it seems like the limits are already being pushed? Where do we look for the key to unlock a new plateau of performance and ways to take interactive to the next level? Is it the promise of the semantic Web, which has been looming large on the horizon for years, which will finally come to the rescue of interactive? Or will it be mobile? Or maybe video? Or will it be something entirely new and unforeseen?

The answer lies in a confluence of several technological forces that have been gradually maturing right in front of our eyes for years — and their combination has the potential to revolutionize how advertising is done online. Can you imagine for a moment what the user experience will be like when we can layer together the very best contextual targeting solutions with burgeoning localization tools and optimized rich media creatives, all on a real-time, free market ad exchange platform? This scenario is very real and has the potential to make 2009 a surprisingly solid year for the online advertising industry.

It all starts, and ends, with the user experience. When we stop focusing on the traditional mode of looking for clicks and customer acquisitions and finally get it right from the user’s perspective, we will change online advertising forever. And to do so, we have to start with meaning and understanding through context. Once we know the “aboutness” of every piece of adverting inventory with exacting detail, we can begin to really speak to the user regarding whatever it is they are engaged in and passionate about. And we can do so at a time and place in which users are incredibly receptive to our messages. Then they want our message, it becomes part of the story and even helps them learn and grow. When our messages become so ingrained in their conversation that it becomes an integral part, then we find real engagement: And clicks and sign-ups, subscriptions, and actions all follow.

In concert with context is the exciting local layer to online advertising that has picked up considerable momentum of late as consumers have come to rely upon the Internet to make important locally focused decisions. Once we have the contextual foundations in place, we can begin to more fully understand how location can positively influence and shape our messages — and we have the beginnings of a powerful new campaign strategy.

Next is the presentation layer, with another exciting and newer field to watch in 2009 being optimized creatives. In 2009, I look for this to mature to include optimized rich media and we’ll then be off to the races. Fascinating new algorithms and processes are already being used to hone in on the best performing creative. When this is done in concert with an improved understanding of the context and the location layers, and done using rich media instead of the static creatives we have today, the presentation can transcend the traditional ad spot and become part of the inventory itself.

Of course, we ultimately need a mechanism to make the process more effective for the advertiser and more profitable for publisher. It needs to be open and scalable. And it must have massive reach. I believe it is the continued advent of the ad exchange that will provide the final layer and complete the puzzle for online advertising to have a bigger 2009 than most expect.

By putting it all together, starting with the user experience, we have a mighty compelling picture for the coming year and beyond. A contextually relevant and localized message in an optimized rich media format delivered by an open, free market exchange will be key to our industry’s ability to retool and meet the changing demands of the new breed of budget-tightened marketer for 2009 and after. When a user is presented with a campaign based on this new breed of advertising, it will no longer be classic advertising, but rather it will be part of user’s interaction with the Web and therefore entirely more digestible.

Yes, 2009 budgets will be tighter than in recent years, but when we are doing so much more with the same spend, it will actually continue to foster innovation. Even with the current downturn, I believe that so much of the traditional ad spend will move online that it will offset whatever difficulties we are seeing right now. The combination of these advertising forces will finally outshine all the traditional venues combined. So much so that it could release significant ad spend that has been pent up for the last few years, stuck between fading traditional media and the as-of-yet unrealized promise of online.

In looking at 2009, to do more with less and help marketers with their flat budgets and new accountability burden, we need a revolution like this in performance advertising. Not the evolutionary steps we’ve seen over the last few years but radical new ways of reaching the user, engaging them, inserting a message into the social media fabric, and accelerating the message velocity beyond anything that has come before. It is the contextually relevant and localized message in an optimized rich media creative on an open, free market exchange that has the potential to achieve this and forever change how online advertising performs.

So I am actually thankful for this bear economy that is forcing us to come up with better mouse traps for online advertising to survive, grow and thrive. And since these technological stars have already been shining down on the promised land of interactive, I believe we are poised for a solid new year and a cornucopia of fruitful campaigns in 2009. Strange as it may seem in today’s economic climate, with these potentially revolutionary solutions looming large, 2009 is looking brighter for interactive advertising than most people think.


  1. Thanks Peter, a great read. I believe we are already seeing some of these predictions come to fruition like the collapse of CPM pricing and the blurring of what is premium vs what is remnant for instance. This will be the year of the performance networks and possibly even the big consolidation. No matter what it will be exciting!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here