Ad-Tech online advertising expo, Olympia

A day at the AdTech expo at Kensington Olympia confirmed that smartphones are fulfilling their promise to dominate the UK’s online market place, ahead of schedule. Apparently, 37% of us have smartphones already and that figure is set to hit 50% in the next few months.

At least, that’s what I think the presenter said. Unfortunately, the seminar ‘theatres’ were not enclosed, so it was difficult to hear against the background noise, or to see the slide on the screen, due to the bright sunlight poking its fingers through the arched glass roof. So bear with me, and verify the details before you enter into any kind of argument based upon them.

Ad Tech, Olympia, 21-22 Sept, 2011

The view from the gallery

Smartphone sales already exceed the figures for new PCs, there is more rich media content available and network connections are improving, so the mobile devices we carry around will soon become the default way of browsing the internet.

It must be challenging for advertising agencies to produce creative content in several different formats for delivery to PCs, tablets and the various mobile phone formats and operating systems. They have different screen sizes and technical constraints (e.g. do they support Java?). Then comes the complication of delivering the correct creative to each device. I know from experience that the iPad alone, for example, needs at least four versions of rich media content to be delivered: in both landscape and portrait formats for the two orientations, along with static versions.

Ad servers now have automated systems to cope with these burgeoning complications. They are necessarily becoming increasingly sophisticated to meet the requirements of the advertisers. For example, a global corporation might run several different campaigns simultaneously, promoting different products from its range. Ad servers need to deliver the appropriate version of the correct creative to a variety of target audiences.

One of the biggest problems with online advertising, since its inception, has been the management of inventory. This is similar to the advertising space in a newspaper or magazine but, in a printed publication, the figures are fixed, finite and measureable. In contrast, online inventory is as difficult to pin down as a blancmange on a rollercoaster. For instance, you might anticipate a particular web page in your online magazine will achieve 100,000 impressions when the figure could double due to it becoming unexpectedly newsworthy.

At present, publishers manage the inventory and report the analytics to the agencies, but this is changing. Development is underway to give agencies realtime campaign tracking, which will soon allow them to manage their own creatives. This represents an interesting shift of control, away from the publishers.

Improvements in the accuracy and timeliness of the reporting of these statistics should help to ‘monetize’ (ugh!) the remnant inventory. Publishers have been very inefficient in identifying and exploiting this asset and the problem is even greater in the mobile market.


Yahoo! making their first appearance at Ad-Tech

I attended a presentation about semantics technology, which will be a welcome boost to advertisers and publishers alike. At present, there are unfortunate situations where a web page carries a story about a car crash, for example. The crude content analysis recognises the car reference and displays a car advert on the page. Ouch. The new software is smart enough to recognise the context and generates metadata with fields for ideas, emotions, motivations, behaviours, people, places and brands. This is more likely to ensure that appropriate advertising content is served to any given page.

The same principle will allow advertisers to buy space in real time on social media platforms. For instance, if I posted a comment on Facebook about looking for a new car, or seeking recommendations for a restaurant, this would be an ideal advertising opportunity. This is a powerful tool, supported by robust data that demonstrates how much more effective it can make online display advertising.

This posting barely scratches the surface and, of course, there were many other seminars, discussions and hot topics. For more information, take a look at

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