As we look back on 2014, it definitely seems like the paid media landscape has changed more in the past 12 months than any other year prior. As usual, we have new technologies, new ad types, algorithm changes and more to reflect on, and even more to look forward to in the coming year. Here is a list of a few of the most memorable/important paid media changes that happened over the past year – it is by no means an exhaustive list, but includes some highlights from the SEM, paid social, and display media space.
Search Engine Marketing
- Google Display Network (GDN) Evolved – If 2013 was the year of Enhanced Campaigns, 2014 was definitely the year of GDN updates. With many great features coming out of beta (e.g. Display Select) we now have significantly better targeting and analysis capabilities. Not only are we able to layer in behavior targeting on top of contextual (keywords), but we can now also analyze our audiences better with demographic insights.
Also, let’s not forget the new ad formats now available, including dynamic product ads.
- Yahoo – Like it or not, Yahoo is really working to revamp their digital ad business with several technology developments, partnerships, and acquisitions. First there was Gemini, Yahoo’s attempt to leverage its own properties and content for native advertising, as well as an all-in-one self-serve interface for managing search and display across mobile. Most recently, it was Yahoo’s partnership with Mozilla, making Yahoo the default search engine within Firefox. Yahoo has pushed this pretty heavily on advertisers as a reason to increase budgets due to increases in search volume. It will be interesting to see how things play out in 2015 and whether Yahoo will take away any market share from Google.
- AdWords Editor – probably the biggest update to the tool… ever. Significantly improved speeds and workflows in version 11.0.1 are great. It includes the ability to download and edit/manage multiple accounts at the same time, on the same screen (or multiple screens if you prefer). Also having access to the Shared Library (sitelinks and bid strategies) and the significantly improved advanced search bar are all great additions. One more bonus, for those of us using 2-step verification (which I recommend for everyone), the new Editor now uses oAuth, so there is no need to create and remember a random, app specific password.
- Facebook’s Algorithm Changes – Brands large and small have been kicking and screaming about the declining reach of their organic Facebook content. What this obviously has meant for those in the paid media space is more media dollars are being allocated to Facebook marketing initiatives – for anything from fan acquisition to lead generation.
- Facebook Advertising Expansion – First, the “Audience Network”, initially announced during the F8 conference in April, was opened up to all advertisers back in October. The nice thing is that it is a simple addition to the ad interface:
Second was the re-launch of Atlas, which made cross-device conversion data available. The big innovation there was that Facebook does not need to rely on cookies from cross-device data, and instead is able to tie things together with the anonymized Facebook user ID. Considering how many sites and apps use Facebook Connect, this should be a pretty powerful and accurate data set.
- Twitter Ads and Twitter Analytics Interface Overhaul – It is needless to say that Twitter has been the laggard in terms of their ad interface functionality – bulk changes are impossible, targeting is limited, and reporting is mediocre at best. However, in recent months, Twitter seems to have taken a page out of Facebook’s book and updated the campaign creation and management interface:
First, we can now overlay multiple targeting criteria on top of each other. Whereas before you had to choose whether you targeted based on TV targeting or keywords, now you can do a combination of both.
Second, Twitter is now guiding us with goal-based campaigns.
The analytics interface also received an upgrade, especially to how we can analyze Twitter Card data.
- Buying Viewable Impressions – viewability has been the paid media buzzword in recent months, and has also stirred up a lot of debate. The IAB guidelines describe a viewable impression as one where at least 50 percent of pixels must be in the viewable portion of an internet browser for a minimum of one continuous second. This is of course an improvement, but there are still some major flaws, seeing as not every ad type is created equal. For example, an argument can be made that if only 50% of a video ad is viewable for 1 second, that isn’t nearly enough time to have any type of impact. We can keep talking about how viable this new viewability measurement is, but most display vendors are now selling viewable impressions, including Google (link: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/products/buying-viewable-impressions.html).
- The other big shift in display media (and for that matter in digital media in general) has been in cross-device attribution. Providers like Tapad, Struq, and a slew of others that have emerged as leaders in cross-device targeting. We also have publishers like Google and Facebook attempting to bridge the device gap. Facebook has one of the most interesting developments, since they are not using cookies for cross-device tracking, but rather the anonymized Facebook user ID as the connecting piece between devices.