Ten years in tech: The industry reflects on the past decade

Over the last ten years, an extraordinary amount of technological development has occurred, not least in the media industry where everything from content to advertising to measurement has changed significantly since 2010. In part one of this feature, Mumbrella’s Hannah Blackiston spoke to ten industry leaders to find out what they considered to be the key changes and where they think the next decade will take us.

The impact of 2019

If you’re trying to identify key issues in technology for 2019, it’s hard to go past trust as one of the biggest. The conversation over the last year often focused around a lack of it, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) concluding its Digital Platform Inquiry (DPI) with recommendations around mass reform and investigation into advertising and the tech giants.

The focus on trust and increased interest in privacy has rolled out across the industry as a whole and led to change in other areas too, says Yun Yip, partnerships and country manager for MediaMath ANZ.

Yun Yip says changes in how consumers view data has had a huge effect on the industry

“The well-publicised ACCC inquiry here and in the US concerning Facebook and the other tech giants has thrust data governance into the mainstream,” says Yip, who also said a focus on openness and wellbeing has spread across the industry in 2019.

Grant Bingham, sales director for GumGum, agreed: “The number one issue has been transparency and trust around both data and fees. As clients demand greater visibility into where the ad dollars are being spent, technology providers have had to become more transparent and efficient.”

Transparency is front and foremost for Grant Bingham

Innovation has been the key focus for others, including Snap Inc’s ANZ general manager Kathryn Carter.

“The last decade has certainly been transformative for the ad tech industry and has ushered in significant innovation and development,” Carter told Mumbrella.

“Snapchat did not exist ten years ago – today it is leading the way in connecting close friends and mobile storytelling. It has been exciting to see new platforms enter and evolve over the last decade, and this has certainly changed the way the ad tech industry today. This change has required new metrics, rigour, best practice and education which has benefited the industry and ultimately consumers.”

Kathryn Carter’s eye has been on new platforms entering the market in the last decade

That innovation has led to expansion in other, more traditional mediums, which has changed the face of the industry over the last 12 months. Yip says the roll out of automation across traditional media, such as radio and television has led the way for change in the industry, and Acast ANZ managing director, Henrik Isakson, agrees that there has been some surges in areas that could have been considered ready to retire.

“The renaissance of audio, including the continued growth or radio and the rise of podcasting, has had a significant and ongoing impact on the ad tech industry,” said Isaksson.

“Many thought online and social would kill off traditional media (including audio), yet the medium remains strong and continues to adapt and grow. With it, audio players like Acast have entered the market and developed new technologies to help advertisers buy audio-on-demand content at scale. Our tech continues to push audio forward and position it as a premium, full-funnel solution for advertisers in Australia and beyond.”

New technology is breathing new life into some mediums says Henrik Isaksson

A decade of change

Data, transparency and privacy weren’t just topics for 2019, says Isaksson. The impact of them has been felt over the last ten years, and won’t stop in 2020.

“The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), now celebrating its first anniversary, has had a wide-reaching impact on the global and Australian tech industry.

User data and privacy remains a hot-button issue and it’s forced many businesses to change how they collect and use data. Data remains an incredibly valuable asset for marketers, but how we record and use it is now more transparent – definitely a good thing.”

Ayaan Mohamud, marketing director of APAC for Impact, also listed the GDPR as one of the biggest changes, as well as the consolidation and mergers the industry has faced over the last ten years.

Mergers and acquisitions have changed the fact of the industry, says Ayaan Mohamud

“Broader than just adtech, the biggest changes have been brought on by the domination of the duopoly of the media titans which now receive over eighty% of all digital advertising spend. This has driven consolidation via mergers and acquisition activity and has seen a number of businesses exit the Australian market – or just gone out of business. We have also seen the rise, fall and repositioning of agency trade desks and, of course, the myriad of changes that GDPR has closed the decade with,” said Mohamud.

Sunita Bose, managing director of DIGI, said people have more power than ever now, thanks to the changes of the last decade.

“Over the last decade, digital technology has brought unprecedented democratising power to individual people. Technology takes small businesses to new heights. A decade ago, you had to be multinational to export products overseas but today, with digital technologies, Australian companies can be “born global”. Technology is also helping small businesses succeed by staying focused. As someone who runs a small organisation myself, I see the incredible value of tools that I use regularly such as Canva and Campaign Monitor in creating efficiency and capability that I wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Bose.

Sunita Bose has been watching new entrants into the market

Bingham listed the strong growth in the programmatic sector as one of the biggest changes, while for Yip and Carter it was new technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) that really stood out. The shift in how brands are targeting younger audiences through partnerships with youth-focused businesses like Snap and the impact of data and personalisation were both important features of the last decade for Carter and Yip also.

IAB Australia CEO Gai Le Roy also listed data as one of the biggest changes.

It’s all about data says Gai Le Roy

“There has been an explosion in the range of inventory traded (video, OOH, streaming audio, podcasts, etc.), the range of devices used (mobile usage represented about 3% of web usage 10 years ago), but probably the biggest change is the amount of data used within media trading. Fittingly as the landscape has changed the ad tech industry has had to keep reinventing to cater for these new environments,” said Le Roy.

Programmatic was also a big change for Google Australia sales director Rhys Williams.

“Programmatic has helped enable super relevant and measurable campaigns at scale, which has helped advertisers and marketers connect with customers in some pretty exciting ways,” said Williams.

Rhys Williams said programmatic has been one of the biggest developments of the decade

Looking forward

While the last decade feels like it has brought unprecedented change and development to the industry, there’s still plenty of room for growth. Many of our experts felt that growth was a key area of focus for 2020, as well as focusing on some areas which have been neglected. A change in approach to data and privacy is top of the priority list for Bingham, while Yip wants a cleaner ecosystem in order to get better results.

Carter is also focused on results in 2020: “Over the past year, there has been greater discussion around the need to create positive experiences online, something which has been core to Snapchat since its inception. We are pleased to see more platforms and brands move away from vanity metrics such as likes and shares, something we’ve always avoided in our efforts to drive positive, safe and meaningful online experiences. It is important for us to take this further and ensure that we focus on thoughtful connections between users and brands.

As the industry moves away from vanity metrics, it is also important for brands and publishers to recognise the power of close friends over influencers. At Snap, we believe that our focus on creating a platform that promotes creativity, authentic relationships and trust sets us up for the long-term and presents a unique opportunity for brands,” she said.

Williams said the industry needs to get ahead of the narrative when it comes to privacy: “As an industry, we’ve got to stay ahead of what users and policymakers expect when it comes to user privacy. This means continuing to find ways to provide helpful and relevant ads and services with the smallest amount of data possible – and giving people even more control, choice and transparency.”

Le Roy agreed: “There needs to be a shift in industry conversation, coverage and action that starts focusing on how our industry drives a positive economic impact for brands and celebrates the range of content that advertising enables to be made available to people.”

Meaningful measurement and thoughtful growth is on the cards in 2020 for Adam Singolda

Adam Singolda, founder and CEO Taboola, is also backing more thoughtful measurement in 2020 and thinks customer loyalty should be at the forefront of discussions.

“Next year, we’ll see brands reprioritize what matters most: profitable growth, not just growth for the sake of growth. Historically, growth has meant spending more to build market share on the hope that market dominance will eventually translate into pricing power and eventual profits. But that model will shift,” said Singolda.

“As the cost of user acquisition continues to grow, 2020 will see marketers place a greater emphasis on loyalty. Mary Meeker cited this in her last Internet Trends Report, noting customer acquisition costs might be ‘rising to unsustainable levels.’ Building long term relationships with consumers, learning how their affinities for things ebb and flow, and delivering constant improvement in marketing messages will be key to 2020 business success.”

Lotame CMO Adam Solomon said tailor-made data solutions will be on the wishlist in 2020 for brands and publishers.

Adam Solomon says publishers and brands will be going tailor-made in 2020

“After not getting what they want from the duopoly, brands and publishers are going to seek more hospitable partners for their data needs. If everyone relies on the same prepackaged data and the same modeling, then presumably no one has a competitive advantage. This is where tailor-made data solutions will be a trend to watch. Unique datasets combined in specific ways based on business needs will yield not only a market advantage but smarter data-driven decision making, planning, activation, and analysis.”


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