Digital advertising is a £165 billion industry, but it is one that has a fairly significant problem. Yet after a gathering of key decision makers last week, we may be one step closer to a long-term solution.
Let’s take a step back. Think about the way you’ll spend your day today, from avoiding eye contact on the commute to checking your phone before you head to bed. According to recent data, you’ll spend a third of the day “online”; in five years’ time it’ll be even more. And whether you’re checking emails, Googling, booking tickets or wasting time on Snapchat, it’s fuelling our era-defining appetite for all things digital – an appetite strong enough to support dozens of new industries and millions of new jobs. Ultimately, many of those industries and people are reliant on doing one thing well: monetising your attention.
Digital media owners – the ones who make the content, services and platforms we now love and use daily – need to make money. And that’s where you come in. For most of them, your attention is a valuable commodity, and one they happily trade in the search for a sustainable business model. From the first time you clicked ‘like’ on Facebook to the next time you let Alexa write your shopping list – you leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs that helps sellers sell, advertisers advertise, and a few intermediaries take a cut along the way. Sounds fair and simple, right?
Sadly not. The digital media supply chain has very quickly become very cluttered – riddled with loopholes, blind spots, hidden costs and more. Every link in the chain played their part, meaning that despite exponential growth, the burgeoning adtech industry was (morally) built on sand. “Where there’s mystery, there’s margin” says Jaguar Land Rover executive Ian Armstrong, in a new report from Clarity client iotec – the independent, transparent media buying platform. Even the world’s most successful tech giants – the pioneers of commoditising our digital lives – have faced backlash and reputational damage over transparency and control of content. Brands are growing worried, as made clear by some major stick-rattling by FMCG giant Unilever just last week.