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OTT, In-game, In-app… Advertising Is Expanding Across More Channels, But What About The Risks?

What’s ad tech’s riskometer score as we enter 2020?

Photo by Anton from Pexels

Author, Luke Taylor

In a time when data protection and consumer privacy are so high on the agenda, it is becoming harder for advertisers to track their users across the digital landscape. To cut through to your audience in a post-cookie world, creativity is going to be the order of the day. 

In the decade ahead, we will see intrusive advertising tactics give way to a new age in creativity, enabled by new channels and exciting new technologies. 

Over the top (OTT) media offerings were slower to launch in Southeast Asia, as compared to its Western counterparts. Yet according to IAB SEA + India, today 6 of 10 countries with the highest consumption of online TV and streaming globally are from Southeast Asia. New services, increasing smartphone adoption and evolving media consumption habits are highlighted as key drivers. 

Meanwhile, existing channels for advertising are being galvanised with innovations that promise to better connect advertisers and their audiences. 

So, what is in store for advertising?

A new contender for consumer attention: OTT

OTT platforms are rapidly growing in number, with international giants such as Netflix being joined by local competitors like Viu, iflix, and HOOQ, bypassing traditional broadcast.  

A survey by Dataxis estimated 4 million paid subscription video-on-demand accounts in the region, with the number set to grow to 6.2 million by 2022. Despite the growth in OTT publishers in the region or potentially because of it, it is increasingly clear that not every OTT publisher can be sustained on a subscription model. So as more OTT publishers turn to advertising for revenue, we expect to see growth in OTT and VOD inventory in the region.

Buying OTT advertising inventory on these platforms, for the most part, remains  similar to that of TV where advertisers tend to go directly to the OTT platform or publisher to purchase ad space. However, there is a growing supply of OTT inventory on programmatic exchanges, which opens a door for fraud to get into the equation.  

An unsophisticated spoofing scheme was recently discovered, where to display inventory on Grindr was spoofed as expensive OTT inventory. While some reports indicate that like overall OTT inventory, programmatic OTT inventory is also growing, it does raise the question – how much of that growth in programmatic OTT is genuine inventory and how much is fraud? As a new channel, there is a big opportunity for advertisers as well as a big opportunity for fraudsters to take advantage of lower awareness and fraud-fighting capabilities.

Galvanising in-app advertising

It’s no surprise that advertisements are now commonplace in apps; after all, users spent 136 minutes a day on mobile in 2018, so what better way to get their attention? 

However, advertisers are now coming up with more and more interactive ways to hook audiences, moving beyond the usual banners, and into video and interactive “gamified” advertisements. In-app is looking more attractive than ever – to the extent that Facebook has taken the bold decision to shut down mobile-web advertising through its Audience Network, and will be focusing purely on in-app advertising instead. Some might speculate that ad fraud and viewability issues cited as contributing factors to Facebook’s LiveRail closure may have also played a role in the decision to shut down the mobile-web arm of Audience Network.

With 5G just around the corner, we can expect to see even more innovation and creativity in ad formats. Faster download speeds mean richer media can be used to engage audiences, providing a streamlined and interactive experience.

Reaching your audience through games

In-game advertising is nothing new – in 2008, the Obama presidential campaign involved displaying banner ads in static virtual billboards around the track of racing game Burnout Paradise. 

However, fast-forward to today, pre-defined spaces in a game’s 3D environment have become far more dynamic. Ad serving technology and internet speeds mean display ads can now be purchased in real-time using in-game programmatic bidding. It’s no surprise that advertising in-game is rising in popularity: a study by Limelight Networks found that audiences spent an average of 7 hours and 7 minutes in-game in a week, an increase of 19.3% from 2018. In response, game developers are also ready to capitalise on the influx of eyeballs.  

More sophisticated tech gives brands the ability to get even more creative with the ways they reach out to their audiences: Wendy’s created an avatar to take part in Fortnite’s Food Fight with a goal to destroy all in-game freezers (they never use frozen beef). Viewership on streaming sites such as Twitch and YouTube contributed to a successful campaign, resulting in gamers and streamers alike joining the cause to break all freezers.  

As it becomes harder to see and track each prospective customer, the context of where you advertise and your ability to cut through the noise to engage those users are becoming more and more important.

A threat yet looms…

Of course, with new advertising opportunities comes an increased potential for risk – and while we’ve seen successful examples of brands and networks taking action, lo and behold, fraud still continues to permeate most avenues, turning the benefits of advertising into shortcomings. A study conducted by TrafficGuard and Juniper Research estimated that US$17 million was lost by advertisers in the APAC region every day.

It’s important to remember that the fraudsters of today are not, as Hollywood might lead us to believe, lone wolves operating from dingy basements. They are capable of innovation, rapidly developing new ways of committing fraud, just as how the advertising industry develops new ways to reach out to audiences. And with the developments in advertising, fraudsters are sure to capitalise on emerging channels in order to get a portion of advertisers’ ad spend.

In fact, most advertising for channels old and new is still done through exchanges, which, for all their convenience, do essentially introduce opaque barriers to the supply chain, preventing advertisers from having full visibility of their campaigns.

Fighting back against the fraudsters

That’s not to say there haven’t been developments – for example, advertisers have become more vigilant in tracking their numbers and KPIs. However, the real fight should lie not within fighting among ourselves to reconcile costs at the end of a month – but rather in steps to proactively prevent fraud from impacting your campaigns in the first place.

It’s exciting to see a wave of advertising creativity on the horizon – but Adland needs to remember that fraud exists across all forms of advertising, and put measures in place to protect their ad spend. If everyone protects their own budgets, collectively we make the business model of ad fraud unprofitable.

By Luke Taylor, Chief Operations Officer and Founder of TrafficGuard

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