By: Anam Amin, Senior Product Manager – Digital Supply and Partnerships at Precision, Publicis Groupe MENA

Adtech industry is as exciting as a rollercoaster, with its rapid pace and unexpected turns. And if 2022 was as crazy as it was, then 2023 should be just as thrilling (or terrifying, depending on your perspective) as well. Marketers and publishers will need to be creative and flexible when looking for cost-effective solutions.

Programmatic advertising is still going strong in mature media forms like CTV, DOOH, in-game, and digital audio. It’s also holding its ground with the help of semantic solutions, first-party data infrastructure, and ID tech, despite the impending ad ID deprecation causing a bit of chaos.

Disclaimer: Buzzwords incoming

1. Privacy Redefined – Privacy is a major concern for both consumers and businesses in the industry. With the rise of Web 3.0, it’s important for industry professionals to understand the latest privacy legislation and how it impacts the current advertising landscape (known as Web 2.0). This is especially important before diving into the “undefined web of decentralization,” as privacy will continue to be a key issue for consumers. For example, in recent years, Netflix has released documentaries that shed light on the ways in which companies can collect and misuse personal data. As a result, consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of protecting their privacy and are increasingly demanding that businesses respect and safeguard it across all digital platforms. Therefore, it’s crucial for industry professionals to be well-informed about privacy legislation and its implications for advertising to build trust with consumers and stay ahead of potential concerns or challenges.

2. Zero/First Party, Unified ID & Contextual Targeting (what’s old is new) – While Google’s decision to stop using third-party cookies may have initially been seen as a threat to the future of digital marketing, marketers and publishers are now more convinced than ever that they can find workarounds. Building trusting relationships with customers has always been essential for marketers to grow their businesses, and in a world where privacy is prioritized, this is even more important. 

Some examples of how brands might use Zero/First Party data, Unified ID, and Contextual targeting include:

2. A: The deprecation of third-party cookies has had a significant impact on brands’ ability to track and build loyalty through targeted advertising. For example, a clothing retailer that previously relied on third-party data to serve targeted advertisements to users who had shown an interest in similar products may no longer have access to that data. As a result, the retailer may struggle to reach and engage these potential customers, which could lead to a decrease in sales.

To overcome this challenge, the retailer could turn to zero-party data, such as by offering a loyalty program that allows customers to opt-in to sharing their preferences and purchase history. This information could be used to deliver personalized recommendations and offers to customers, helping to build loyalty and drive sales. Additionally, the retailer could use first-party data, such as data collected from interactions on its own website or mobile app, to better understand its customers and tailor its marketing efforts. By using zero-party and first-party data, the retailer can still build relationships with customers and improve its marketing efforts, despite the deprecation of third-party cookies.      

2. B: Unified ID identifiers are created based on a secure email address or phone number that is shared with the express consent of the user. It is independent of third-party cookies and supports advertisers’ need for running personalized ads that are targeted to specific consumers without compromising their privacy. It satisfies marketers’ demands for running customized adverts that are targeted to certain customers without compromising their privacy and is independent of third-party cookies. 

2. C: Semantic targeting solutions use content and page context analysis to make sure that ads are only displayed on platforms and content that are brand-safe due to the growing requirement for relevance and context. This immediately addresses the current shortage of attention by utilizing the ability of machine learning to give content understanding that is comparable to human understanding. 

3. Age of Attention currency – The Attention Measurement buzzword has sparked increased interest in the broader topic of brand safety and suitability within the industry. With the advancement of “Attention Measurement,” it seems that we will be paying even more attention to these aspects in the future. Attention measurements are anticipated to make significant strides in the coming year to improve programmatic attribution. But it’s not just about reacting to situations – verified solutions and verification integration can help brands maintain control throughout the entire process of creating, distributing, and monetizing content. Ultimately, it’s about keeping the brand at the top and ensuring that it’s being seen by the right audience.

Scarce resources are the most valuable, and currently attention is considered a scarce resource. Source: Uh, as per an article I read (I saw it on TikTok)

4. Sustainable Practices – Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important topic in the business world, and more and more brands are taking steps to incorporate sustainable practices into their operations. For example, Patagonia, a clothing and outdoor gear company, has long been known for its commitment to sustainability, using recycled materials in its products and supporting environmental conservation efforts. Similarly, Unilever, a consumer goods company, has set a goal of becoming a carbon-neutral business by 2030 and has also committed to using 100% renewable energy in its operations.

The expansion of sustainability-related initiatives in the UAE and Saudi Arabia is a testament to the growing importance of sustainability in the business world. In the UAE, for example, the Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence was established to promote the adoption of sustainable practices in the emirate. The center works with businesses to help them reduce their carbon emissions and become more energy efficient. In Saudi Arabia, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has launched a number of sustainability initiatives, including a program to promote the use of solar energy in the region.

These initiatives demonstrate the commitment of the UAE and KSA to sustainability and the recognition of the importance of sustainable business practices. By supporting the adoption of sustainable practices in their countries, the UAE and KSA are positioning themselves as leaders in sustainability and are helping to drive the adoption of sustainable practices in the region. As such, these initiatives are likely to have an impact on how brands and marketers think about their media strategies and the importance of sustainability in their operations.

5. ROI/ROAS Marketing – As the state of the economy continues to be uncertain, marketers must find ways to justify their advertising budgets and increase their return on investment. The majority of marketers (54%) don’t believe they can accurately measure the ROI of their advertising campaigns, according to a Nielsen study. If marketers want to get the most out of their media budgets, they need to understand what kinds of tactics, platforms, and content perform best with their target demographics.

There are several methods that marketers are using to maximize ROI and ROAS (return on ad spend), such as the use of AI solutions and enhanced omni-channel strategy. Currently, one approach is to use machine learning algorithms to continuously assess customer feedback and improve advertising efforts in real time. To do so, it is possible to look at things like browsing and purchasing habits. Increased conversion rates and improved ROI can be help understand patterns and trends in customer behaviour and then use by providing more personalized and relevant adverts.

Additionally, omni-channel strategies are also being implemented to improve the ROI and ROAS of ad campaigns. These strategies involve using various channels, such as social media, e-commerce platforms, Search, email, and mobile apps, to reach and engage customers. By implementing this approach, agencies can better understand the customer journey and deliver a seamless and consistent brand experience across all channels. This can help increase customer loyalty and drive sales, ultimately leading to a higher ROI and ROAS.

6. Creative Solutions: The use of chatbots and creative technologies is making it easier and more efficient for brands to plan their advertising campaigns. Chatbots allow brands to have conversations with consumers and answer frequently asked questions in a creative way, providing a personalized experience. Ad automation tools also make it easy for brands to create multiple versions of their ads with different messaging and visuals, streamlining the process and helping to scale campaigns.

However, brands need to be aware of the challenges and opportunities of campaign activation to take full advantage of digital innovation. This may include using the right data, information, and collaboration solutions with creative agencies and partners to build ads that are both engaging and relevant. These solutions extend to selective social, audio and video spaces in addition to display, giving brands more options to choose from.

Overall, I believe incorporating these technologies may improve operational efficiency and effectiveness of ad campaigns and the brand when considered as a part of the overall digital strategy.

7. Emerging and Potential Growth in Programmatic Space- 

7. A – In-Gaming and E-Sports: According to an article by Matt Pickering, the PLG CEO of gaming and e-sport, there will be 86 million gamers in the three biggest markets in MENA (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt) by 2025, making it an important market for advertisers to consider. Since “gamers” are now almost interchangeable with normal consumers, it’s time for advertisers to integrate In-gaming as a part of their media mix. 

To reach this large and growing audience, top brands are searching for creative and innovative concepts to connect with consumers. Brands can connect with gamers and esports fans by sponsoring or partnering with gaming and esports, one example of this is League of Legends by Riot Games, a popular multiplayer battle arena video game leveraged the popularity of the game by creating a K-pop band as part of the game and created music videos that act as ads, tying in nicely with their advertising strategy. Similarly, in 2020, Fortnite took their game to a whole new level by collaborating with Travis Scott to turn the release of his song “Astronomical” into a live virtual concert that players from all around the world could participate in.

Programmatic advertising can also help brands reach their desired demographics in the gaming industry, and can take the form of banner ads, audio ads, pop-up windows, and branded content within games. Additionally, by including in-game advertising in their marketing strategy, brands can effectively reach and engage with a large and growing audience of gamers.

7. B – DOOH: Incorporating programmatic DOOH (digital out-of-home) into advertising mix in 2023 can also be a useful tool for driving retail effectiveness, contextual relevance and increasing footfall. By targeting specific locations and times, programmatic DOOH can help to drive customers to a store or an event. Additionally, by partnering with mobile companies, brands can track the effectiveness of their programmatic DOOH campaigns through footfall attributions, which can help in understanding the impact of advertising on in-store visits.

Dior’s case study, presented at this year’s MENA OOH Breakfast session, demonstrated the positive impact of OOH on search volume and website traffic. This further highlights the value of programmatic DOOH in driving online behaviour and engagement with a brand.

Overall, the flexibility and reach of programmatic DOOH make it a valuable addition to any advertising mix. Its ability to drive retail effectiveness and increase foot traffic makes it an especially useful tool for retail brands. By using programmatic DOOH, mobile partnerships, and tracking footfall attributions, brands can reach consumers effectively while protecting their privacy and measuring the effectiveness of their advertising.

7. C – CTV, OTT and Diversification of Video Advertising

While YouTube is still a popular platform in the region, more brands are investing in premium video inventory on high-quality media platforms, such as Video on Premium/Relevant Publications, OTT and CTV, in order t reach their target audience. These platforms use semantic technology to help ads be more effective by contextually identifying video and audio content. This has led to creative design being considered with the specific channels in mind, including CTV/OTT platforms.

The growth of CTV and OTT in the MENA region is expected to continue in the coming years due to several factors, including the growing adoption of smart TVs and streaming devices, and the increasing availability of streaming video content and services. The IABM projects that the MENA region will see a significant growth rate for OTT and streaming technologies between 2020 and 2024.

In a recent example of how brands are using OTT platforms, McDonald’s recently sponsored a branded integration on the popular Netflix show “Emily in Paris,” which cleverly worked the fast-food chain’s name and logo into the narrative without distracting from it. Brands may connect with an attentive audience by sponsoring premium content, which also opens the door for innovative and relevant product placements.

7.D – Audio: According to a recent report by IAB, the digital audio advertising market is expected to experience significant growth in the coming years. This growth is being driven by a range of factors, including the increasing popularity of streaming music and other audio content, the growing use of smart speakers and other voice-activated devices, and the expansion of programmatic ad-buying platforms for digital audio. 

Brands can consider using other forms of audio advertising in addition to streaming music apps, such as branded content, which allows advertisers to interact with customers in a more personal way. An example of the success of this approach is Kiri’s sponsored podcast “Maida,” which reached the #1 spot in the KSA ratings. Another option is audio game advertising, which provides a non-disruptive experience for both the customer and the business. This approach allows brands to connect with highly engaged, captive audiences, and in-game audio advertisements may be particularly effective because players are often intensely focused while gaming.

Programmatic audio advertising is likely to remain a key trend in the programmatic advertising industry because it allows advertisers to reach listeners with engaging content without the use of a screen.

As an example of potential regional growth in this trend, KSA Digital Content Council held an event called Ignite The Sound this year, which attracted over 9,000 digital audio content creators and 300,000 virtual attendees. The purpose of the event was to support and encourage the growth and development of pioneers in the audio content industry. As a result of this event, there will likely be an increase in the amount of partnerships, inventory and content available for brands to use for advertising purposes.

Finally, as we move closer to 2023, a variety of technologies will continue to impact the advertising industry. Brands who can effectively adopt and utilize these technologies will have an advantage on the competition when it comes to engaging with consumers. For this reason, businesses should re-evaluate their current advertising strategy and think about adopting a multi-channel approach that uses a wide variety of media, including native, display, video, connected TV (CTV), audio, and in-game advertising. Brands may reach more people with the same message and build a brand story that customers can refer to at different points in their interactions with the company by using a multi-channel strategy. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that adopting a multi-channel approach can help brands successfully navigate the dynamic nature of the digital marketplace and ultimately increase their return on investment (ROI).