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Tamara Daltroff, EACA Director-General

Complex Challenges & Exciting Future of Advertising

With increasingly complex systems to navigate through, there are many challenges facing the advertising industry today. It is hard to balance between multiple goals and find the right way to deal with post-truth reality, where large-scale disinformation even disrupts democratic processes

It is difficult bringing together a vast range of stakeholders within the advertising ecosystem – and keeping them satisfied. It is hard to respond adequately to burning issues regarding privacy, security and our identities… But it is also a unique and exciting opportunity to shape and reimagine the future of advertising, which has become an integral part of our lives. As Director-General of EACA, Tamara Daltroff is involved in initiatives to find the best ways to solve these difficult issues.

Looking back at the turbulent but also exciting year behind us, what were some of the main trends that left their mark in the industry?

– Obviously, the European Elections were quite important – also for the advertising industry. EU policy-makers were and still are, worried that disinformation disrupts democratic processes. They mainly focus on platforms’ responsibilities, but also look at the advertising industry and its role in monetising disinformation content. Political advertising is likely to be part of the EU’s “Digital Services Act”, one of the big digital projects of the new Commission. EACA is proud that four of our association members have signed up to the Code of Practice on Disinformation. We will keep on encouraging others, especially agencies, to do so as well.

We also saw a rising number of complaints and investigations regarding national data protection authorities (DPAs) in online advertising. People are worried about their personal data being “broadcast” during the ad delivery process. The industry, therefore, works hard on improving transparency around the ad delivery process and giving people more choice and control over the ads they see. EACA and its members are actively involved in IAB Europe’s Transparency and Control Framework (TCF) and the EDAA’s “Your Online Choices” icon.

There are at least two industry initiatives that help increase transparency around the ad delivery process. The TCF gives users choice and information prior to seeing an ad, whereas the EDAA programme explains to users why they saw certain ads and what they can do about it in the future. A good user experience is key to increasing acceptance of, and trust in, these tools

In May, we will know more about how the European Commission is going to address the increasing fragmentation around the implementation of the GDPR in its review exercise. DPAs have kept issuing GDPR guidance that is often not in line.

A more general challenge for the industry will be the continuous phase-out of third-party cookies on various browsers, including Apple’s Safari, Firefox and recently Google Chrome, and how the ad industry reacts to that.

There is also a trend among policymakers towards better protecting children online, with regard to the processing of their personal data and targeted advertising, e.g. with HFSS foods. This trend is likely to continue with the new European Commission and Parliament.

AI use in advertising grew by 270% over the last four years. What are the main opportunities related to AI in this context, and what are the main challenges and concerns?

– AI can help communications agencies optimise ad targeting, fight fraud, provide better performance insights, provide more relevant data etc. An EACA survey in 2019 revealed that the majority of respondents uses to develop or deploy AI in their systems, but most rely on it only to a small extent. Examples include chatbots and virtual assistants, the optimisation of programmatic advertising and audience discovery tools.

In order to work best, AI needs access to a lot of quality data and you need people with the right skills to deal with that data. Another challenge is potential regulation on the issue, which might curb innovation in the field before it has really kicked off.

There are at least two industry initiatives that help increase transparency around the ad delivery process. The TCF gives users choice and information prior to seeing an ad, whereas the EDAA programme explains to users why they saw certain ads and what they can do about it in the future. Good user experience is key to increasing acceptance of, and trust in, these tools.

As the new technologies shape the future of advertising, is there a shortage of adequate talent for this era?

– While advertising is becoming more technology- and data-driven, the digital skills gap is a prominent issue across all industries.

In your opinion, what are the main skills, someone starting a career in advertising will need in 2020?

– In 2019, EACA released a White Paper on Talent in partnership with Kantar, addressing the challenges of attracting the right talents. Driving factors are the changing priorities of generations Y and Z, the need for greater diversity and inclusion, and competition for talent among media giants.

The industry has responded by widening the spectrum of candidates: other disciplines, such as anthropology, forensics or physics, are also of interest.

What remains important for the industry is mental flexibility and curiosity, given rapidly changing social trends, fashions, technologies etc. Young people need the drive to explore ideas and the skills to explain them. Collaboration is key both within and across teams and people with different specialisations, personalities, working styles and agendas. A big plus also experiences with real-life projects, e.g. with advertisers or placements within the industry.

One of the trends of recent years has been the rise of ad-blockers. Have they changed the industry in both positive and negative ways and if so, how?

– The industry has responded to this trend by increasing transparency around ads and better explaining why users see ads. They also create awareness around the value exchange, i.e. advertising in return for “free content”, such as the occasional video and games, but also high-quality journalistic content. As mentioned previously, EACA is highly supportive of TCF and EDAA programmes.

According to Adobe Digital Insights, over 70% of advertisers believe their ads are relevant to the audience they are targeting, but only 8% of people think the ads they see online are always relevant. Is the reality somewhere between the two? And how can we use new technologies to make the experience more relevant to consumers?

– It is important to give users the choice regarding what type of ads they (do not) wish to see. If they want them to be more relevant, they can take the informed decision to opt for personalised ads, otherwise, they will see contextual ads.

AI could be used to better target ads and make them more relevant to users. The gradual phase-out of third-party cookies, however, will accelerate the push towards contextual ads. These can be made more relevant through the use of unique identifiers. Any personalisation, however, must ensure compliance with the GDPR.

To work best, AI needs access to a lot of quality data and you need people with the right skills to deal with it. Another challenge is potential regulation on the issue, which might curb innovation in the field before it has really kicked off.

To work best, AI needs access to a lot of quality data and you need people with the right skills to deal with it. Another challenge is potential regulation on the issue, which might curb innovation in the field before it has really kicked offa

In 2016, the Oxford English Dictionary proclaimed ‘post-truth’ its ‘Word of the Year’. Four years later, the situation is still challenging (if not even more complex). It can be hard to navigate through a digital space that’s filled with fake news, native and programmatic advertising. Online experiments in 2019 showed that less than 10% of people can tell sponsored content from an article. How can we be better informed as users, on one side, and more transparent as advertisers, on the other?

– As mentioned previously, there are at least two industry initiatives that help increase transparency around the ad delivery process. The TCF gives users choice and information prior to seeing an ad, whereas the EDAA programme explains to users why they saw certain ads and what they can do about it in the future. Both programmes are constantly being adjusted. Good user experience is a key to increasing acceptance of, and trust in, these tools.

Tamara Daltroff, EACA Director General

According to GfK research, European online users value their privacy, but they are happy to have their data used in advertising in order to get free content. However, they would also like to be able to approve or disapprove the use of their data any time and to easily obtain detailed information about how their data is used.

How do we ensure the make numerous stakeholders in the growingly complex advertising ecosystem are as satisfied as possible, keeping the balance between privacy and security, personalised and immersive experiences, and profitability for publishers and advertisers?

– Both the TCF and EDAA programmes bring together a vast range of stakeholders in the ad ecosystem: publishers, vendors, consent management, platforms, agencies and advertisers. Together they set industry standards that increase trust by giving users choice and control over data. Whereas both TCF and EDAA are quite widespread, it is important that more actors in the ad ecosystem join these or similar industry initiatives.

Finally, what are some of the main advertising trends we should look out for in 2020?

– Investigations into programmatic advertising (RTB) are likely to continue. It will thus remain important to uphold the dialogue with regulators and authorities to explain what the industry is doing.

The ban or phase-out of third-party cookies is likely to continue and we will see more industry solutions to address this.

We expect more regulation around platforms, including their liability for the content, but hopefully, also additional requirements to increase transparency vis-à-vis their business partners, including agencies.

Political advertising/disinformation: as noted previously, this will be high on the list of the priorities of the newly composed EU institutions.

Artificial intelligence: We are likely to see new solutions for ad targeting, performance measurement etc. But there will also be increasing regulatory pressure.

The search for talent will continue. The UK in particular, following Brexit, might face increasing challenges with recruiting talent from “the continent”.

Finally, with multiple predictions of an imminent recession, agencies need to take this into consideration when planning for the future. 

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