3 Cutting-Edge Trends in Digital Advertising

Advertising has been transforming for years from a mostly static, one-to-many medium to a largely moving, individualized, and dynamic practice.

Many firms claim to propose an ad model that no other company can replicate, but trends are emerging among the “next-generation” advertising technologies. Three of those trends include context becoming a layer of all advertising, real-time updates to messaging, and interactivity driving engagement.

Context makes ads more relevant

Contextual approaches are becoming more essential to the digital advertising playbook. At its most simple, this means serving internet users ads that correspond to the content of their experiences, as opposed to their behaviors or interests. And there’s no doubt that contextual advertising is becoming more appealing as behavioral data dries up due to tracking restrictions from gatekeepers such as Google and Apple as well as privacy regulations such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, the California Privacy Rights Act, and China’s Personal Information Protection Law.

But context in the next generation of advertising will be more than a keyword-driven alternative to behavioral advertising. Rather, I expect context to become a layer of all advertising, such that even if a company wants to retarget a prospective customer based on past browsing, interests, or behaviors, they will also attempt to serve that ad in a relevant context.

This makes sense and would seem to represent an opportunity to increase the effectiveness of behavioral advertising. Even if I have demonstrated an interest in “outdoors gear,” I am not always in the market for hiking equipment. Advertisers would do better to serve me the hiking gear ad when I’m reading about travel or outdoor activities than when I’m engaging with martech-related content on LinkedIn. Context as a layer of all advertising will help brands close that gap in effectiveness.

Real-time updates prevent outdated ads

Next-generation ads will increasingly be dynamic, updating in real time in accordance with the conditions in which the ad meets a user.

Say a retailer wants to distribute a promotion for holiday shopping. Especially with this year’s shipping constraints, a promotion that is relevant one day may not be the next if a product goes out of stock. Ads that evolve in real-time will be able to process evolving supply constraints and only show recipients products they can actually buy.

Real-time updates can also dovetail with context to help advertisers optimize advertising for relevance. Consider a retailer that sells products contingent on certain weather conditions. In the future, ads may be dynamic enough that internet users watching a storm through their window receive ads for roof repairs or umbrellas. A sunny context will deliver a different ad. This, again, is a matter of leveraging the capacity for hyper-individualization and contextualization in advertising to increase relevance and drive conversions.

Interactive ads drive engagement

Static ads that do nothing to prompt the user to take action are going to fall by the wayside online as interactive ads take center stage. It is unsurprising that ads asking users to answer a question foster greater dwell time than ads in which the advertiser is speaking to the customer, not with them. Technical advances are making this ad format more accessible, and I expect it to become commonplace in the years to come.

Of course, interactive ads also incentivize users to express preferences that advertisers can then marshal for retargeting efforts. That consumer data will be all the more valuable in a marketing industry increasingly limited by privacy restrictions, whether by tech giants or regulators.

The future of ads is contextual, dynamic, and interactive

Static, one-to-many ads are becoming a thing of the past. The future of ads is contextually intelligent, dynamic, and interactive. These trends are currently part of the cutting edge in adtech, but in due time, they will be a commonplace fixture of our online experiences.

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018 and compiled the daily newsletter since 2016. Joe is a journalist who has written widely about technology, business, and politics. You can contact him at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.