Should digital advertising reinvent itself?

April 20th, 2020 written by Pierre-César

Internet, a new playground for advertisers
From the 1990s onwards, the advent of the Internet and its multiplication in homes was closely followed by the democratization of online advertising.
No need then for high-definition, native or ultra-targeted videos to create engagement. The ground offered by the first web pages is then totally new and the performance is there.
The very first advertisement put online on October 25, 1994 on the HotWired site is a good example of this:


A banner... The first banner! By AT&T in HotWired in 1994(you can click don't be afraid!)
Who is hiding behind? The American telephone operator AT&T. Other banners soon followed for various advertisers such as Volvo and Club Med.
In the absence of accurate user data, no A/B Tests or ad targeting. The ads were designed to reach a wide audience, either through their offer or through their "clickBait" design.
What about dynamic refresh? Then it's impossible. The first ads are "hardcoded" in the source code of the page, preventing any modification of the page remotely! We are not far in the spirit of the traditional job of a poster collator who changes by hand the billboards in the streets and the subway.

The reign of targeted advertising
But behind these first advertisements hides a soon-to-be flourishing industry. The advertising targeting industry.
The first digital advertising agencies understood it well, the main difference between traditional and digital advertising is the possibility to choose how the advertising content appears.
In the early days of the Internet, campaigns were mainly contextual, linked to a page or a site. Also, the main data collected was only related to performance a posteriori: A/B tests, conversion, click rates, already allow to refine and optimize performance.
But advertisers will quickly start looking for new data that will allow them to address a more relevant audience for each campaign. Delivering the right message, targeting the right person, choosing the right time, and using the right channel are all keys to the success of a campaign.
Many players then set out to decipher their audience's brains in order to offer them relevant campaigns. Tastes, activities, attractions, political opinions, social class, level of education, everything is good to take if it can optimize the channel for marketing campaigns.
It is a large data collection that takes place and that is growing year after year. Focused on the digital and real lives of mobile users, it can also overlap with the lives of those around them beyond the individual.
"When it comes to our digital profile, the data we choose to share is just the tip of the iceberg. We don't see the rest, hidden beneath the surface of the user-friendly interfaces of mobile applications and online services. The most valuable data about us is inferred beyond our control and without our consent. It is these deeper layers that we cannot control that actually make the decisions that affect us, not us," explains Katarzyna Szymielewicz (@szymielewicz), co-founder and president of the Panoptykon Foundation, a Polish association for the defense of individual freedoms and human rights, in a forum for Quartz.
In this graphic created by the foundation, the three layers of information that form the basis of our online identity are detailed.


The Three Layers of Online Identity | Panoptykon Foundation
The first layer of information is called "what you share". It is the only one of all that you can control. It consists of information that you knowingly share on social networks, forums, and other websites: Language, date of birth, sexuality, friends, email, emoji used, posts made public, credit card numbers, phone number, address, etc. It is more commonly called declarative identity.
The second layer corresponds to "what your behaviors say about you". It is fed by behavioral observation information communicated by your device with or without your knowledge: finger movements, real-time position, time spent online, results of your voice analysis, distance from surrounding devices, ads seen and ignored, browsing history, purchase history... It is called our active identity.
Finally, there is the third and last layer that makes up your digital identity, which is "what the machine thinks of you". Also called calculated identity, it is the result of the interpretation by algorithms of the other two layers and the permanent comparison of these data with data from other individuals. It is made up of more or less precise assumptions about your life such as: your education level, the sector in which you work, your salary, your health, your religion, your personal or professional relationships, your political affinities, your marital status, but not only... It is also made up of predictions about what you are likely to undertake in the future, like: meeting someone, getting married, having a child, changing jobs, buying a property, starting a new passion, or canceling your telephone subscription. So many interesting data for a company wishing to sell you a product.
With such data, advertising targeting becomes an extremely effective weapon for brands. By distributing the right commercial proposal to the right person, it allows, at the same marketing cost, to drastically increase the target reach of the campaigns.
Many of today's most successful companies make it their bread and butter. Google, Facebook, Waze, Apple search ads and Amazon Sponsored collect and analyze your data in order to serve business models based on targeted advertising delivery.

Limits on the use of personal data
However, the possibilities offered by targeting are rapidly expanding to issues other than advertising.
Whilst the interpretation of user data allows for better targeting of marketing campaigns, it also makes it possible to address these same users with content that goes beyond advertising.
Facebook recently reminded us of this with the Cambridge Analytica case. The American giant's analytical engines were then used not to feed its advertising business model but to analyze and massively influence the crowds. From traditional advertising to "political advertising", it's only a short step.


This case, like the many others that have shaken our world in recent years, has fuelled fears about the use of personal data. We are now witnessing a growing awareness on the part of users who not only want more transparency in the use made of their data but also want to be able to control the confidentiality of their data.
A turning point in this direction is the introduction of GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in California. The idea? To establish a legal framework for the collection and use of user data.
A credo also followed by several digital giants, understanding to what extent this subject of data could lead to the massive loss of users. Apple - always a fervent defender of privacy - has made data security its marketing hobbyhorse, making it a fitting reminder here at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.


Apple advertising at CES 2019 in Las Vegas(note that Apple has never participated in the CES)

Google has recently announced that it will no longer use third-party cookies in its Chrome browser (see our article), which were previously used to understand your shopping experience and provide you with tailored advertising. Advertisers, on the other hand, have adopted the AdChoice logo in the upper right corner of their online ads, allowing us to better understand why they appear.
It's a fact, the reluctance to exploit user data is there. These difficulties have only just begun and, logically, are likely to multiply in the years to come.
Facing with this risk, should the advertising industry be imaginative and reinvent itself?

Interaction, a new source of value.
In this age of social networks, instant messaging applications and online flirting, advertising can no longer be content to be a simple image inserted at the top of a website, a perfect digital analogy of the roadside light board.
On the contrary, advertising content must take advantage of the human being in front of it and - through the interactions made possible by new technologies - become a new privileged interface between the brand and its audience.
It is possible to renew the dialogue, and many media agencies have long understood this, creating tailor-made campaigns designed to involve mobile users.
This is the case of the Credit Agricole Trip Choice campaign created by the agency We are Social to promote the new "Globe-trotter" offer: banking services dedicated to young travelers in the Paris region. In order to show them that this offer adapts to their lifestyles and not the other way round, the agency came up with a participative trip on Instagram. Daniil le Russe, a famous influencer, experienced a trip entirely decided by the Internet users. For five days, thanks to the "Poll" feature of the Stories, followers took the orders and voted live on his Instagram account to guide him in every decision of his expedition.


Campaign #TripChoice on Instagram with Daniil le Russe by We Are Social for Crédit Agricole
By changing the way people interact with ads in this way, the benefits for advertisers are multiple: better reach rate, massive organic diffusion of the campaign, and much deeper memory.
However, the budget and the means of implementation of this type of campaign obviously make them reserved for a small number of privileged advertisers.
Fortunately, unlocking the keys to virality is not reserved for the elite. Nowadays, social networks have made available various tools allowing the public to interact and react to campaigns.
The latest is Facebook's new "poll" feature that allows brands to engage their target audience by asking them questions. According to the firm, the result is a significant increase in brand awareness, more effective even than any traditional video advertising.

Tomatoes and poll by Facebook

The new "poll" format developed by Facebook at the end of 2019
If Facebook deserves its status as a precursor, other networks such as Instagram, Tinder, or Tiktok are redoubling their originality on this subject and are working to ensure that advertising - by becoming more playful - finally finds its audience.
It is no coincidence that in the field of interactive advertising, innovation often comes from social networks. With a proprietary ecosystem, they control almost the entire advertising content distribution chain: from the creation of the campaign on the advertiser's side to its distribution in the appropriate format. They are therefore in the best position to afford these originalities.
But social networks only represent a part of the time spent online on the phone. One third on average. And when mobile users are not 'socializing' on them, they are most often busy reading editorial content or browsing mobile applications.
In the latter two cases, the ads displayed are most often from an industrial chain called programmatic advertising. Unlike social networks, many intermediaries are involved between the creation of the campaign and its distribution: DSP, SSP, Ad Network, Ad Exchange, etc...
In this industry, the priorities are threefold: user targeting accuracy, infrastructure performance, and robustness. Achieving and maintaining these objectives is made possible by special protocols that allow information to flow in a standardized manner. The VAST for "Video Ad Serving Template" is one of them. It allows to control a flow of high-quality video content from the moment it is put online by the advertiser to its distribution on any platform, be it desktop, mobile web or app.
If these protocols perfectly meet their performance objectives today, they could in the future become, like many other standards, a brake on the evolution of the industry. Designed to broadcast display advertising that addresses the user in a unilateral relationship, they are not adapted today to make this experience interactive. It is certainly possible to enrich the advertising flow with ancillary information to achieve its ends, but it is difficult to envisage the advertising of tomorrow without a profound evolution of the latter.

Towards new forms of advertising
In this context, Palmup is positioning itself as a pioneer of interactive in-app advertising. Drawing on the experience of its three founders in the highly entertaining field of video games, Palmup develops interactive advertising formats that can accommodate advertising from programmatic sources.


Illustration of an interactive format developed by Palmup and natively integrated in mobile applications.Here the user can react immediately to the content that is proposed to him.and if he wishes, install the corresponding application.

Improve the LTV of publishers
The publisher's challenge: to minimize as much as possible the churn generated by advertising whilst respecting the user experience and thus maximize LTV (Life Time Value).
Not disrupting the experience of the application in which the advertising is integrated is fundamental for Palmup. Close to the concept of native advertising, our formats integrate not only visually but also in terms of UX. Click, haptic return, window move, share functionality, reaction to the ad or user comment.
This end-user-centric issue underlies precise technological stakes: to be as close as possible to the user requires being technologically as close as possible to the language in which the application was developed.
We therefore directly develop our source code in Android and iOS compatible languages, particularly in Unity. This allows the Palmup SDK to be as close as possible to the native functionalities of mobile phones on the market.
On the other hand, this technological choice is a substantial time saving for the developers in charge of integrating the SDK since the integration is done in a known and controlled ecosystem.

Facilitating the work of advertisers
Advertisers? They are also at the heart of Palmup's concerns. In this sense, several tools have been created and made available to them to allow them to easily establish a new form of dialogue with their audience.
Far from only focusing on the "end-user", solutions are also designed to meet the needs of marketing departments and media agencies by offering them many benefits in their daily operations.
Our campaign personalization API makes campaign design particularly flexible and fast. Integrating call-to-actions, interaction, commentary or on-the-fly reaction zones is made possible easily and remotely.
Palmup solutions are thus committed to making marketing campaigns more fun everyday whilst making them a child's play for their creators and publishers.
Convinced that from gaming to advertising is only a step away, we are working to make all this possible beyond the boundaries of social networks. Improving the relationship we've always had with advertising, we are also opening up the voice to a more welcoming and respectful web for its users.