2009 marked the end of a decade filled with major events that helped shape our industry today and laid foundation for its future. Each and every year there seemed to be an overwhelming theme which would define each stage of this ten act play. After the dust settled into 2010 I was surprised to realize that I had not come across a recap of the decade discussing how each year was defined in online advertising.
With in.media’s first official opinion post, I thought it fitting to encapsulate this past decade as I saw each year unfold in my time working in this industry. Let this serve as a precursor to future posts about where we are at in the present and headed to in the future.
2000: The Boom
The Internet was taking over the world and advertising was going to support it. CPM’s were as low as $10.00 and as high as $100.00. Users were clicking on ads that were a measly 468×60 pixels in length by height. Corporate holiday parties were Willy Wonka themed and headlined by rock bands like Pearl Jam. We were headed down a path where my refrigerator would soon call my local grocery store when I was low on orange juice and have it delivered to my door step. Internet advertising revenues were up, AllAdvantage provided secondary income and times were good.
2001: The .Com Bubble Burst
Then times got bad. eBusinesses who supported online advertising fell by the wayside. Some with catchy domain names like Kozmo and others with simple ones like Pets.com. Many perceived millionaires found themselves sitting on worthless stock options. There were layoffs, layoffs, more layoffs and Herman Miller Aeron chairs filling up the windows of empty office buildings throughout New York and San Francisco. A variety of Internet advertising business models were shelved. Many of them that were ahead of their time would be reintroduced later in the decade.
2002: Pay-Per-Click Sponsored Listings
For those who remained in the industry, we witnessed the growth of a pricing model that offered marketers the ability to bid on keyword targeted search listings. Overture (formerly GoTo) was the first company to take full advantage of the pay-per-click advertising model by forging large syndication deals with third-party search engines. Overture extended their deal with Yahoo! and paid search continued to grow. Oh yeah, and a company by the name of Google announced a major overhaul for their own program AdWords. They would now determine their paid search rankings through a combination of ad performance (click-through rate) and how much an advertiser agrees to pay-per-click. Online media plans would start and often end with budget allocated to this most efficient channel.
For a company that didn’t serve banners, this was certainly a banner year for Google. By now, Google had completely phased out CPM pricing and traffic to their site began to explode. Google would announce a new content-targeted service that enabled publishers large and small to access Google’s vast network of advertisers. Soon after, they would acquire Applied Semantics, whose technology would allow for page-level targeting that would bolster AdSense. IPO rumors ran rampant and their accurate search results, advertiser programs and sleek user interface would help solidify them as the leader of the industry for the rest of the decade.
2004: Ad Networks
Ad Networks were popping up left and right. We had ValueClick, FastClick, SpecificClick, I Click, You Click, We All Click… The irony was that users were no longer “clicking” on banners. Those ad networks who figured out effective ways to acquire low-cost remnant inventory and leverage their extensive reach to service advertisers tracking view-through conversions began to grow. The acquisition of Advertising.com by AOL in June of 2004 further solidified the importance of utilizing a technology platform that targeted and optimized ad inventory in mass to deliver on a client’s online marketing objectives.
2005: Rich Media
Rich Media went through some growing pains in the early part of the decade. To reach a level of simplicity and scale took time and innovation. By 2005, Rich Media had fully matured and brand advertisers took note. Video banners, expandable banners, floating ads and flash supported videos began pleasing those interested in branding. Combining these rich dynamic messaging units with data capture, polling and seemingly more interactivity propelled this to the forefront of being a driving force behind the bounceback of Internet advertising.
2006: User-Generated Content
Time magazine came to the conclusion that the Person of the Year for 2006 was ‘You’. The collective ‘You’ being the millions of people that participated in providing content on MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia and other Web 2.0 sites. It turned out that we like to share profiles of ourselves, discuss movie reviews, record podcasts, blog about our lives and post videos of ourselves simply because we can. This was the year that the people took the power from the few producing their own content on the web. Even at decade’s end it remains unclear what impact UGC will have on marketing dollars but its continued growth can not go unrecognized.
2007: Ad Exchanges
You couldn’t open up an industry newsletter or magazine in 2007 without reading about the hype of ad exchanges. These electronic trading platforms that enable advertisers and publishers to buy and sell online advertising space were being billed as the future of advertising. Then came the buying frenzy. Right Media was purchased by Yahoo! in April, followed shortly by Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick (their Ad Exchange was in its infancy stages) and then finally capped off by Microsoft’s acquisition of AdECN. The industry sat and watched, thinking “Now what?”.
2008: Online Video
While most of the buzz surrounding online video came when the YouTube phenomenon exploded in 2006, marketers remained skeptical of the brand sensitivity associated with user-generated video and the courts spent many months settling lawsuits over copyrights. Legitimacy was brought about when Hulu emerged as a successful model in offering commercial-supported streaming video of TV shows and movies directly from the networks and studios. The talk of 2008 was filled with how online video will shape the next generation of online advertising. The emergence of premium video portals, ad servers and video ad networks finally began to pick up steam on media plans.
Ad networks got advertisers hungry for data and hooked on audience targeting. The love for data drove waves of innovation surrounding the collection, analysis, aggregation, transaction and regulation of user-level (non-personally identifiable) data. The FTC met regularly on privacy regulation. Behavioral targeting became a necessity, data exchanges and dynamic creative optimization solutions emerged while technology platforms began to align themselves with agencies and publishers to service the “demand-side” and “supply-side” of the data-driven web. So many of these technological advancements revolving around data have created a high-level of uncertainty going into 2010. How will they all co-exist in the display ecosystem?
Stay tuned to in.media as this year unfolds…