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5 Ad Tech PR Predictions For 2020

Not every tech PR agency is familiar with the ad tech category, but it keeps growing in size and significance. The boom comes thanks to data privacy concerns and the call from major advertisers for greater transparency and control over their digital advertising.

To some, ad tech is a baffling alphabet soup of acronyms, like DMP, DSP, SSP, and CCPA. For us, it’s a huge and growing part of our business and an exciting category. The opportunities are expanding.

Ad Tech Industry Changes Drive PR Opportunities

As an industry, ad tech saw considerable change in 2019. A patchwork of privacy regulations has challenged all the major players. At the same time, browser companies like Apple, Mozilla and Google have taken aim at cookie-based tracking. These changes set up occasions for lively public discussions for clients. As channels, Connected TV (CTV) and streaming media (over-the-top, or OTT) surged this year, with more advertisers investing in these platforms than ever before.  CTV ad spend alone will rise to $7 billion by year’s end.

Media covered these areas accordingly. Compliance, privacy and ITP/cookie-tracking weren’t just the domain of marketing and ad tech trade press. The issues drove headlines more broadly, across business and top-tier technology media. The power of CTV and OTT advertising was also covered as consumer adoption has grown. Savvy PR pros took advantage of the storytelling opportunities, inserting a client point of view on large issues and building thought capital to distinguish them from competitors.
But what can we expect in 2020? What industry changes will drive the news cycle and create ad tech PR opportunities for companies in the category? Here are four predictions based on conversations I’ve had with clients, colleagues, journalists, and analysts.

CCPA is the latest privacy regulation

The California Consumer Privacy Act or “CCPA,” finally takes effect on January 1, 2020. Like GDPR, it will dominate the news cycle for months, with media wondering about enforcement, who’s compliant (or not) and overall industry impact. In fact, a quick scan of Google Trends shows us that consumer interest in CCPA is rising as we approach January — so media will follow.
It’s a fertile newsjacking opportunity for ad tech companies who want to present themselves as good corporate citizens, or to downplay the business effect of CCPA, or simply to show leadership on the issue of privacy. My recommendation: rather than conduct phone interviews around a topic this sensitive, develop prepared content in the form of a whitepaper or blog to share with media contacts.

DOOH is hot

Digital Out of Home (DOOH), ads on digital signs in subways, airports, shopping centers, and more, will step into the spotlight in 2020. It’s taking a bigger chunk of Out of Home (OOH) ad spending as more inventory becomes available. Buyers are also ramping up their DOOH investments as the targeting and buying options become more programmatic and data-driven. Ad tech players who offer capabilities and solutions in this emerging channel will be in demand in 2020 and should take advantage.

SPO is the new ad tech buzzword

Supply path optimization or “SPO” might be the buzziest ad tech acronym of 2019. SPO refers to DSPs and ad buyers being choosy about specific content. In doing so, they get more efficient and transparent routes to media. This cuts down on the volume of queries for buy-side vendors while lowering prices for potential inventory. It boils down to streamlining how the demand side and supply side interact.

As the ad tech landscape has become more convoluted, SPO will be a top ad tech PR trend in the New Year. However, ad tech PR pros should keep in mind that it’s a fairly technical topic and not likely to drive interest among mainstream business publications — at least for now. Alternatively, ad trade media have been all over it with great explainer articles. In 2020, I expect media to seek out companies claiming to “clean the supply path.” Adtech companies can make use of this trend.

ACR data will be a key focus

The beauty of ad tech and digital advertising in general is in its targeting. But what happens when consumers migrate from traditional TV to smarter devices? In 2020, everyone will be talking about ACR data. ACR data allows marketers to understand viewership behavior across CTV inventory and devices, so it’s core to targeting ads on CTV. Yet ACR data currently faces several challenges. It’s hard to scale, although that will change quickly as CTV grows. Other issues, like device fragmentation, are more entrenched. Different CTV product manufacturers have different ACR guidelines in place. End-user privacy is also an issue, given new regulations.

This is an obvious PR opportunity for ad tech companies in the CTV space. Most advertising reporters, especially on the trade side, know about ACR data. But they may need more background on ACR challenges, particularly as new privacy regulations go into effect. There’s also an opportunity to brief ad tech reporters at business publications, because they might not yet be focused on ACR data.

As we head into 2020, these are some of the top ad tech PR trends to watch out for. What am I missing? Let me know on Twitter at @chrisharihar.

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