Ready, set, go!

That’s my direction for preparing for 2015. If you are just starting now, well, you are too late. But before we look forward, let’s take a look back at 2014.

Advertisers looking for a way to reach consumers online were met with plenty of options in 2014. These options went well beyond the traditional method of handing a media entity an insertion order and looking to reach consumers.

Big Data and programmatic were the buzzwords, while channels like mobile and social expanded with vendors offering new advertising products.

At times, it felt that everyone – from nimble start-ups to established traditional media companies – was jumping on these trends to benefit advertisers. Some tried and failed, others tried and have yet to see a true measure of success, while still others have found a formula that works.

The key here is to stay the course if possible as Big Data, programmatic tech, and mobile and social services are not going anywhere. In fact, they are growing. And considering the potential adoption in the SMB marketplace, I see some very exciting times ahead.

Programmatic adoption by smaller advertisers

Programmatic buying and selling of media has been on a steady upward climb in recent years, but 2014 was special.

In October, eMarketer predicted that programmatic would account for 45% of online display ad sales. Next year, spending will jump nearly US$5 billion, which is slower growth, but still a massive investment.

And what’s going to power that growth?

Well, now that major brands have invested in the programmatic pipes and infrastructure, smaller advertisers can enter the field and leverage the same kind of buying and audience targeting mechanisms. It will be on news media organisations to present them with opportunities and to help them execute.

Managed online services for SMB advertisers

Of course, while every argument points to the fact that small and mid-size businesses should be using programmatic technology, those business owners can’t simply turn on their computers and start executing ad buys. They need guidance, which is a huge opportunity for the news media to step in.

Traditional publishers should be doing all they can to package audience for advertisers, but they also need to think about how they can aid the SMB segment in simply understanding and accessing those audiences. That’s where managed services come in.

The key differentiator remains the feet on the street and the relationships established in the market. Talk to your customers; see what their needs are. Don’t assume you know. I can tell you now, you don’t.

A need for advanced digital services

As my fellow blogger Greg Bobolo points out, paid digital media will exceed US$660 billion by 2018. A focus on digital media is hardly new as far as advertisers are concerned.

What is new is how those dollars are allocated in digital, which evolves quickly; look at how spending on programmatic display doubled between 2013 and 2014.

So while advertisers of all sizes will have a great deal of need for the first two items I’ve discussed, they’ll also need an expert to help them navigate emerging channels and understand which areas work the best for them.

Buckle down and prep yourself for the continued proliferation of programmatic ad buying. There are plenty of tech platforms that can help find the inventory. And while nothing has proven to be purely self-serve, there are managed services you should be looking into from experts that provide these solutions in turn-key environments.

If you plan to rely on your existing audience through owned and operated networks, you are significantly missing the boat. SMBs are getting smarter and better at identifying their target audiences. So help them get those eyeballs via the best means possible.

Until next time…