You will click here: a look at 25 years of digital advertising, data and diversity

What were you doing 25 years ago?

In 1994, New Zealanders were celebrating 41 medal wins at the Commonwealth games and listening to Straitjacket Fits — winner of the Album of the Year for Blow at the New Zealand Music Awards.

In the media space, TV 2 began its 24/7 programming, while Newstalk ZB began broadcasting nationwide. These mass media broadcasters had majority of the eyes as only 3.2 percent of New Zealanders we using the internet.

In the US, 4.9 percent of the population was using the internet.

Bet despite internet’s baby steps into mainstream use, some advertisers spotted its potential and aT&T was one of the first to harness that with a banner ad on HotWired.com.

‘Have you ever clicked your mouse right here? You Will’, read the ad. And it was right.

About 44 percent of people who saw it clicked on it.

Those who did were redirected to a landing page reading “You did! Now let’s see what else you will do.”

Last week, at its Symposium in Sydney, Adobe celebrated the 25th birthday of the first banner ad and when Adobe APAC head of advertising cloud Phil Cowlishaw spoke, he called the ad “a basic experience”, but one that was also “the birth of digital advertising”.

“This really was the birth of digital advertising and the way brands would be able to connect with consumers on the internet.”

From ‘click here’ to ‘search here’

But it was also an early peak for clicks, as clicks have been declining as ads have been rising.

“That 44 percent click-through rate is a pretty lofty number and pretty hard for the industry to ever maintain,” Cowlishaw says. And struggle it has.

Though the industry is guilty of chasing after clicks, today, the average click through on a banner ad is about 0.05 percent.

However, as Cowlishaw points out, that drop in clicks hasn’t stopped digital advertising spend from going up.

In 2018, New Zealand’s total digital revenue reached $1.058 billion following four consecutive quarters of double-digit growth according to IABNZ. 2018’s total represents nearly 15 percent growth year-on-year.


Helping that growth in digital revenue has been ‘search’.

Cowlishaw recalls the launch of Google and though he says it was an “amazing opportunity” for advertisers, at the time, those he spoke to didn’t want to invest. How times have changed.

In the Australian market, 2018 saw Search and Directories hit AU$3.9 billion – a 9.2 percent increase according to IAB.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, IAB data shows Search reached $659.5 million, a 21.9 percent increase on 2017 and making it 62.7 percent of total revenue.

Cowlishaw says Search shows the importance of digital working alongside other advertising channels such as TV as it captures experiences that have happened before.

“It’s rare you will go to a search engine without something in mind to type. You needed to have that exposure, that experience.”

Another key factor for Search when considering its relevance in today’s media landscape is the fact it happens on the user’s terms.

“From a consumer perspective, the concept of time-based content consumption is pretty much gone,” Cowlishaw says.

“Everything we consume today is about choice. We chose what content to watch, when to watch it, and the medium we watch it on.”

Cowlishaw speaks from an Australian perspective, but according to NZ On Air’s ‘Where are the Audiences?’ 2018 report, SVODs reach 62 percent of New Zealanders a week.

However, linear TV still has the greatest reach, with 82 percent of New Zealanders tuning in each week, followed by broadcast radio that has 78 percent of New Zealanders listening.

Each day, 66 percent of New Zealanders watch linear TV compared to the 32 percent of New Zealanders using on-demand as a content source.

Resonating with audiences

While the growing media landscape has created a wider plain for marketers to navigate, Cowlishaw says it provides a great opportunity for them to create a real value-exchange for consumers.

Where does that value lie? Personalisation.

“You don’t send generic emails anymore, its personalised,” he says.

“It has the recipient’s name in it and understands the products they want – so why would your advertising be any different?

“In the digital environment, you should be able to understand and engage the customer and focus on creating a two-way exchange between the customer and the brand.”

With personalisation comes the talk of data and how the last 25 years have seen an increase in the amount of consumer data available as well as the increase in privacy challenges.

Cowlishaw says it is important brands understand they are trying to appeal to a population that is smarter than ever and expects something in return for giving over data.

“We understand what data consumers want us to use and what data consumers think is personal and doesn’t want to be engaged with.”

The topic of personalisation doesn’t just stop at data as Cowlishaw also points out that since 1994, diversity has become more important than ever.

“It’s important to think about creating a connective experience that is enabling us to resonate with those brands.”

“In an increasingly competitive digital landscape, consumers are demanding personalised and authentic advertising, experiences and engagement from brands,” Cowlishaw says, adding there’s a real opportunity for brands to make their customers feel like the brand knows and cares about them through representation.

Adobe’s recent ‘Diversity in Advertising’ survey in Australia reiterates that point, with 62 percent of respondents saying diversity in advertising is important.

Nearly a quarter of consumers are more likely to purchase products and services from brands with diverse advertisements, with 21 percent of respondents saying they have boycotted brands that don’t showcase diversity.

But progress is being made, with 58 percent saying that advertising is more diverse than it was three years ago, and two-thirds of consumers agreeing that their race or ethnicity is represented in the ads they are served.

“We know that if brands really want to tap into this huge market of emerging consumers, they need to leverage digital, and share content that represents and inspires their audience,” Cowlishaw says.

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