It’s been a devastating couple of weeks for on-line advertising: First Apple threw oil on the ad blocking  fire by releasing iOS9 with advertising blocking features. Then, it was just revealed that over half ( 55.5%) of all online advertising spending is shared between Facebook, Google, Twitter and Linkedin. And finally, a recent report by the IAB ( Internet Advertising Bureau) revealed that a banner has to be served  1250 times  before someone  clicks on it. A devastating blow.

It doesn’t come as a surprise: We all know that traditional online advertising  has poor results, resulting in a strategy of massive carpet bombing. After all, if you accumulate enough crumbs, you can put together a loaf of bread. But as online consumers got more accustomed to their browsing surrounding, they got a lot smarter and savvier. Instead of clicking on every flashing banner or following the promise of “FREE” stuff, they just blindly ignore them or worse, automatically ban them off their site. Why is that an issue for a publication about visual tech? Because a huge part of the solution resides in the advances made in this area. Here are some examples:

For one, in-image advertising which we have covered here many times is still new and small enough not to fall in the above category. As it hopefully uses more intelligent  content recognition – GumGum is one of the precursors in that field- it will be able to significantly help the viewers of an image by linking it to accurately related products.  If a picture of a Jeep Cherokee is displayed, for example, it will show where I can buy it and at what price, instead of an ad for a windshield detergents.

GumGum in image advertising delivers more interaction than traditional ad banners.
GumGum in image advertising delivers more interaction than traditional ad banners.


Companies like WireWax even push this ability to be inserted within the content of a video, allowing to interact with some of the elements displayed throughout the narrative. For a publisher, not only it expands the depth of the narrative, it also offer highly targeted native advertising placement: The company claims an 18.8% CTR and 60.7% return rate. They can sell space with a video, bypassing the need for those time frustrating pre-roll videos. Furthermore,  the  discovery to purchasing process is self-contained in one simple video.

Visual only  apps like Instagram, Snapchat and even Pinterest are just starting to display healthy engagement numbers on their burgeoning advertising solutions.  Especially effective with Millenials – after all 4 out of 10 say they prefer communicating via photos– they offer the possibility for advertisers to insert themselves in people to people interactions, a channel more emotionally  charged than any publisher can offer.  While the jury is still out on how long and how well these apps will be able to capitalize on their captive audiences, they currently offer one of the best solution, especially for visually powered vertical like fashion.

While native advertising seems to be on everyone’s lips as the possible savior of traditional advertisement, no one seems to point out how ill-fitted it is to scalability. In fact, it is almost opposite. While successful on already high traffic sites like BuzzFeed, it requires a lot of work and attention for advertisers, since it requires a different development for each platform. Useful certainly for some campaigns but overwhelming for the continuous promotion of a brand. Until someone invents scalable, programmatic native advertising, it will remain the privileged domain of those who have multi-million visitors daily.  Nevertheless, from UGC curation to professional creator aggregation, a few tech companies offer brands the possibility to use original content in native advertising and other places, like social media.

This is important as custom visual content marketing becomes more in predominant, the more brands and marketers will need to produce it. And since none want to be in the business of content creation, they will seek and use those companies that will help them develop a continuous flow of visual content ( stills, video, VR) for the best prices. If that content can also be tracked and  come with built-in actionable buttons, it would just be perfect ( we are not there yet).

In the meantime, it wouldn’t be surprising the see the world of traditional online advertising go into a panic frenzy of unwise decisions. Pricing will continue to decrease, certainly, while spamming might increase, in a desperate attempt to compensate with volume what it cannot achieve in delivery quality. It might take a while for the new models to convince and impress, although if the hits keep coming, that might change too.


Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.

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