For the ad-tech industry, 2020 was a traumatic year—and the Covid-19 pandemic was only part of it.
The industry was rocked to its very core by two of the sector’s largest stakeholders, Apple and Google, confirming they were dropping support for ad-targeting identifiers that allow smaller players to participate in the $5 billion-plus programmatic advertising industry.
However, the impact is not just confined to ad-tech vendors and media owners. Media agencies are also challenged by the privacy overhauls, which severely restrict the targeting and tracking capabilities those agencies and their clients have grown accustomed to over the last decade.
As an executive who leads a team spending close to $1 billion per year, Danny Hopwood, svp and head of digital display and investment solutions at Omnicom Media Group, has emerged as one of the leading ad-tech voices in the agency landscape.
As 2020 drew to a close, he spoke with Adweek about developments in the industry over the last 12 months, and how his insights can be applied in 2021.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Adweek: How did clients react to Google confirming that it would drop support for third-party cookies in Chrome in 2022, and Apple confirmed it would do likewise with IDFA in its iOS ecosystem next year?
Danny Hopwood: Google sent shockwaves across the industry with its January announcement both on our side and with clients. And while it did create a vibrant hustle to try and figure out what it means when cookies go, but a lot are still trying to figure out what it means for them when cookies go.
However, for some reason, the reaction to Apple’s decision to pull its MAID [mobile advertising identifier] IDFA wasn’t as loud as Google’s. It didn’t seem to have as big an impact, even though it is industry-changing.
While everyone is still aware of it, and we have had to write points-of-view for clients on it, often what we have to write is, “There is nothing we can do right now to resolve this.” We still have to wait for industry bodies and the companies within them to come together and resolve how it’s all going to be solved.
The fact is we are getting pretty close to the point where they are going to disappear, and we still don’t have a great solution. And for all its good intentions, it still kind of feels like [Google Chrome’s] Privacy Sandbox, and TurtleDove, etcetera, are still a bit of an experiment.
Many ad-tech sources complained that Google hasn’t been very proactive in explaining how all of this will work. What have the communications been like with buyers?
There’s no guidebooks, no guidance, and nothing that says, “Well, here’s what you have to do.” It’s like we’re still on a fact-finding mission as to which companies are going to be allowed to do any level of tracking.
It’s kind of scary to think that some of these things haven’t been thought out.
Danny Hopwood, svp, Omnicom Media Group
During the entire Covid-19 pandemic, it’s just been bubbling underneath, and in my opinion we still haven’t gotten the results that we want. There’s a lot of companies that were going to require it a lot sooner. It’s kind of scary to think that some of these things haven’t been thought out.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated preexisting trends from clients? For instance, has it made their media plans digital by default?
When Covid-19 first hit, programmatic and digital was definitely the first thing brands switched off, but it was definitely the first to come back, to the extent that some of us were surprised.