To help cut through the noise in 2016, Neil Joyce, MD EMEA from marketing technology group Signal, zooms in on four problem areas of 2015 and the solutions that will make all the difference in 2016.

If last year taught marketers one thing, it’s that digital marketing is moving beyond cookies and browsers to deliver the seamless, personalised experiences customers have come to expect.
Here are some “problematic” digital trends of 2016, followed by equally trendy pieces of advice that just might solve them.

Problem number 1

The limitations of walled gardens create challenges for advertisers. The three largest walled gardens (Facebook, Google and Twitter) promise a rich inventory of logged-in user data, allowing advertisers to target and reach consumers across their various devices. Advertisers are finding campaign success in these walled gardens, but are also feeling the full effect of why they are called that: advertisers put their customer data in, but they do not get it back to build their profile data, close the loop on attribution, or create a true universal view of the customer journey. 


Advertisers will join forces to scale first-party data and identity. 2016 is the year advertisers will start thinking about ways to work with trusted marketing partners to connect with always-on customers outside the constraints of walled gardens. This emerging model is called a cooperative identity network. Publishers and/or advertisers can form an identity network with trusted partners to share anonymised data in a secure and privacy-compliant way. This allows companies to work together to better match the scale of walled gardens, providing a more complete picture of their customers without having to surrender control of their data.

Problem number 2

Ad blocking goes from trend to widespread adoption. If 2015 was the year that ad blocking got its foothold, 2016 will be the year that everybody’s doing it.

Research from Adobe and PageFair found that ad blocking could cost publishers as much as $41.4 billion worldwide in 2016.

These are still early days in the ad blocking battle: the landscape and technology is changing quickly on all sides. Publishers and advertisers will need to be ready to adapt to whatever happens next.


People-based advertising leads to more relevance and engagement. The entire ecosystem will get serious about addressing this issue, prompting publishers to seek to know more about their customers and get smart about their data-driven offerings. Advertisers will also push for higher standards among themselves and their vendor partners on things like ad creative and precision targeting.

Problem number 3

The gains from programmatic advertising reach their ceiling. Programmatic media buying has exploded over the last six years due largely to the need for efficiency, and ultimately, reduced costs. The result? Lower ad rates, which almost 70% of advertisers agree is a top benefit of programmatic.

But the gains that can be extracted from workflow efficiency may soon hit their peak, leading advertisers to look for other ways to get more value for their digital ad spend.


Advertisers shift focus to precise targeting of known audiences. The next great advertising efficiency to be gained is in reducing wasted ad spend on targeting unknown audiences. Advertisers will turn to the power of their own first-party data to fuel more precise targeting of customers they already know, and ultimately greater ROI. 

To achieve improved targeting, marketers need to shift their understanding of first-party data usage away from cookie-based tactics to people-based strategies that require the ability to identify customers across devices and channels, and tie the data back to a user-level profile.

Problem number 4

The demand for data-driven c-suite roles increases. First-party data impacts a business far beyond the marketing department. Amazon uses customer data to create original video programming. Samsung uses data to provide viewers with content recommendations on its smart TVs, and so on. 
But along with the realisation of big data, there comes an increase in data-related business challenges. Fragmented ownership of data and varying data governance or data management practices can result in masses of messy data, information silos, and lost opportunities for the business. 


The chief data strategist will rise to prominence.

In 2016, the first-party data revolution will be in full swing, and a new breed of data-driven leaders will emerge in the c-suite to help businesses leverage that data to drive more value across the enterprise. This leader will be a master of data science skills, hold a strategic function within the c-suite, and work across the organisation to impact marketing, product development, customer service, and more.

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