From basic banners to epic experiences, here’s where we’ve been — and where we’re going.
What do you remember about 1994? If you’re an ad industry veteran, maybe you were camping by the fax machine, spending hours sending out buy orders and waiting for confirmations? Or perhaps you were mocking up print ads using early versions of PageMaker and saving files on floppy disks? Maybe you were still in school, rushing home so you could return in time for the start of an episode of Power Rangers — or you were watching a worn-out copy on a videocassette recorder. Some of you might not have even been born yet!
It’s hard to believe that 1994—when Oasis and Blur battled it out on the pop charts, and Nelson Mandela was voted in as South Africa’s first black president—would also mark the birth of digital advertising.
Where it all began
According to The Atlantic, the digital advertising revolution began with a single banner ad. It was a colorful, unbranded callout from AT&T posted on a website called HotWired.com that simply challenged visitors to click “right HERE.” And click they did — 44 percent to be precise (though some claim up to 70 percent).
What follows is a story of constant evolution — two years later, Yahoo! launched search ads, and in 1997 pop-up ads followed suit. From then on search advertising keyword auctions came onto the scene, as well as Google AdWords and in-app and social ads.
Serving ads on a large scale
Within a year of that first banner, the industry truly began to change. DoubleClick — a company that used servers to disseminate ads — launched in 1995 and enabled advertisers to mount large-scale campaigns instead of placing one-off ads on individual sites.
This was the start of marketing automation — and kicked off unparalleled momentum. DoubleClick was followed by the advent of search advertising and Google AdWords. These tools helped digital advertising scale and internet-based ad revenue tripled every year — from £90 million in 1995, to £280 million in 1996, to £880 million in 1997.
Soon advertisers began focusing on analytics and measurement to justify ad spending, and that became even easier to track with the introduction of social sharing sites. Video and social media platforms — including YouTube and Facebook — changed online advertising profoundly. Advertisers were able to integrate brand messaging seamlessly with the audience’s organic online socialising. It became a two-way street, as viewers began interacting more intimately with brand messages, while brands began personalising messages for their audiences. Fast forward to 2019 and spending on digital advertising in the UK will exceed traditional ad spending by the end of the year, according to eMarketer.
Adobe’s role in digital advertising
This was just the beginning — for the industry and for Adobe. Since day one, we’ve been committed to helping people create and businesses compete. Our flagship products, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Premiere Pro were already on the market when the boom hit — with After Effects released soon after. They were the perfect match for the burgeoning industry to bring creative visions and messaging to life.
2000s, as digital advertising evolved, we expanded to offer a suite of ad management, delivery, and measurement solutions. And to further empower customers, we brought on capabilities for digital photo software, business process management software, and 3D collaborative software.
Our largest and most game-changing addition of was Omniture, a web analytics firm. This was a major step forward for Adobe Analytics and our future data-driven solutions. Web analytics has become the engine behind online marketing — allowing companies to target their messages to their audiences and driving customer engagement and loyalty.
In 2016, we launched Adobe Advertising Cloud — an independent platform to manage the entire ad campaigns. As digital advertising evolves, we continue to find new ways to help our customers build amazing connected omnichannel experience everywhere, and embrace today’s marketing technology to more effectively reach audiences and meet business goals.
As Adobe has supported the evolution of digital advertising, it has also cemented its regional presence across the globe, supporting digital transformation at a grassroots level. Adobe in Europe is going from strength to strength and our partner ecosystem in the region now includes over 12,800 agency, solution and tech partners. In the UK, Adobe recently announced a £63.5m investment in its local operations, with commitment to grow its workforce by over 20 percent over the next three years.
The next 25 years
Today digital advertising finds itself at a crossroads. On the one hand, innovation seems boundless as the industry redefines itself with new technology like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality, virtual reality. Marketing teams are striving to become more customer-centric, going to great lengths to generate content that is personalised to a consumer’s specific needs and interests.
However it’s hard to deny the industry is facing challenges. Digital ad fraud is constantly growing and predicted to cost over-the-top (OTT) video advertisers up to £9 billion annually by 2020. New digital media have offered marketers endless platforms to connect with their audiences, but it has also made it difficult to remain consistent and relevant. So-called walled garden environments have further complicated things, as some online platforms have elected to horde user data, restricting brands from crucial information that could help them deliver content better suited to audiences.
In recent years the topic of digital privacy has also started to fuel concerns, as social platforms and online media outlets have proved themselves unable to secure their user’s information. This is great cause for concern for brands wishing to advertise on these platforms without compromising the privacy of their own users. This is all the more critical in Europe, where freshly enforced GDPR legislation has raised the stakes even higher for brands.
Adobe and the future of digital advertising
Here at Adobe, we’re absolutely dedicated to the future of digital advertising. We understand that the future is becoming increasingly complex. In the next 25 years, we’re taking on these complicated challenges with easy-to-use solutions that will drive meaningful and connected digital advertising experiences to the right audiences.
We believe that the best way to handle an industry that is changing at a breakneck pace is to be part of that change and consistently push the boundaries of what is possible.
It’s our technology and creativity that will help shape digital advertising and even as the future changes and new platforms emerge — like voice-based devices, IoT devices, and alternate realities — we will continue to put customers at the centre.
Let’s continue our journey to the past and find out even more about the future.