Marwan’s Adtech Predictions for 2017

Written by Tim Edmundson

With the calendar change comes a chance at personal change — a chance to start fresh with new opportunities. The same could be said of digital advertising — with the new year, the industry looks to 2017 to see what can be rethought, improved, innovated, and optimized.

To get a sense of what the new year holds, we sat down with our Chief Product Officer, Marwan Soghaier. From anti-bot ads to evolved algorithms, he envisions 2017 as the year of opportunity.


“Ad bots days are numbered,” says Marwan, which is welcome news for digital advertising. According to the ANA, the digital ad industry loses up to $7.2 billion a year to bot traffic.

“We already have reached a point where bots are a major threat to our industry,” says Marwan. “To combat this, we will see numerous DSPs adopt anti-bot ads.” By introducing tools that stifle and eliminate bots’ ability to corrupt performance data, advertisers will be left with cleaner metrics. Their performance will be driven by clicks by real people, giving advertisers better insight into what truly works with their audience, and what doesn’t. And more importantly, they will no longer have to worry about their budgets being spent on cold, uncaring (and unconverting) robots.

“We’re going to see advertisers demand technologies that seek to show how their campaigns are truly performing,” he says, “And once anti-bot ads become the norm, it will build trust between advertisers and adtech providers. If you take away the bots, all you have left is your true audience — and your true performance.”

The Predictions:

> Anti-bot ad units will be adopted by numerous DSPs.

> Bots are dead, long live humans!


Algorithms are the bread and butter for many digital systems — for decades now, programmers have built operational models with a foundation of basic rules that boil down to “yes” or “no” decisions. If a user does X (yes), then the system responds with Y. Pretty simple! But the simplicity disappears when the programmer has to account for more and more scenarios — with each user action available, more rules must be created, until there’s a teetering Jenga tower of complex decisions and code that can topple over should the wrong piece be pulled.

Thankfully, there’s a sea-change coming in adtech algorithms — “I think with 2017, we’ll see rules engines give way to more intelligent machine learning,” says Marwan. “And with that, we’ll begin to see self-service products deliver full-service quality.”

Intelligent learning, or Machine Learning, is a system where algorithms learn from data as it is created and change accordingly. By classifying and scoring incoming information, the algorithm can learn as it goes, and produce better decisions. This produces a more agile system, capable of adapting and using info without having to worry about accounting and manually creating rules for scenarios after they occur.

The result, as Marwan says, is an ability for a self-service platform to act as a full-service system. “By interpreting and automatically acting on new data,” he says, “it gives you the power to best optimize performance for many different kinds of business — all because we know how their customers behave. Both advertisers and consumers benefit because the ad becomes more relevant, giving consumers products they need, and the advertiser is able to increase performance. It’s a win/win.”

The Predictions:

> Algorithms will graduate from rules engines to intelligent learning language.

> Self-service products will deliver full-service quality.


Clicks have traditionally been seen by many marketers as the most direct way of tracking performance — but it isn’t a foolproof method. According to TAG, many reported clicks come from ads that were never viewable by real people. So with clicks not being completely reliable, many marketers have put their faith in view-throughs, but they’re still fighting an uphill battle in terms of acceptance. That will change, says Marwan, in 2017.

“Views have been accepted for years as a performance channel for billboards, print, and television. It’s time that views get the credit they deserve in digital, as well. We’ll see view-throughs in digital ads become a verified source of attribution, backed up by numbers thanks to specific analytics.”

There will be a push, says Marwan, for a more holistic approach to attribution — a combination of clicks and views. By accounting for the customers who click, as well as those who don’t, advertisers will get a more clear picture of their true performance.

The Predictions:

> Accepted for years as a performance channel for billboards, print, and television, views will get the credit they deserve in digital.

> View-through digital ads will become a verified source of attribution, with specific analytics to back them up.


Transparency is a persistent issue in digital advertising — a topic we have touched on in the past. This year, says Marwan, will finally be the year that the call for more transparency gets a real answer.

“Advertisers are going to expect full transparency into things like performance, attribution, and pricing — it will become the industry norm.” And why is this year the tipping point? Because transparency’s link to performance and control has become evident to the industry. When advertisers have insight into how their budget is being spent, they can spend it more intelligently. When they have insight and control over their attribution and how they measure performance, their campaigns are made stronger.

The industry will spend the year looking for ways to produce initiatives and tech that gives the market what it wants — more control and insight into how their campaigns are performing.

The Predictions:

> Transparency becomes the expectation for advertisers.

> Exchanges and DSPs will be forced to report on margins and media spend — the public won’t have it any other way!


2017 will see smaller programmatic companies in adtech begin to punch above their weight, says Marwan. “Smaller players in the industry will start to deliver tools to medium-tier companies to help them advertise like the big boys. With the tech advancements 2017 will bring, these brands will have the power to effectively spread their message at scale.”

Meanwhile, the bigger players in the industry will note the success these smaller companies enjoy. Because these smaller companies can truly master a certain aspect of the industry,” they will look rather enticing to these larger adtech companies. “These smaller, expert adtech companies with a programmatic focus will flourish, and probably be acquired by the few large players looking to make their platforms perform better. When you’re operating at a certain scale, it’s much easier to acquire what you need rather than developing it from scratch. I’m sure we’ll see that play out in the new year.”

The Predictions:

> Expert adtech companies with a programmatic focus on performance will flourish.

> Smaller companies will give medium-tier brands the tools necessary to advertise like the larger brands in their space.

> Larger adtech players will acquire smaller companies to better hone their tech.


Adtech has a chance to improve across the board, whether it is becoming more transparent in how it operates, how it tracks performance, or how its technology is built. One thing is consistent with Marwan’s predictions — they all lead to a more positive future for the industry and the relationship the industry has with advertisers. Hopefully he’s right!