It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish

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We all entered 2014 looking forward to another strong year of overall growth for Internet advertising, a batch of new ad tech IPOs, and increased M&A activity.  If we decided to take a year-long sabbatical and checked back in on December 31, we would have discovered…another strong year of overall growth for Internet advertising, a batch of new adtech IPO’s, and increased M&A activity. Expectations met! But what would we have found had we checked in around mid-year?  A 50% collapse in stock prices and a number of failed fundraises.

Indeed, many of the predictions heading into 2014 didn’t seem so prescient by August 2014, as there were only “relative winners” and a whole group of ad tech companies that Wall Street analysts and industry pundits left for dead.  Fast forward four months, and we are again talking about a rising tide lifting all boats and trying to predict the next big acquisition.

So, what should we expect in 2015?  Think 2014 on steroids.  Having worked in the ad tech for over 15 years, I have seen two full cycles, and I believe we are entering the third inflection point in our sector’s history.  My colleague, Michael Rubenstein, has dubbed this upcoming period the “Ad Tech Power Game”, or #ATPG for short.  Companies of all sizes across most industries are coming to the realization that either ownership or skilled leveraging of advertising technology is critical for the growth and go-forward strategic relevance of their businesses.  Combine this point of view with a generally strong global economy and the continued structural shift of offline-to-online, and we’ve got a formula for a robust and dynamic 2015.  That’s not to say that there won’t be setbacks.  It doesn’t mean there won’t be periods when naysayers have their 15 minutes to point out all of the reasons why ad tech isn’t strategic or important.  But I do think we will all be experiencing “higher highs” and “higher lows” throughout the year, and if we can keep focused and continue delivering innovation and value, we will look back upon 2015 as one of those inflection point years that we can tell our grandchildren about.

5 Tips to Help You Prepare for 2015

  1. Be prepared for an even better underlying business environment: The global economy is entering its fifth full year of recovery. Expect overall global acceleration (led by the United States) in 2015 and 2016.
  2. A rising tide lifts all boats: Although a gulf will continue to exist (perhaps a dramatic one) between winners and losers, expect only “relative” losers, as the underlying business environment should be robust enough to allow everyone to grow.
  3. Expect the unexpected: Alliance Data and Conversant? Oracle and Datalogix?  We will see both familiar names as well as unexpected participants in the Ad Tech Power Game.
  4. Lots of opportunities: Given the strong underlying economy and positive sector dynamics, our collective greatest challenge will be prioritizing what will move the needle in 2016 and beyond.
  5. Step on the gas pedal heading into 2016!



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