In 2018, digital marketing trends dominated headlines inside and outside of the industry as Facebook faced the Cambridge Analytica scandal, GDPR went live, and AT&T, SiriusXM and Adobe all made major acquisitions. But as the year comes to a close, I’m already looking forward to seeing what new innovations and changes you can expect in 2019. From this vantage point, there seems to be plenty to watch on the horizon. Some digital marketing trends expected to rise up are just more mature versions of their counterparts already in play and others are born of new game-changing technologies currently in development. So, take a break from your daily task list and take a look at the 2019 predictions you’ll want to know about before you build next year’s strategy: 1. This will be the year that advertisers get serious about audio. The renaissance of digital audio – streaming radio, podcasts, voice assistants – has created one of the most anticipated opportunities of the coming year. And we’re not the only ones seeing that audio is primed for takeoff. From Pandora’s acquisition of AdsWizz to SiriusXM’s play to buy Pandora, recent signals have many in the industry believing that programmatic audio is finally reaching marketplace maturity. It’s no secret that mobile is driving digital media usage, with U.S. users devoting nearly 3.6 hours to a mobile device each day, according to eMarketer. But how are consumers spending that time on their devices? Listening. Audio takes up the biggest chunk of mobile usage at 52 minutes. But today, audio isn’t 100% synonymous with streaming music. People are sharing celebrity-curated playlists, downloading branded podcasts, and getting daily news briefs from their digital assistants. What this means is a variety of formats and niche audiences for advertisers to tap in 2019. Compared to other ad formats, audio has been slow to catch on in the past, but rising adoption rates among voice-activated speakers and audio subscription services have marketers eager to apply it to next year’s strategy. Sarah Scherer, media product manager at Goodway Group, sums it up simply, “More money will flow into programmatic audio in the coming years as advertisers recognize the cost efficiencies and optimization benefits compared to linear radio.” With near limitless opportunities to target your audience and expand reach, there has never been a better time to take advantage of the power of audio. 2. Advertisers will simplify their media buying and reduce their risk of fraud by re-evaluating the number of SSPs they work with. One thing came through loud and clear in 2018. Advertisers want to know exactly where their ads are running. This call for transparency isn’t just about the cost or impression numbers; it’s also closely linked to brand safety and the desire to avoid fraud. Marketers focused on simplifying their media buying in 2018 started by reducing the number of DSPs they work with from 7.1 in 2016 to 3.9 this year, according to eMarketer. So, it’s not a big surprise that our 2019 predictions include the natural next step – limiting their SSP relationships too. Our mission has always been to demystify digital marketing trends for our partners. So, let’s get clear right now on why the number of SSPs you work with matters. There are so many SSPs out there – too many actually. A lot of it is the same redundant technology, so you aren’t getting any extra value out of using 10 SSPs versus three. Instead, every SSP you add into your media mix adds on another layer of unnecessary complexity and increases your risk of encountering fraud or domain spoofing. While expecting all those SSPs to agree and close up shop isn’t realistic, our president Jay Friedman suggests that marketers significantly reduce the number of SSPs with which they spend. He believes this will accelerate SSP consolidation faster than any other force. If you consolidated your buying to a handful of SSPs, you could potentially leverage the aggregated buying volume to negotiate lower SSP take rates and trim ad tech fees from bid duplication. If nothing else, working with fewer SSPs means a lower risk for shenanigans, like bid caching. At Goodway, we know more isn’t always better. That’s why we’ve already scoured the SSP landscape and the open exchange to build a custom-curated programmatic exchange using only the SSPs that offer the cleanest, safest, highly viewable sites, apps and other digital inventory. I could geek out on our exclusive HSD marketplace all afternoon, but I’ll save those thoughts for another blog … 3. Many states will pass new data protection laws and regulations similar to GDPR. Online marketing has been around for more than 25 years, and programmatic for more than 10. It’s simply time for everyone – advertisers, ad tech providers, and consumers – to unite behind higher standards. GDPR was the first step in that direction for the EU, and I expect U.S. regulations will quickly follow. Already several states have introduced legislation to expand data privacy for their residents, giving them more control over how their personal data is collected and used. California’s Consumer Privacy Act goes a step further, requiring companies to make significant changes to their data handling and processing procedures. In Vermont, new legislation also requires data brokers to register with the state, better inform consumers about their options, and notify authorities of any security breaches. While U.S. regulations will mirror many of GDPR’s protections, it is doubtful that states will deem data privacy a civil right, as it is in the EU. Instead, most states are looking to give consumers the right to demand that companies disclose what information they collect, to block that data from being sold, and to sue noncompliant companies. However, even if lawmakers in every state set the stage for these regulations, the laws and enforcement likely won’t go into effect for several years. For instance, Vermont’s changes for data brokers don’t kick off until 2019, and California’s Consumer Privacy Act doesn’t take effect until 2020. In the meantime, if you’re looking for the most effective ways to reach your target audience in a post-GDPR world, you may want to start by auditing your data management program. Review your data protection policies with your legal and compliance teams. Then, develop a real-time process for handling customer requests and opt outs. As we enter another new year in just a few short weeks, I’d like to impart one more piece of advice: Remember that these changes aren’t silver bullets. Innovation can be exciting, but there are a number of hurdles to overcome first if we’re to truly see a digital transformation in the coming months. To keep up to date on what else is happening in ad tech in 2019, stay tuned to our blog.