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Following changes to GDPR regulations in May this year and the ongoing concerns over brand safety, after social media platforms faced frenzied scrutiny in 2018, it’s no wonder that it’s been a year of instability and uncertainty.

Integral Ad Science (IAS) has launched its annual survey, looking to gain some insight into the sort of challenges currently plaguing the industry and identify new opportunities for growth.

The survey aims to examine a cross section of professionals from all corners of the digital ad industry in the UK, following their successful analysis of 332 individuals last year.

In 2018, GDPR, transparency and brand safety emerged as the top challenges for brands and agencies; challenges that remain largely unresolved. “GDPR has had an impact [on adland] but not in the way that people thought it would,” said Victoria Chappell, marketing director EMEA at IAS. “It hasn’t really brought down the industry in the way that it was perceived to. Brand safety still continues to be a challenge especially for social media platforms. Although they’ve really taken a lot of work to address that.

“The idea of trust and transparency will potentially crop up less in 2019, as there’s already been so much talk about it. For 2019, people are much more focused on the upcoming e-privacy directors and data privacy laws.”

She cites that continual education around the impact of GDPR is needed as consumers may not be as clued up on the new legislations as we think. “Customers probably need to be updated on GDPR [on a regular basis],” said Chappell. “When things start to develop in e-privacy, which is due to come into effect at the end of 2019, greater consumer awareness will need to be generated.”

But Chappell thought fake news could continue to affect the industry in the new year as it hasn’t yet been tackled resolutely. And this may seed more doubt and distrust in consumers.

“Last year, fake news didn’t just pose a risk to the advertising industry but to society as a whole,” she added. “It will be very interesting to see how this changes, if at all, after the wake of the US elections that happened recently and whether that’s going to progress into 2019.”

Educating brands, marketers, publishers and consumers about their relationship with advertising today can only be a good thing and should be more actively encouraged by industry bodies in the new year. “The only way to really challenge issues around GDPR, data privacy and fake news is to really understand those topics,” she said, also calling for better cross communication.

Like GDPR, programmatic TV emerged as an anticipated challenge in 2018 yet also as an area for opportunity, but it never materialised in the way that it had been expected to.

“Again, we haven’t really seen programmatic come into effect yet,” according to Chappell who thinks that it will develop in 2019, with the rise of video. “What’s going to help people in 2019 is greater video opportunities. At the moment, a lot of videos sit on YouTube, produced by content creators. But I reckon we'll start to see video grow even further as user consumption increases. The general public and advertisers are getting more clued up on the fact that they need to invest more fully in mobile video to attract and engage their audiences.”

But she warns that while opportunities may arise across digital multi touch retribution modelling and programmatic, there could still be some drawbacks to their full implementation – which she hopes the industry will be able to overcome in 2019.

“Another one of the areas that we're excited to look at this year is perceived risk in programmatic,” she said. “Last year, the inventory wasn’t always of great quality; there could have been risk, fraud, or poor viewability with programmatic. But in 2019, I think we'll see that that’s not entirely reflective.”

Inciting confidence in internal teams and prioritising the user’s experience are her key takeaways for brands and agencies to focus on in the new year.

“One of the main outcomes from that lack of trust and transparency in 2018 has been from brands bringing programmatic in house so that they feel they can have complete control over it,” concludes Chappell.

To take part in the survey, click here.