Top Ten Predictions for Digital Video Advertising in 2021

Top Ten Predictions for Digital Video Advertising in 2021

A woman looking through a glass sphere in front of her eye with her face shown in each circle as it gets smaller

2020 was a year of change, including changes in how people consume content, prompting soul searching and updates from the biggest brands. Think about Coca-Cola pulling out of social media for a time, until they ultimately recalibrated and invested in a more conscious way after months of internal review of how to ensure their values and investment strategies matched.  As 2021 gets underway, we compiled the top 10 digital video advertising market trends to keep an eye on.

1. Cookies Continue to Crumble

A driving force behind the last 20 years of ad revenue growth, the cookie will continue to use its lustre as Google implements changes to Chrome, following other browsers like Mozilla and Safari, and eliminating cookies by 2022.  The voice of the consumer will drive brands to shift their focus to contextual, which uses content as a more effective proxy of consumer interest (eg. Peloton may choose to run ads against workouts or health and wellness channels).

2. Data Ethics

The infamous rise of conspiracy theories and fake news have raised awareness of how data and technology can be used to create a more inclusive, diverse, and truth seeking digital world. Platforms will be forced to take ever more clear cut positions on what types of content they allow on their platforms, as well as how their algorithms promote this often viral content (eg. Android & IOS banning Parlor).

3. Contextual Grows in Maturity

Aided by the cookie’s disappearance, contextual targeting will grow in both importance and in maturity. Contextual targeting helps brands target content specifically aligned with their message and ethos. 

Research by Channel Factory has shown that ads running on content that is aligned with the ad (like M&M with M&M unboxing videos) drives up to 93% better recall than audience targeting-only tactics

4. Brand Safety, Customized

Brand safety has emerged as a primary KPI in most brand’s media plans and the cost of oversight is clear. GroupM’s 2020 survey of 14,000 consumers found that 64% develop a negative view of a brand when its ads appear next to inappropriate content.

The next evolution of brand safety lies in its customization to the brand’s unique image, message, and markets.  Brands will look to providers to help navigate platforms with high volume and velocity through the lens of their specific brand image and values.

5. More Responsible Media Buying

“Brands are thinking about media investment in terms of their corporate social responsibility and are trying to reflect ethical, value-based decisions about what’s positive and good for society in their media buying” says Joshua Lowcock, Chief Digital & Innovation Officer at UM Worldwide. 

In a 2018 Conscious Consumer Spending index, on a scale of 1-10, most consumers ranked themselves 7 or 8 in terms of their social consciousness when shopping, and that number is only going to grow. 2020 prompted corporate reflection on systemic inequality across the societal spectrum, and brands are beginning to include both creative messaging as well as media investment to reflect their corporate values.

6. Focus on Performance Efficiency

A perfect storm of factors has put performance efficiency – price and ROI – front and center for brands: the economic contraction, pressure on businesses to digitize their retail capabilities in light of reduced offline shopping behaviors, and the growing number of lower funnel products appearing to cater to such models such as YouTube for Shopping.  

As contextual targeting and customized brand safety techniques improve, brands are beginning to see how as much as 30% of their impressions have historically run on content that’s either irrelevant or unsuitable. In 2021, brands will be looking to maximize  their effective reach and increase what many are coming to call their qCPM, or quality CPM, which is the actual cost to their business of running on content that aligned with their brand.

7. News is Back on the Menu

The incessant stream of bad news in 2020 caused many brands to scale back their media spending on the category. 

However, in a survey released by the Trustworthy Accountability Group in December, 40% of consumers said all news content should be appropriate for ads. IAB research released in October also found 84% of consumers feel advertising within the news increases or maintains brand trust.  While consumers are divided around advertising on certain stories – involving violence, death, policy, societal changes – in 2021, brands will be on the lookout for a more curated approach to the news as the medium continues to pull in users transfixed by the 24 hours news cycle. 

8. Audio-Driven Advertising 

Audio has never been hotter. Audio streaming increased 32% in 2020, with households upping their daily listening by an average of 54 minutes. Whether multi-tasking, jogging, or beginning to commute again, brands will be looking for ways to maximize audio-consumption as an advertising medium with its own creative best practices

Consumers spend more time on YouTube streaming music and podcasts than on any other digital platform. And YouTube just unveiled its new audio ad unit, and early tests show promise: Shutterfly drove above benchmark lifts of 14 percent lift in ad recall and 2 percent lift in favorability among their target audience.

YouTube Holiday Season Data

YouTube Holiday Season Data

"Adweek" on gray background with star and Christmas tree ornaments on the bottom

(YouTube Holiday Season Data Reprinted from the original, in AdWeek here)

The 2020 holidays are missing their usual cheer as people scramble to adapt traditions and email their Christmas lists to Santa so he can browse the web for the best deals.

Almost three-quarters of shoppers polled in Channel Factory’s holiday season survey said they will take to the internet to find gifts for loved ones this year, with more than 30% starting their shopping earlier than usual (even as far back as October). Only half said they expect to spend as much as in previous years.

“In crises, decades happen in days, and nowhere has a trend been more amplified than in ecommerce, where in September alone we saw a 43% lift in online sales from the prior year,” said Channel Factory SVP, Global Marketing, Lauren Douglass.

Shoppers are also leaning on connected TV like YouTube to find products, with 40% saying they discovered something new to buy through ads on the video platform. One in three people are actively seeking out YouTube for gift ideas (as well as home decor inspiration), and 32% attributed a holiday gift choice to YouTube.

Click to enlarge our Holiday Season Data image:

YouTube Performance Efficiency

YouTube Performance Efficiency

A glass pot holding coins and a small green plant coming out of them

If we learned anything from YouTube marketers in 2020 it’s that they want managed outcomes and performance efficiency. More than 50% of brands bringing their programmatic buying in-house and agencies face common pressures. Streamline operations, drive performance efficiency, and offer performance-driven outcomes. Channel Factory has been helping brands and agencies achieve all of this for years.

Operational Ease

It takes a lot of data to ensure campaigns are optimized against all your KPIs. Over 500 hours of new content is uploaded every minute to YouTube. The only way to track all that data is within a continually updated YouTube DMP. That’s a hefty cost and personnel overhead for most advertisers. It’s easier to keep your team slim and bring in the experts. 

At Channel Factory our proprietary ViewIQ technology scans over 18 million videos every day against all historical performance data from a decade of campaigns. ViewIQ is an entire team in itself. Its machine-learning algorithms are constantly being trained by expert, hands-on media buyers, account managers and strategists to optimize campaigns toward optimal YouTube performance efficiency. 

YouTube Performance Efficiency

There are a lot of variables to consider on the open auction. In our experience failure to arbitrage expertise and data cost advertisers between 20% and 100% in additional spend. For example, while it’s common knowledge that prices go down at the end of buying cycles (months, quarters, years), certain tentpole buying seasons buck those trends. Think Back to School, the Super Bowl, summer movie releases and, in 2020, the U.S. election. In 2020 we managed to deliver incredible value for our Q4 advertisers despite significant holiday season traffic on YouTube. 

Dynamic pacing is key to YouTube performance efficiency.  Most advertisers serve their ads evenly across the entire campaign, which means ignoring critical price signals and paying dearly.  Utilizing algorithms and hands on keyboards, at Channel Factory we use dynamic delivery to ensure ads are serving only in the most favorable pricing conditions. The result is specifically designed to both increase engagement and pricing efficiency. And it also means exceeding delivery expectations.

At Channel Factory, 10 years of campaign experience across industry sectors and countries has helped us identify the optimal buying conditions for the open auction. Whenever we build campaigns, we’re using a combination of these insights as well as hard performance data to select content suited to your KPIs.  That means, before your campaign has even begun, we’ve already cherry-picked the top performing YouTube content based on historical knowledge. 

Performance Outcomes

There are hundreds of possible combinations of YouTube ad products, tactics and add-ons all designed to achieve specific outcomes. Whether its brand awareness, consideration, action, or all three, the portfolio of ad formats and extensions is always growing. It helps to work with a partner who knows which combinations drive the specific outcome you’re looking for.

For example, within the auto-sector you can drive cheaper but fewer conversions using Google’s custom-intent audiences, or more expensive but a higher volume of conversions with customized contextual alignments. Combinations of TrueView for Action with store location extensions can work well 

Pricing Efficiency with Managed Outcomes

With Channel Factory, brands and agencies benefit from operational ease, YouTube performance efficiency, and performance-driven outcomes as well as round-the-clock, white-glove customer service.

How to Prep for CTV Inventory Shortage and What to do Next

How to Prep for CTV Inventory Shortage and What to do Next

Feet on a table with a TV in the back

Ad-supported inventory for some connected TV streaming (CTV streaming) services is almost gone. Projections for 2024 are estimating over 140.1 million viewers, yet inventory demand has outweighed supply.1 Why? Because the reach of the ad-supported streaming providers simply cannot meet the demand. 

The Issue with CTV Inventory

Advertisers should consider moving their connected TV (CTV) dollars into YouTube. YouTube is the largest ad supported CTV provider globally and its platform offers much more scale than any of the other ad-supported CTV services.YouTube connected TV also offers better targeting, unique non-ad supported and incremental broadcast reach opportunities. Not to mention brand suitability advantages.

Despite accounting for 83% of all streaming hours, of the “Big 5” streaming players – Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu and Disney+ – only Hulu is ad supported. The remainder of CTV streaming happens through a growing ecosystem of ad-supported platforms like Hulu, Roku, Tubi, PlutoTV and Peacock, as well as a handful of other smaller services such as TiVo+ and Redbox.

According to a report by Innovid and the ANA, these platforms are “still in the beginning stages of adopting CTV inventory and building the infrastructure needed to support CTV buys at scale.”2   Most CTV ad buys take place directly, and are bought quickly.  

The bigger problem isn’t how you buy it, but rather the scale of the platforms themselves.

Why YouTube CTV?

YouTube is the largest CTV app. It out-scales its competitors by almost a factor of 2. Over 100 million watch it on the big screen every month3, while Hulu comes in second at 58 million total subscribers4. The other players trail off in the distance: Roku (43 million subscribers)5, Tubi (33 million subscribers)6, Pluto TV (26.5 million subscribers)7 and Peacock (15 million subscribers)8.

What are the Benefits of CTV inventory?

On YouTube, the content never dries up. YouTube creators publish 500 hours every minute. In December 2021 Youtube reached over 135 million people via CTV.9 In 2021 over 50% of ad-supported streaming on CTV came from Youtube.10 

YouTube streams things like Major League Baseball and has captured more than 600 million views on the main U.S. late-night talk shows. The video platform also nurtures huge fandoms for broadcast TV shows.  Views on the official YouTube channels for the NFL and WWE as well as on content created by YouTube creators about both sports were about 22 times higher than the broadcasts themselves.11
Even non-ad-supported shows are accessible on YouTube. Netflix’s Stranger Things pulls in about 25+million viewers per season and YouTube Stranger Things-related content pulls in over 300 million views.12

Ad Opportunities

On YouTube CTV advertising with the right partner, you can run 6,15 and 30-second ads opposite contextually customized, brand-suitable YouTube videos and channels.

Non-YouTube CTV inventory is mostly unskippable 30-second spots and targeting is much less specific. Advertisers have a limited variety of demographic, geographic, content viewer habits, and linear TV household mimicking targeting options, with contextual options still in their infancy and no real brand safety or brand suitability controls.13 

YouTube Offers Brand Suitable, Contextually Aligned Ad Performance

YouTube’s targeting advantage also helps drive performance. As we’ve seen not only can contextual alignment drive up to 93% better brand awareness 14, but YouTube ads consumed on CTV devices can deliver up to 47% lift in ad recall and 35% in purchase intent.15

As we move forward, advertisers who want more contextual control over the living room experience should look no further than YouTube—which, unlike other streaming services, is always open for business.




Channel Studio logo

Effective ad creative optimization can make all the difference in your campaign. Studies have shown that ad creative can impact actual sales by up to 50% and effective creative can drive a 2X increase in ROI.1 But in digital, running the same TV spot on YouTube could negatively affect your success. Consider the range of YouTube content consumption behaviors, ad lengths and formats. If you use TV creative on YouTube, you could be sacrificing performance.

Channel Factory’s creative studio called Channel Studio can help brands take their TV hero assets and give them the edge they need to drive success.  Here are the top 4 reasons why brands need a creative variation and cutdown strategy.

1. Adopt Your Story Arc for YouTube

Brands who rely on repurposing their TV creative on YouTube will likely see their video completion rates suffer. “Like it or not, the ad industry’s traditional approach to a story arc—beginning, middle, and end in a 30-second spot—is a thing of the past,” says Tara Walpert, VP of Agency and Brand Solutions at Google. 

Brands should consider developing a YouTube specific creative strategy by cutting down their existing creatives and testing multiple variations. This kind of creative optimization will likely drive significantly higher video completion rates, driving long term effectiveness and performance efficiency.

2. Device Consumption Should Impact Creative Choices

YouTube is not the same as broadcast TV, and YouTube is also not consumed in one single way. When designing creative for a digital first experience, it’s important to consider the variety of devices on which viewers will be seeing ads and adjust accordingly. While approximately 70% of YouTube views come through mobile devices, as of March 2020 comScore reported that 21% of all streaming hours on CTV devices were spent on YouTube.2 

Watching YouTube on an iPhone vs. watching from the comfort of your sofa on a big screen are worlds apart. Ads on the big screen can generate up to 47% lifts in ad recall, but slightly different rules apply. Remember, you can’t click a TV. That means, (1) YouTube CTV viewers don’t tend to skip ads and (2) you’ll want to think about your calls-to-action for that device. So when crafting your CTV strategy, have non-skippable 15 and 30 second ads in your back pocket. 

For mobile, a user is consuming on a small screen, and may only pay attention for a few seconds. Having your brand reveal come after 15 seconds simply won’t work on mobile. Brands should consider having their logos populate earlier or stay in view the entire ad.

3. There’s More Than One Ad Format 

YouTube advertisers can choose between 6 second bumpers, skippable and non-skippable 15 and 30 second ad formats. Using shorter, non-skippable ads to drive reach and ensure consumer attention vs. giving people the option to skip after 5 seconds might both warrant different creative approaches. 

Within each ad format, advertisers want to consider how best to optimize their original hero assets, and consider when to overlay their logos as well as YouTube calls-to-action. 

“When you think about all the different YouTube creative lengths, it’s not so much a question of this vs. that. It’s thinking about how all the components work together,” says Google’s Creative Director, Eugene Buono who joined Channel Factory on a recent panel about creative pivots in 2020. “Whether it’s media and entertainment or consumer goods, there’s a story to tell, and there’s a time and a place for each of these different components depending on where users are and the signals they’re sending out.” 

4. A/B Testing Drives Creative Effectiveness

When they participated in a study conducted by Oracle for their Pedigree pet food brand, Mars tested a video opening with strong branding vs. one that saved the branding for the end. They learned the upfront branded video drove nearly 7x better sales lift.3  That’s the power of creative optimization.

Testing video ad creative can be time-consuming and expensive when brands have to handle the cut downs and variations in-house or find creative agencies not involved in the actual media buying component of the campaign. 

5. A World of Dynamic Creative Optimization

Further, at the campaign level, the process can be repetitive and manual for many users. However, when it’s incorporated as an added value component of a managed service, with video and channel level targeting, it’s easy to get results and quickly optimize towards the better performing content.

According to Eugene Buono, “when some big cultural phenomenon happens, brands and agencies want to be on top of that. From a brand suitability, as well as from a creative messaging perspective.” Adopting a versatile, adaptable creative strategy is key to advertising in a fast-paced and globally-connected world where messaging and tone shifts can happen overnight.  

Advertisers on YouTube have a vast array of dynamic creative optimization tools to choose from, across a variety of devices. Channel factory offers added value creative edits for brands to help their YouTube creative optimization. The offer, called Channel Studio, gives brands a way of making the most of their already existing creative, without simply recycling their TV spot. As an added value component of our end-to-end managed service campaigns, this kind of creative editing adaptability isn’t just worthwhile, it’s essential to capturing consumer attention in a competitive ecosystem. 

For more information on Channel Studio, check out the overview here, or contact for more detail.


  1. comScore ARS Global Validation Summary, comScore, October 2010; Nielsen Catalina Solutions, Nearly 500 campaigns across all media platforms, 2016-Q1 2017
  2. YouTube Press Page; Comscore, ConnectedTV: Share of OTT Hours by Service
  3. Google/Oracle Data Cloud Sales Lift Meta Analysis, US (TrueView CPG campaigns tested between April 2015 and March 2016)

Channel Science: Brand Safety, Suitability & Performance by Channel Factory & Integral Ad Science

Channel Science: Brand Safety, Suitability & Performance by Channel Factory & Integral Ad Science

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Advertisers today have many considerations when it comes to YouTube. Are my ads reaching the right person? Against the right content? Am I only running on brand safe videos and channels? In the past, brands had to work across multiple partners to achieve their goals. With today’s announcement that Channel Factory and IAS will be collaborating on brand safety to create Channel Science. Now brands will now have an end to end solution to ensure they can achieve their goals on YouTube. 

What is Channel Science? Channel Science is an industry-leading offering in partnership with Integral Ad Science that enables advertisers to have the most complete YouTube brand safety and suitability optimization solution on the market. One product integrating two industry partners, Channel Science allows advertisers to maximize both companies’ tech platforms to guarantee their YouTube TrueView campaigns are at their safest, most brand-suitable and performance-driven. 

“We are thrilled to announce the world’s first combined verification and performance optimization solution for YouTube advertisers. Partnerships that offer power solutions like this one save time and money for advertisers are absolutely crucial in today’s world. Advertisers need an end-to-end solution to manage the quality and performance of YouTube buys while saving time and money,” said Lisa Utzschneider, Chief Executive Officer, IAS. 

Both YouTube Measurement Partners (YTMP), Channel Factory and IAS deliver unique value in creating a solution brands and agencies can trust. Channel Factory offers best-in-class curation of YouTube content and an ad performance-driven approach, while IAS gives advertisers video- and channel- level brand safety. Together, Channel Factory and IAS give advertisers Channel Science—a potent, one-stop solution for YouTube TrueView advertising. 

Channel Science offers advertisers: 

  • Peace of mind knowing they are investing in the most suitable YouTube channels and videos by combining the best in brand safety (IAS) with the best contextual targeting solution (Channel Factory) on YouTube 
  • An end-to-end, continually optimized campaign that delivers real outcomes, like increased click through rates, view through rates, and reduced costs 
  • Improved outcomes by investing in high performing media that ensures brand suitability and simultaneously reduces ad waste
  • Verification and monitoring from IAS to confirm the campaign’s brand safety

“We are incredibly excited to partner with IAS to combine expertise, innovation, and technology to help advertisers achieve their brand safety, brand suitability, and ROI goals in one product from two trusted YTMP partners,” said Tony Chen, CEO of Channel Factory.

For more information on Channel Science, download our one sheet here