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 advertising 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.
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.