Ad tech industry has been forced to push its limits and work through the unprecedented situation of the pandemic. The radical changes that occurred in 2020 are likely to continue through to next year. Some key trends have emerged over the last 12 months that we expect will shape the face of digital in 2021 and beyond. So, here are some scenarios that marketers can expect to face in 2021:
Contextual Targeting will be top of mind: Privacy has been a hot topic this year and will continue into 2021. In our Consumer Privacy study, 7 out 10 Australian consumers have taken action to limit data collection when online and the industry has also seen significant movement to comply with privacy regulation. Increasingly, there will be increased scrutiny on data that is collected for the purposes of advertising. The usefulness of data will get limited with the death of cookies. If you have all this data about the individual but no way to activate that data in digital environments you might be better off not having it at all.
Due to this, there is increasing reliance on contextual targeting as a proxy for audience. However, contextual targeting in 2021 will be more sophisticated than ever before. With cutting edge technology, we can now ascertain the sentiment and emotion of an article, interpreting the content the way a human would. With these increased capabilities, we’ll see more advertisers take advantage of both context targeting and avoidance to drive additional value and greater alignment in their digital marketing. Advertisers will start to substitute that audience data with contextual intelligence rather than having to support all that data management and privacy regulations that go along with capturing and leaving personally identifiable information.
Demand for CTV measurement will rise
This year, consumers’ new stay-at-home ‘lifestyles’ caught the attention, and budgets, of advertisers. With work from home and other restrictions related to the pandemic expected to last well into 2021, consumers’ “indoor living” will remain a key focus for advertisers. This means that marketers must continue to be creative and discover new ways to engage consumers in their living rooms, including taking advantage of increased digital video and Connected TV (CTV) viewing habits.
With notable growth in CTV viewership along with increased choice of ad supported CTV content options, advertisers have already started following the eyeballs by shifting linear TV budgets to CTV. Almost nine in ten (88%) marketing and media professionals agree that advancements in digital video/OTT and CTV technology will accelerate the shift in ad spend from linear TV to digital in 2021. In fact, eMarketer estimates that CTV ad spend will witness its largest growth in years, jumping 40.1% to $11.36 billion in the U.S.
As stay-at-home behaviours continue, marketers will embrace CTV advertising to connect with their respective audiences. What’s more, almost 60% of CTV inventory will be bought programmatically by 2021 according to eMarketer reports. Resounding concerns about ad fraud and brand risk for CTV will see advancements in CTV verification technologies and partnerships, as more advertisers activate these safeguards in 2021.
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Leading with Compassion and empathy
Uncertain times call for unparalleled leaders and in my view, there is a very strong and permanent shift in emotional leadership. Empathy is a key CEO attribute today and it’ll set the tone for 2021 too- albeit with a stronger focus. Having lived and worked around the world, I cannot think of a more necessary time for empathy. The playing field has changed for the foreseeable future. Unless C-suite adopt empathetic leadership principles quickly, keep the well-being of the employees at the core- they may find themselves leading team members who’re uncertain, overwhelmed and unable to do their best work. Leadership is about having the ability to relate and connect and listen and bond with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives. Right now, employees across industries and geographies are dealing with tremendous fear and frustrations. Those guided by empathetic leaders will likely have an easier time working through their stresses, while others operating under a “business as usual” leader may become disengaged and resentful. Enabling honest discussions and then pivoting the conversation and actions toward positive solutions will be the key for leaders in 2021 to help their employees stay motivated and thrive professionally and personally.
The maturing of remote working: 2020 fast-tracked the world into remote working in the greatest ‘work from home’ experiment we’ve experienced. With our digital-first lifestyles, some industries were able to pivot to efficiently support this new way of working. As we get closer to a COVID-free world, we will start to see a ‘hybrid’ approach to the workplace, underpinned by digital, like mobile and cloud technologies that facilitate remote working. This will allow workers to split time between home and the office, essentially allowing the business to operate from anywhere, while still maintaining the control and transparency they had when workers were in the office full-time.
Demand for accurate and precise measurement will be in demand
Marketers are planning for a tough economic climate in 2021 and now more than ever, it is critical for marketers to make every impression count by controlling the quality of media they buy or bid on. There will be a greater shift towards performance marketing and driving efficiencies next year. Technology will pave the way for a more transparent and measurable digital marketing ecosystem to ensure that campaigns connect with the right audiences. Using ad verification to make sure campaigns remain fraud free, viewable, and brand safe has become table stakes. In 2021, marketers will use measurement technology to focus on reducing ad spend wastage, measuring business impact of campaigns, and driving consumer engagement. That’s especially true for platforms including CTV/OTT and social environments, where advertisers are looking for even better ad verification.
Advanced verification solutions powered by AI and machine learning will become mainstream. These positive developments will benefit all stakeholders in the advertising ecosystem—publishers will be able to monetise their content better and drive more revenue, agencies will be able to launch more effective and efficient strategies, and brands will be able to understand the impact of their campaigns on consumers.
Businesses will automate for higher efficiencies: The challenges of 2020 highlighted the need for operational efficiency and consequently accelerated the drive to automation. In the media, the pressure of lockdowns saw this manifest with the increased reliance on programmatic media buying and a shift away from direct, IO based bookings with programmatic facilitating more automated media buying. Given the losses sustained by businesses in 2020, 2021 will be a year of efficiency underpinned by automation. With less “hands on deck,” adtech vendors will need to “plug and play” into existing buying platforms or risk generating too high an operational cost for partners to deploy. Frost & Sullivan’s research shows that companies recognise the business and operational benefits of automating business processes like data capture: higher productivity, leading to higher revenues. In a recent survey of almost 2,000 global IT decision-makers, it was reported that 72% have already invested in technology to drive and improve enterprise content and business process management as they try to reduce operational costs and improve the customer experience and their digital presence. By automating key processes and adopting AI and Machine learning to increase the speed, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness of their business operations, companies can improve the customer experience and drive employee productivity.
-The author is SVP, APAC at Integral Ad Science.
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