Understanding The Roaring Twenties of Digital Marketing in 2021
Just like a century ago, we may now be on the verge of witnessing the new Roaring ‘20s in Digital Marketing, when (fingers crossed) the pandemic is over. The Roaring Twenties refer to a decade of prosperity after the end of World War I, known for its spirit of novelty and dynamism in technology, science, society, culture, and the economy.
After cultural and economic devastation, the post-COVID-19 era is likely to usher unique opportunities in many aspects of our lives, including marketing. MarTech players are voicing curiosity about the new normal and how to secure a profitable place in it. Thus, the time is right to reconsider established approaches and resolve long-lasting dilemmas while preparing for the exciting days ahead.
Existing Roadblocks in Digital Marketing
So Long, Tasty Cookies!
The cookie saga is keeping the whole of Ad Tech on their toes, as the industry’s major browsers are one by one removing 3rd-party trackers. This dates back to 2019 when Mozilla allowed users to block 3rd-party cookies in their Firefox browser, followed shortly by Apple’s Safari in 2020.
Later on, Google Chrome, which holds over 65% of the market, significantly fueled the fire with their plan to phase out 3rd-party tracking support in order to enhance privacy for its hundreds of millions of users. As the tech giant intends to introduce changes by 2022, Google’s Privacy Sandbox has already created a huge stir in the industry with FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) and FLEDGE (First Locally Executed Decision over Groups Experiment) hitting the headlines. Of course, other players didn’t want to fall by the wayside. Instead, they initiated the development of viable, and more importantly, unified, alternatives to 3rd-party cookies, like Unified ID 2.0, ID5 or SWAN.
- Unified ID 2.0 is an open-source solution powered by The Trade Desk, operated by Prebid, and endorsed by many notable Ad Tech players, such as Magnite, Nielsen, SpotX, OpenX, Criteo, FuboTV, etc. Its key advantage lies in the consumer-centric approach, tied to emails, encrypted keys, and other privacy improvements.
- ID5 is another solution meant to skip cookie-syncing processes and open direct access to targeting data exchange between partners. It already has various DSPs (Demand Side Platforms), SSPs (Supply Side Platforms), and publishers onboard, like DailyMail, La Provence, Discovery Channel, and many others.
- SWAN framework, which is supposed to go live in summer 2021, will fully rely on consumers’ consents to see ads with further opportunities to fine-tune personal preferences. This data will be shared among all the publishers within the SWAN’s network. As the most recent alternative to Google’s FLoC, SWAN has already been backed by OpenX, ENGINE Media Exchange (EMX), PubMatic, and other Ad Tech players. But the key issue with SWAN, as well as with all identifiers is whether the uptake will be high enough to make it work.
The Walls Are Rising High
Until recently Ad Tech relied on cookies for smooth user data exchange and running ads on mutually beneficial terms. However, the exponential growth of advertising led to the so-called walled gardens phenomenon. This is basically the situation when technologies, datasets, and algorithms, which belong to one company’s system, can’t be accessed by any other companies. Though this makes interoperability between actors of the ecosystem extremely complicated, the walled gardens approach has multiple benefits for those who own data.
For example, it drives more precise targeting, eases cross-device advertising, and improves security.
The world’s tech giants, Google, Amazon, and Facebook are often blamed for building their walls very high so as to have autocracy over information and secure the effectiveness of monetization efforts. However, not only the biggest tech companies tend to build their advertising walls. For instance, The New York Times has an exclusive subscription-based community for their publications. This way, readers get first-hand content directly from The New York Times and avoid any referral sources, while the publisher solely owns the personal data of the readership.
Clearly, the idea behind walled gardens makes it especially challenging for smaller players with limited data access available at their fingertips. Once the outgoing information flow is restricted, the same restrictions are applied to the incoming one.
What Will the Roaring ‘20s Bring to Digital Advertising?
Testing new avenues and technological solutions is essential. Luckily, there are multiple promising destinations for the Ad Tech community to navigate to.
Old-school outdoor advertising is going digital by transforming into digital out-of-home (DOOH). With an array of Ad Tech capabilities, such as tracking, geo/weather/time targeting and retargeting techniques, traditional outdoor mediums like billboards, public transport stops and so on, are going through exciting metamorphoses. Not to mention a patchwork of opportunities that programmatic brings to the space.
For instance, billboards can promote nearby eating-out spots during lunch breaks on working days, or showcase news, like Euronews TV Channel does through Exterion Media on HD screens across the London tube. Such interactive ads are expected to flood the streets once the quarantines are cycled down around the globe.
Connected TV has become one of the most rapidly growing advertising mediums with the ad spend expected to soar to a staggering $10.81 billion in 2021 (according to eMarketer).
Its audience accelerates in line with the number of services this affluent audience uses. Lockdowns obviously contributed a great deal to this tendency, as the average over-the-top video content consumption raised.
These shifts in media habits are likely to become our new normal.
CTV advertising is deemed attractive, as it provides access to unique cord-never audiences and gains a wealth of new ways to track and measure viewers’ interactions with ads. In the meantime, it is highly engaging compared to other video ad formats. Hence, connected TV is where marketers and publishers will still be sinking their teeth into as we leave lockdowns behind.
Creative Ad Formats
Everyone in advertising knows that a consumer’s attention span only gets shorter.
In fact, as per Oracle’s research, it reached 8 seconds in 2020. It goes without saying that capturing people’s attention gets harder and, therefore, advertising has to push the boundaries of what’s possible creatively to hook in potential consumers.
This is when experimenting with progressive ad formats will definitely come in handy. The ones that will help stay aligned with modern trends, according to IAB, include branded videos, video stories on social media, vertical videos, and videos with interactive elements, e.g. shoppable ads, augmented reality videos, etc. They will stimulate memorable connections with brands and cure the ad fatigue widely spread around modern-day consumers.
Since context illustrates the real meaning of brands, products or services, it’s essential to emphasize it when developing new ad approaches. Ensuring sustainability for targeting (i.e. content safety) is gaining more weight for advertising, especially taking into account the cookie-less agenda and its impact on behavioral targeting. New contextual algorithms are able to analyze with pinpoint accuracy how people interact with content, what is trending, and how all this correlates with ads.
To curate the effectiveness of personalized advertising and ad display, content owners use Artificial Intelligence (AI) for matching keywords and topics that are relevant to target audiences. It’s done not just to alter ad settings, but also to analyze historical data and build predictions. So, technological advancements will give more data-driven power to maximize publishers’ yields and advertisers’ performance.
In the attempt to overcome fragmentation issues, the advertising world has already made first steps to set aside its differences and follow a path of consolidation. As the industry drifts away from 3rd-party cookies, collaborations become vital, like in the case of the above-mentioned unified identifiers.
According to Ampere Analysis, bundling among streaming services is a top trend.
Disney has already launched a Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu bundle, whereas Apple, Roku and Amazon created an option that provides viewers with a collective single log-in. Yet, creating service bundles and sharing data is the go-to solution not only in CTV.
While some raise their walls high, others find it more beneficial to lower them, and the latter is likely to prevail in the future. Ultimately, this pandemic has taught us that all local issues can quite quickly become global, so it’s worth being open to teaming up.
Privacy concerns have developed into the main reason for the ad community to opt-out of 3rd-party cookies.
Together with the obvious benefits, such as increased security and improved targeting, this move will cause temporary disruptions in programmatic advertising workflow as we know it. Recent trends also demonstrated the desire of big Ad Tech companies to form their own closed ad ecosystems to secure their market positions and protect user data.
Nevertheless, the future holds new directions for those who aim to stay at the forefront, be it new mediums, like CTV or DOOH, formats, technological tools or business approaches.