For digital advertising, the year 2020 will forever be remembered as the year all organizations accelerated their digital transformation journey.
The power of digital is evident, no matter your industry.
In retail, for example, eCommerce adoption has increased dramatically, leading to higher digital advertising spends. Moreover, global digital ad spend is projected to reach 389 billion dollars in 2021.
Top 6 Digital Advertising Trends in 2021
Trend 1: Display Advertising Comes Of Age
Display advertising comes in all shapes and sizes. However, at its core, display advertising is visual advertising in ad banners on websites. In its nascency, display advertising was not as accurate and was hit or miss for many brands. But now, it has matured into a beneficial digital advertising tactic. With personalized targeting parameters, the display is more useful than ever and can yield an increased ROI. Dynamic display ads, personalized display ads, mobile display ads, and in-banner video ads are a few forms of display advertising that have begun to trend in 2021. If you are just getting started with display advertising, target your audience using specific keywords, or identify user interests and use those as your targeting criteria. Display advertising has really come of age with remarketing.
Remarketing is when you target someone who has already visited your website but hasn't taken an intended action. With the use of content-driven cookies, this means that you already have some information about the user in terms of visit history, behavioral/demographic data, interests, product preferences, and more.
These data points make your remarketed display ads highly relevant and efficient. One can even go as far as to say that remarketing yields the best bang for your buck in digital advertising today.
Trend 2: Programmatic Advertising And Artificial Intelligence
These days, it feels like an unlimited number of advertising properties are available online, each more complicated than the last. To keep track of such a diverse and complicated advertising ecosystem is a challenge even for full-fledged professional advertising teams. Programmatic advertising solved this problem with the introduction of artificial intelligence. Using AI, programmatic advertising can now automatically buy ad spaces based upon targeting criteria.
This development means that programmatic platforms can use a lot of targeting signals to create individualized advertising solutions. Moreover, you can buy out-of-home or display ads with programmatic advertising in real-time. It is one of the most exciting trends right now, including a mix of big data, technical skills, and automation. This field will only become more in the coming years with the entry of 5G, blockchain, voice ads, over the top ads, and connected TV. Just have a look at the share of programmatic ad spend by country below:
It's worth mentioning that regulatory concerns with programmatic advertising, especially with the introduction of GDPR rules in Europe and the recent California privacy law changes.
With user data at the heart of programmatic ads, it was only a matter of time before regulation increased.
But that is not to detract from the advantages of programmatic advertising and marketers loving it. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent jump in digital media consumption, programmatic ads are well placed to disrupt the digital advertising world in 2021.
Trend 3: The Return Of Contextual Advertising
With increased regulator interest in Big Tech and consumer data, evidenced by the recent passage of the California Privacy Rights and Enforcement Act, marketers are increasingly very wary of the data they collect and how they use it. In light of increasing regulation, contextual advertising is poised to make a comeback in 2021.
Instead of using past behaviors as the determinant to display ads, contextual advertising uses AI and algorithms to display ads based on customer intent and sentiment.
For example, suppose you are a clothing retailer launching a new line of clothes. In that case, contextual advertising will place your ads in fashion magazines and other relevant websites where customer intent is the highest for your product.
The source of data, in this case, is the website's content, rather than behavioral user data.
Contextual advertising goes hand in glove with contextual targeting: using keywords, location, and browsing behavior to improve ad performance by increasing relevance. Logically, users are more likely to click on ads that make the most sense and offer them the most value. Contextual advertising and targeting offer that capability to advertisers, making sure their ads have better CTRs and reduce wasted spending. 71% of agencies are showing an increased interest in beginning their contextual advertising journey.
Trend 4: Personalization Through Dynamic Content Optimization
What if you could personalize your website to deliver content that is relevant and gets clicks every time?
Dynamic creative optimization (DCO) can help you do just that – tailor content at the individual level. Dynamic creative optimization brings the versatility and hyper optimization of dynamic advertising to your website. You can now swap out generic content that was previously displayed to everyone who visited your website, with HTML5 ad placements that dynamically adapt their content depending upon who’s looking at the website.
DCO uses markers such as location, demographics, behavior, and more like that from a Data Management Platform or Customer Data Platform. These markers allow it to tailor the content to viewers. One of the benefits of DCO is that it allows personalization at a previously unattainable level. For example, you can use the technology to personalize what a viewer sees on the website after they click through from an email campaign.
DCO also plays very well with contextual advertising, which we talked about earlier. This combination is particularly beneficial for marketers concerned with brand safety. A dynamic campaign using DCO would only serve ads that are contextually aware of the website content, reducing any wasted spending or banner misalignment. DCO is a great fit if you're using sequential storytelling and want to serve ads in a particular order with precision. Users self-select into engagement with the brand in such a campaign and follow through with a structured narrative. The data collected via these interactions can then serve as the basis of a more nuanced campaign.
Trend 5: Bring On The Mobile Advertising Revolution
Everybody owns a smartphone in today's times. Everyone is always on their phone looking at a small screen they hold in the palm of their hand.
The most valuable advertising real estate is the one users look at the most, and think about how much time we all spend looking at our mobile devices!
Mobile advertising is set to revolutionize the advertising landscape and is already bringing in a few critical changes. For example, vertical videos are now preferred to horizontal videos when viewing short-form content on mobile devices. Just take the rampant spread of Instagram Stories, WhatsApp Stories, LinkedIn Stories, and (the original stories) Snapchat Stories as an example. The story format brings an addictive content consumption format that brands can use for paid advertising. Take a look at the global mobile ad spend chart from Statista below:
Whether it be B2B or B2C, every marketer now recognizes the need to use a mobile-first strategy for digital advertising. Instant transactions, real-time engagement, and immediate user feedback are only a few reasons why this is so.
Trend 6: Full-Funnel Social Media Advertising
Social media ads are in fact a form of digital advertising, although many people think of them in their own category.
This year, brands will create ads that leverage the new eCommerce capabilities of many social media platforms.
Combining the convenience of online shopping with social media is the holy grail that a lot of eCommerce companies have been trying to crack. This has only been proven by Walmart’s attempt to sell merchandise on the social media platform TikTok.
The increase in products like Facebook Shops, Instagram's paid shopping tags, and WhatsApp's shopping cart and eCommerce catalogs means that social media platforms are pouring resources into this new trend, and brands will follow suit with their advertising. Brands have always used social media to spread their message and promote themselves, and they will also now have to transition into using social media as a bonafide eCommerce channel. Advertising on social media gives brands greater control over their full buyer's journey.
Read our article about Social Media Trends for 2021 for more on what's happening in the world of social.
Digital Advertising in 2021 and Beyond
A lot has happened this year that will have long-lasting effects on the digital advertising industry. New trends will become mainstream, and old fads will gradually die out. Smart marketers are adapting to this new normal, and so are marketing technology organizations who need to adapt if they are to survive. That being said, the digital advertising industry is generally heading towards a brighter future. Let's recap the key takeaways from this article:
Programmatic advertising is the wave of the future. Coupled with AI, it will bring increased awareness to digital advertising and better ROI
Dynamic creative optimization will usher in the era of hyper-personalization and sequential storytelling.
Contextual Advertising is here to stay. Being contextually aware of where your ads are placed has never been more important!
The prime advertising property is in the palm of your hand. Mobile advertising is an evolving landscape and is already changing the content landscape.