• Meliana Wijaya

What does everyone think 2021 has in store for Ad Land?

Updated: Aug 18

2020 was quite a year for everyone. Not only has the pandemic changed the way people live and work, but it has also changed the advertising industry forever.

Yearly predictions articles are usually an interesting read and 2021 will certainly be no different as economies and businesses start to rebound from this once in a century global event. As a result, we thought it would be helpful to gather, analyse and summarise the content being produced from industry experts, large brands as well as boutique agencies, to find any consistent trends coming through that marketers should be paying attention to in 2021.

One of the most obvious changes is the speed at which everyone is moving to digital and how this rate of adoption is growing exponentially as we come out the other side of the pandemic. The demand for privacy by users has become more real, not only in the cookieless world but with Apple's software updates being the most notable impact for the industry.

This coupled with the increase in social activism and all the major disruption being experienced around how and where work, has made this one of the most “unprecedented” years in history and should be making all of us ask ‘what is in store for 2021 and our industry?’

1. AI, Automation and machine learning

Like many industries, AI, Automation and machine learning have brought many improvements to the digital advertising landscape. AI and machine learning provide automation to many parts of the industry bringing cost & time efficiencies that lead to increased ROI. Not only that, many brands and agencies have adopted these advances as a part of the campaign solutions, Think chatbots and yearly summaries of user data. Not only this, AI can also identify and segment audiences, build ad creative, test variations, improve performance, and optimize spend—automatically, in real-time, and at scale.

In 2021, advertisers are encouraged to adopt or seek partnerships with agencies that embrace this evolving technology in order to stay ahead in the more competitive and crowded marketplace.

Many sources argue that this is something that more and more advertisers will look to implement through 2021 and beyond. Post pandemic, audiences will continue to shift even further to digital, meaning that people are browsing for information where human interaction is ever less expected. This opens the door for smart campaigns that can take advantage of this evolution in digital interactions. For example by using a chatbot to answer simple customer questions. Audiences will become more comfortable with throw away interactions that they know are handled by a machine. If you have an Alexa or Google home, think about the questions you ask that you wouldn’t ask another person. These types of interactions can help to drive understanding of a product or even demonstrate brand values. Pairing this with a high performing creative could really make all the difference.

Advertisers have also found many great advantages of using these advances when it comes to sorting and using data in their campaigns. A great example is how Spotify used AI technology to showcase the listener’s data that users then shared with their inner circles to broadcast their personal branding.

2. Activism in Creative

With so many social and political events that happened in 2020, the audience is now seeing through the virtue signalling in ads or branding.

A study by Eyecue Insights, an AI-powered social media analytics platform found that, at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, 25% of beauty ads featured models with darker skin tones; just two months later, that figure had dropped to 16%.

Audiences are now seeking more action from brands to consistently showcase equality. It takes more than just changing a logo colour on Pride month, although this is still important, what will matter more is continuously taking actions in their business to demonstrate authenticity, not just a marketing plan.

What should brands consider when it comes to their creative messaging to be responsible and considerate with these issues without seeming hollow?

In 2021, brands ought to be more sensitive with the creative ad messages that they put out to make sure that it is not tone deaf with the audience who have been massively impacted by the pandemic or the social inequality. Investing more time and cost to generate the right messaging and creative, is now just as crucial for Digital ads as it has been for TV or print ads.

3. Shoppable ads

This past year, people’s shopping habits have changed. In the pre-Covid years, E-commerce was continuously growing. The pandemic has given it a bit of a boost with people stuck at home and becoming more comfortable with WFH setups. What does it mean for the advertising world?

Source: UNCTAD and NetComm Suisse eCommerce Association

In order to compete in the market of e-commerce, brands should focus on creating a better user experience for online shoppers. Not only to serve the right, personalised, ads to the right person. It is also important to take into account limiting the number of clicks to purchase. No confusing CTA and making it device-friendly.

Users don’t want to have to click multiple times to find the product they see in the ad. They want to buy it there and then or at least be 1 click from the product. Why should it be any other way?

This will lead to high performing shoppable creative, both on display and social. We expect to see this grow throughout 2021.

4. A Post cookie & post iOS 14 world

In addition to the aftermath of the Pandemic and Social issues that is 2021, we also shouldn’t forget about the big changes that will be affecting our industry soon enough.

With 3rd Party cookies disappearing and Apple software update, 2021 is another year where marketers are getting ready for these types of challenges.

Building a connection and relationship with customers is now more important than ever. Collecting 1st party and even more importantly, 0 party data, the type that is given by the customers willingly or intentionally, are known to be more effective in personalisation to turn impressions into paying customers.

Marketers have to really start thinking about the values they are bringing in all their marketing. For example, sending email newsletters not only for the sake of sending but asking the question, “what value does it bring to the customers?”. When customers start finding value in the ads and marketing they are seeing, not only that they will connect more with the brand, they will likely engage with the ad or will be even more likely to provide the gold nugget of data which is the 0 party data.

While it is important to focus on the marketing strategy on collecting the 1st party and 0 party data, brands should also pay attention to the importance of creative messaging. When the means of personalisation through data becomes significantly more limited, investing in a meaningful creative that resonates with your audiences could be the thing that pushes a person into becoming a customer.

Where do we go from here?

The huge impact that 2020 has brought into our lives has definitely set the foundations for advertisers in 2021. Not only do brands need to pay attention to all of these, the ongoing changes in the industry that started even before 2020 are also still playing out. This could bring a lot of challenges to advertisers where a lot of marketing strategies and old habits need to change. However, it will also bring in many opportunities, especially in the Digital landscape. Finding the right partners or talent in the industry to help marketers navigate these challenges and advances is more important than ever.

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