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Advertising Trends – 2021

Advertising is with us everywhere!

No matter what type of business we are in, we are all influenced by advertising no matter what we purchase. It surrounds us; it tells us what is good and what is bad. It influences our decisions. It influences the price we are willing to spend on a particular item. Some advertising is subtle, some are obvious, but either way, it is there lurking around each corner, each shelf, each website, each search term. We have compiled these articles to help you see the latest trends in advertising and how they may apply to your business, your products, your services, and how to incorporate these techniques into your own marketing plans.

Trends for 2021

[1]How well an agency capitalizes on marketing trends can make or break it, so keeping an eye on the latest is essential to get ahead of the competition. From simpler strategies, such as influencer and micro-influencer marketing, to larger, more complex methods, such as automation and the state of digital marketing overall, all of these elements are important for agencies to understand.

What are the defining marketing trends of 2021? What marketing and advertising will be the most popular in the coming year, and how can the agency leverage its knowledge around these trends?

Fifteen professionals from Forbes Agency Council weigh in below on the trends they see taking over marketing in 2021, so agency leaders can learn about them before they become standard practices.

1. Digital Transformation Continuing

Digital transformation will continue to focus in 2021, as companies realize that we may never go back to “business as normal.” Companies across every industry will continue to lean into digital technology, and the way we operate will also continue to change. Agility in all facets of business, especially marketing, will be the key to success. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX

2. Consumers Going Numb To Digital Ads

Consumers are numb to digital advertising. We have been in front of screens, locked in our homes, for most of 2020. Brands need to think beyond this go-to media format to reengage with their customers in unique ways. Out-of-home advertising will be a very effective format to achieve this once the vaccine is available, as people will be rushing outside and more aware of their surroundings. – Skye Suttenfield, Seen Media Group

3. [2]Mobile-centric experience to be the focus

Over 280 million people are expected to be smartphone users in 2021. Experts estimate that mobile app usage increased by over 20% in 2020, and it will grow further on the back of deepening internet penetration and wider accessibility to smart devices. An IAB Mobile Advertising and Revenue report estimate that users spend approximately three-quarters of all Internet time (71%) on a mobile device. As a consumer journey becomes more dynamic in 2021, the mobile will become the key weapon for instant gratification at a mere click of the button.

Data-driven insights and first-party data to be at the forefront: Big Data is everywhere, and it is poised to take over the advertising world by storm in 2021. Whether structured or unstructured, the data allows digital marketers to collate actionable insights for devising informed marketing strategies. It also enables marketers to personalize and target customers with precision based on their personas. Amid the furor over data privacy, ensuring privacy protection is key to building customers’ trust and goodwill. The tightening of the noose around privacy standards implies that brands will need to devise out-of-the-box solutions for balancing personalization and measurement of advertising campaigns on one end of the spectrum and privacy and identity resolution on the other.

4. Use of video

Video marketing will rule the roost in 2021. A website with video content drives 50x more views than text due to the interactive nature of videos. Video educating consumers on how-to, DIY visuals, among others, will inform and influence their purchase decisions. Live video, 1-on-1 video, and 360-degree video are most prominent in this trend.

Automated bidding in Google ads: Automated bidding allows Google to adjust bids in real-time. It scores over manual bidding as it reduces time, resources, and cost. Although automated bidding has been in existence since 2016, subsequent developments and improvements in Google policies imply that 2021 will be the year for automated bidding leading to improved outcomes at a lower cost.

5.[3] Cookieless Advertising

The first trend we’re going to see in 2021 is cookieless advertising. If you don’t know, an HTTP cookie is a small piece of data that websites collect and store while browsing the web. They have many functions, like:

  • Personalization: Tailor the user experience based on the user’s recorded interests.
  • Audience targeting: People with similar third-party cookies are combined into a list, which advertisers use to target digital ads and campaigns.
  • Tracking and measuring: Records the overall impact of a targeted ad on a third-party domain.

Cookies are beneficial to advertisers, but they present a glaring problem for users — they track so much of a user’s data that it’s considered a breach of privacy.

Because of this privacy breach, we’re seeing legal actions like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CCPA requires brands to disclose their websites, informing users of their rights and the brand’s intentions with the users’ cookies. A good portion of the web is already cookieless following Google’s 2020 announcement that a total cookie phaseout will be completed by 2022.

This requires advertisers to get more creative with how they obtain data. In addition, advertisers no longer have access to third-party cookies, affecting behavioral targeting, ad retargeting, view-through attribution, and much more. Making up for this loss, advertisers can rely on first-party cookies, target audiences based on platforms, and benefit from publisher-ad expert collaboration.

Check out our guide on 5 Steps to Prepare for Advertising without Cookies.

6. Programmatic Advertising Trends

One of the goals of advertising is to get your advertisements in front of the right people. Historically, this is done with manual ad insertion and negotiations with various ad networks. In 2021, make advertising a little easier using programmatic advertising.

Programmatic advertising uses artificial intelligence to automate the ad-buying process. It’s not new to the world of advertising, but more and more businesses are beginning to benefit from the easier process. Brands can choose their market, set their budget and goals, and communicate with publishers. Publishers use a supply-side platform to place the brand’s advertisement in an ad space.

There are a few types of programmatic advertising:

  • Programmatic direct: Publishers and advertisers make a one-on-one agreement of media campaign terms, and AdTech software automates the delivery and viewer data reports.
  • Real-time bidding (RTB): Advertisers can use data-driven platforms to bid on ad space in real-time. RTB works as users navigate the internet. When a user clicks on a web page, the publisher places the highest bidder’s advertisement on the web page for the user to see. The advertiser only pays when they are the highest bidder.
  • Private marketplaces (PMP): PMP allows advertisers to negotiate their advertisements in a private setting instead of bidding on an open market. This is most common with big-name publishers, like CNN.

Ad experts can help you find the best channels that work with your advertisement’s audience, budget, and goals. And, they can place your advertisement on ad spaces across many devices, including mobile devices, desktops, and connected TVs.

7. Connected TV and Video Advertising Trends

What is your target audience doing? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they’re most likely watching television, with 80% of U.S. adults claiming to watch TV every day. Of that number, most households are consuming videos via connected TV rather than cable TV. In fact, it’s estimated that over 40 million viewers will cut the cord in 2021.

Connected TV is any movie, show, or video connected to the internet. It’s rapidly becoming advertiser’s primary source of video advertising as more households cut the cord. Common examples of connected TV are platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Sling. Also, Connected TV isn’t limited by the type of device. It can include smart TVs, game consoles, and technology like the Roku TV.

It’s estimated that U.S. adults spend over four hours watching TV every day. Connected TV advertising allows you to reach audiences while watching their favorite shows, making it highly effective at targeting a specific demographic. When combined with programmatic advertising, you can target your audience using first-party data like zip codes, household income, channels, and device types.

8. e-Commerce Growth and Amazon Advertising Trends

Many brands shifted to online-based strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this shift, we see a drastic growth in U.S. e-commerce, from $598 billion in 2019 to $839 billion in 2020, an impressive 40.3% increase — the highest annual growth in more than 20 years.

As expected, retail accounts for almost 77% of the total e-commerce growth rate. Amazon dominates the retail category, owning a third of total growth.

Amazon’s 2020 ad revenue grew 23.5% from 2019’s numbers, totaling around $13 billion. E-commerce experts predict that Amazon will continue this upward growth as more brands shift to digital platforms. So if you’re selling a tangible product, consider advertising your product on Amazon.

There are three types of Amazon ads:

  • Sponsored product ads: Sponsored product ads use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to promote a single product. When a user searches for one of your target keywords, your product will fill the ad space on the Amazon search engine result page.
  • Sponsored brands: Also known as headline search ads, sponsored brands is a PPC advertising model that highlights your brand and up to three of your products.
  • Product display ads: Product display ads use interest and product-based targeting to promote your advertisement to the right target audience. This ad type doesn’t focus on keywords. Rather, it targets similarities between keywords and first-party data to target users.

Amazon knows how their users are buying, and they know how to target their ads to benefit advertisers. To advertise with Amazon and grow your business as Amazon expands and dominates retail e-commerce.

Why Is Digital Advertising Important?

Almost 60% of the entire world population is online. They’re checking their emails, scrolling through social media, reading the news, and even watching their favorite shows online. Digital advertising reaches people during their daily routine and encourages them to start a relationship with your brand.

More specifically, digital advertising:

Allows you to effectively target the right audience: Who is your target audience? Depending on your target audience, you can use first-party data to track their habits and effectively reach them on the right digital channels.

Personalizes your brand experience: The right digital advertising gives your brand a personality. As an example, you’re not just a clothing store — you’re a clothing store that cares about giving back to the planet and thrives on providing your audience the means to express themselves freely.

Gives you access to informative data analytics: As consumers interact with the web, their interactions are tracked and recorded into databases. These databases allow you to make more informed advertising decisions.

Conforms to any budget or goals: Digital advertising can be as big or small as you want. You don’t have to budget millions of dollars on elaborate commercials. Instead, you can spend less than a hundred dollars bidding for advertising spaces on channels your target audience engages with.

Without digital advertising, you’re leaving a huge gap in your marketing strategy. So instead, reach more people by developing a competitive online strategy.

[4]Also, as the range of channels used for reaching customers grows, it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage. Managing programmatic platforms through AI solves this problem as they use targeting signals and real-time adaptation for individual ads or campaigns via any given channel.

Across this type of advertising, exciting trends such as voice search and voice commands for commercial purposes, the introduction of blockchain, or 5G network are likely to experience a boom in 2021. As Kai Sulkowski from Dmexco reports that 40% of people who use voice search in a private capacity say that they also use it in their work, we can expect brands to be interested in developing their own voice apps for using voice assistants. This way, Alexa or Siri will put customers in contact with businesses more easily and frequently, enhancing communication and engagement between the two sides.

It’s an exciting time for advertisers – offering more opportunities than ever to have ever-specific targeted conversations with potential and existing customers by utilizing relevant and bespoke content. 2021 is looking bright – make sure you make the most of the new ad tech available.


Don’t ignore advertising, don’t shy away from it. Embrace it! It will bring you orders, calls, leads, and sales. If you need assistance in developing an advertising program, give a call today.

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