The Ad Tech CEOs Make Their 2021 Predictions

Tim Cross 17 December, 2020 

In site of the fact that 2020 proving to be just about the most unpredictable year on record, VAN has continued with its annual tradition of asking a selection of ad tech CEOs to give their predictions for the year ahead.

The fallout of the pandemic will undoubtedly be a big theme for 2021, as will the industry’s efforts to find a suitable replacement for third-party cookies. But what other stories will we see in the headlines next year? Here are this year’s predictions:

Stéphane Coruble, CEO, RTL AdConnect

This year has proven how essential it is for brands to keep the link with their audience in times of crisis. Research shows that maintaining high levels of advertising investment gives brands better market shares once the crisis is over, and those who are able to do so will be top of mind when people start consuming again.

Creativity and addressing pressing social and environmental issues in difficult times is crucial in engaging consumers. We have seen in 2020 how broadcasters have included these topics in their programming, providing advertisers with the best premium environments possible – both linear and on-demand – for first-hand conversations with their target audience.

With viewing times at an all-time high, Total Video is the most powerful tool at the service of advertisers. For the full-year 2020, Total Video consumption is expected to reach 3h54 in China, 4h25 in United Kingdom, 4h34 in Germany, 4h53 in France and 5h51 in the US (+9 percent versus last year’s US forecast). More than ever, we expect next year will be filled with inspired and relevant communications between brands and audiences, on all platforms.

Simplified access to premium content is going to be a top priority going into 2021. However, advertisers will also be looking to maximise their ROIs. Addressable TV, combining brand-safe environments and the reach of TV with the targeting of digital marketing, provides maximum campaign efficiency for brands. As technologies improve and with a clear shift of online video consumption from mobile devices to Connected TVs, we believe that the market will increasingly lean towards ATV for enhanced marketing.

John Hamilton, CEO and Founder, TVDataNow

The performance-oriented, digital-first marketers will begin spending on CTV at scale. These buyers have previously avoided CTV because they were not satisfied with the baseline measurement. But the data and measurement within CTV are now sophisticated and customizable enough to become attractive to performance-oriented buyers. Look for digital-first marketers to begin testing CTV in the first half of 2021 and moving to increase spending towards the second half of the year.

The long-awaited shoe will drop, and Netflix will announce an ad-supported option for consumers to arrive in mid-2022. As a publicly-traded company, investors have long-pressured Netflix to introduce an ad-support tier, which could drive up to $1B a year in revenue. While Netflix has said multiple times this year that it will not offer ads, CEO Reed Hastings told BGR in September 2020 that this stance was “… definitely not a rule. It’s a judgment call.”

Buyers will increasingly move from purely programmatic spending to working directly with publishers – often through an agency. Indeed, we hear publishers are bulking up their direct sales teams to handle the anticipated inquiries and demand. While digital advertising continues its significant shift from direct to programmatic, fewer players and providers in OTT/CTV make an eminently achievable and likely preferable direct strategy.

Ofer Druker, CEO, Unruly

A significant increase in the number of CTV devices and apps, combined with more time spent at home, has fuelled unprecedented levels of CTV consumption in 2020. In response, CTV ad platforms and data providers have accelerated the development of new creative and targeting solutions to provide advertisers with agile, data-driven CTV ad opportunities.

This industry-wide investment has not only delivered better results for advertisers, with a recent Unruly study finding CTV viewers are 42 percent more likely to buy a product compared to the average TV viewer, but also a more favourable user experience. Three-quarters (77%) of UK consumers now say they prefer to watch TV shows for free with ads than pay for ad-free content (source: Unruly).

This success from both a consumer and advertising perspective will result in CTV playing a significant role in media planning in 2021. With an established and fast-growing audience, the ability to accurately target thousands of different audience groups and a plethora of data to measure campaign success, the medium will become essential in helping advertisers get the most out of their ad campaigns.

Linear campaigns will also become more aligned with digital, improving multi-channel efficiency, and together they will drive a unified message across multiple touchpoints.

Amy Williams, CEO and Founder, Good-Loop

It’s been a pretty humbling year. In the face of a global crisis, our differences feel infinitesimally smaller as we’ve all been forced to slow down and reflect on what actually matters. It’s inspiring to see businesses respond by sharing ideas and lifting each other up. From Burger King encouraging us to eat at McDonalds, through to the hugely successful ‘Land of Independents’ campaign – the big trend I predict for 2021 will be one of collaboration, in the face of a bigger collective mission.

The Advertising Association is collaborating with ISBA and the IPA on their new Climate Action Working Group. Agencies are turning to experts such as Creative Equals and Brixton Finishing School, pooling resources and prioritising industry-wide diversity and inclusion. Meanwhile, as we gear up for a post-cookie future, collaboration has never been higher on the agenda for quality publishers keen to monetise their audiences in respectful ways.

Cédric Tournay, CEO, Publica

2021 Will be a transformational year for CTV. In 2020 viewers cut their cords in record numbers and migrated to ad supported streaming services and in 2021, a record number of traditional TV, display & social advertisers are going to follow their customers to AVOD services where they can now be targeted in the premium environment of television. Smart TV’s are going to make AVOD apps more discoverable via improved search features & streaming publishers will increasingly construct ad breaks that offer advertisers the same controls as their linear TV ad buys.

Streaming publishers will also activate & surface more 1st party data while migrating away from demand waterfalls to unlock the value that exists via unified auctions, or more commonly referred to as CTV header bidding.

Advertisers historically absent from traditional TV due to either cost or a lack of data will invest heavily in AVOD as will linear advertisers looking to improve their reach.

Mathieu Roche, CEO and Co-Founder, ID5

Publishers will increase their efforts to monetise their audience in a cookie-less world by adopting privacy-first identity solutions and by investing in first-party data management platforms, they will find themselves in a much better position than they are today with more control, better data protection and ultimately increased revenue. By the end of 2021, the industry will have settled on a few standard approaches for both platforms.

Bird-named Privacy Sandbox proposals will never be deployed, as it becomes more and more obvious that interests are not aligned between Chrome, other browsers, and the rest of the advertising industry

Apple could face several legal actions from application developers challenging the impossibility to use legitimately-collected user identifiers (including email addresses) under their most recent App Tracking Transparency update -and will lose them, forcing it to come back on some of those restrictions.

Under regulatory pressure, Google will divest its buy-side ad tech business (formerly known as Doubleclick) and will concentrate on its media and sell-side offering


About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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