The New Year Ahead

Are Advertisers’ Glasses Half Empty or Half Full as 2021 Approaches?

Curated by Justin Chadwick, VP of Marketing, Tremor Video

To say that 2020 was a challenging year for all of us might just be the understatement of all understatements. And the same certainly holds true for marketers, who have been forced to assess, adapt and reimagine their brands’ relationships with consumers during these dynamic times.

But recent signals suggest that there may very well be a light at the end of this tunnel of uncertainty as we are now in 2021. We recently connected with our clients, colleagues and partners to pick their brains about what the new year has in store for brands, consumers and our industry as a whole, the highlights of which appear below.

Q. As you look toward 2021, are there reasons to be hopeful as a marketer? What do you think the key opportunities will be for advertisers to make an impact with consumers?

“Big shifts in culture paired with new consumer habits and behaviors have pushed our industry forward and re-energized teams. There is a lot to be excited about for ambitious marketers.

We’re inspired by the explosion in all areas of digital—and more importantly, the increased attention on cultural and societal change to increase equity, inclusion and representation. We’re focused on opportunities to leverage media investments and brand partnerships to support consumers through complicated moments AND use that to push for cultural change. This ranges from using media to make connecting and transacting less painful to finding new ways to entertain people. It’s all about adding collective value that impacts people’s lives without disruption.”

Shana Kohen, SVP, Group Account Director, Carat

“The acceleration of ecommerce adoption has created opportunity and reason to be hopeful and innovative through to 2021. As such, key opportunities will exist in tech adoption (VR showrooms and digital experiences), performance focus (new buying priorities), forced UX improvements to account for consumer trends, as well as a push towards true omnichannel marketing.”

January Digital Team


“We have learned so much as an industry in 2020, but we aren’t going to wake up one day and immediately bounce back to pre-COVID. 2021 will be a transformational year for marketers as we understand how to live with the long-term impact of this pandemic—but there is hope for brands that remain agile and flexible to the ever-changing needs and habits of their consumers.

One way to achieve this is by adopting a personalized omnichannel strategy that encompasses email, display and social media. A one-size-fits-all creative and messaging strategy simply won’t cut it. Consumers crave relevant messages across all channels based on their individual interests, moments in time, weather and location. By investing in technology that delivers a 1:1 message to consumers across all channels, marketers can drive more traffic, revenue and maintain customer loyalty and engagement, setting themselves up for success during this pivotal shift.”

Jaimie Villacarlos, Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships, Jivox

“There are always reasons to be hopeful! The macro environment should improve over the course of 2021, which will at least remove those headwinds, to the extent they exist for digital, which is up for debate.

Beyond that, 2021 will be a transformative year for advertising—we’re going to see increased focus on transparency and consumer privacy, and, in turn, a whole new wave of innovation in ad tech designed principally around those two vectors. Advertisers, and, in my opinion, ad tech too, will be presented with two options in 2021: try to recreate what has been, or embrace a new, more transparent and technically advanced ad tech ecosystem designed to thrive over the course of the next decade.”

Evan Hills, SVP of Business Development and Strategy, Dstillery


“There are reasons to be hopeful—glass half full, right?! Our media landscape is changing every day and it is key to make sure we as marketers keep our fingers on the pulse of the trends and make sure we are one step ahead on behalf of our clients. With that, the key opportunity in 2021 is to take advantage of advanced audience tactics whenever possible to best reach an advertiser’s key audience and reduce waste, especially given the ever-growing fragmentation that we are seeing across the landscape today.”

Sara Johnson, VP, Group Director, National Video Activation at Carat

“Seismic disruption to our industry has granted us an opportunity to create an ecosystem that is better and stronger than what existed before. I believe that 2021 will be the year when we rebuild and enter into a trusted ecosystem that gives consumers more transparency and control over how their data is used. By supporting an ecosystem based on trust, we can move the industry forward; however we must all be committed to this better open internet.

In order to make an impact with consumers, we must put the consumer first. The impact on the consumer must guide every decision we make. In an ecosystem built on trust, we must also move away from cookies and device-based IDs. Instead, our industry must support the open internet by committing to neutral and unbiased solutions that are interoperable and portable.

Across our ecosystem, we must support each other in rebuilding trust and working towards our common goal: consumer-first identity and addressability are not just one way of approaching the future of advertising, they’re the only way. When the consumer wins, everyone wins.”

Michelle Hayman, Account Director, Enterprise Partnerships, LiveRamp

“When consumers are experiencing a collective trauma, it creates both opportunities and risks. Brands that are used to talking at their customers are at risk of being tone-deaf, while brands that do the work to listen and thoughtfully engage with their customers have an opportunity to connect on a deeper level that will last beyond the lifespan of a campaign.

You can’t measure effective campaigns right now using short-term outcomes like clicks or sales—the opportunity right now is to shape attitudes, towards others and towards the brand.”

Ken Archer, VP Product, Upwave

“Consumers are increasingly concerned about privacy, and how their data is being used by companies across the Internet. Stringent data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA, and the decision by most web browsers to sunset the use of third-party cookies, are ushering in a universal shift away from third-party audience targeting. 
 
In 2021, we believe there will be new opportunities for innovative solutions that offer privacy-friendly, impression-level media intelligence and optimization insights for brand and performance marketers. This includes advanced metrics that enable optimization without reliance on user identity. These solutions will go beyond viewability alone, the classic proxy for efficiency, and look at metrics around ad presentation (e.g., time in view, ad share of screen, video quartile performance, etc.) and user interaction (e.g., ad, device, and browser touch events, scroll events, video playback, device orientation changes and much more). Such privacy-friendly solutions to help inform optimization decisions and drive ROI represent the next generation of performance intelligence. 
 
Another opportunity that we’re seeing in this privacy-friendly world is in the resurgence of contextual targeting. But this isn’t your grandfather’s contextual targeting. The landscape has grown immeasurably more sophisticated – employing semantic science and ontological expertise to accurately classify content and understand its true meaning.
 
Facets of contextual targeting have expanded to include an array of IAB categories, as well as behavioral, seasonal and custom categories. Segments can be tailored to include site, app and language inclusions and exclusions, as well as specific URL keyword lists.
 
With contextual, the old adage rings true – things move in cycles, and what’s old is new again, but also different.”
 
Steven Woolway, EVP, Business Development, DoubleVerify

“While consumer behaviors have changed significantly in 2020, there are still plenty of exciting ways to connect with them as long as you understand their needs and challenges. The sheer amount of audience studies done this year has been impressive, and provides key insights for advertisers to activate their creative campaigns from in 2021. Shoppable video creative will be key well beyond the holiday season, as will engaging, different takes on CTV advertising. The raw potential of combining data, measurement and creative will never be exhausted.”

Les Seifer, VP, Head of Creative, Tremor Video


“Yes, closure on the election, progress with COVID, and the shift in consumer behavior during the pandemic have been catalysts for innovation from marketers. Delivery of goods and services (e.g. curbside, improved mobile ordering), marketing opportunities (e.g. cardboard fan cutouts, branding empty seats), and increases in streaming are all examples of ways that this took place early on. Moving forward, these changes will spark innovative ways for brands to connect with consumers. 2020 was an emotionally taxing year for many with the pandemic, election, and social justice issues, but I think the temperature will lower and people will be receptive to quality marketing.”

Anthony Flaccavento, Chief Revenue Officer, Tremor Video

“Despite the continued uncertainty surrounding the impact of COVID, 2021 will provide advertisers with an opportunity to identify new ways of engaging consumers given changes to traditional access points. For example, given fewer consumers are visiting retail locations and are leaning into online shopping, advertisers can take advantage of this change by embracing shoppable ad experiences and incorporating elements like QR codes into CTV creative to drive consumers to purchase.”
 
Amy Guenel, VP Product Marketing, Tremor Video

Q. What new or existing challenges will there be for advertisers in 2021?

“Accelerating into digital spaces is an exciting challenge. Yes, of course, we have been recommending it for years. But cost efficiency and consumer behaviors have really added momentum here.

That also means we are challenging ourselves to get smarter about things like cohesive measurement and connected ecosystems—all while launching innovative media integrations and partnerships. Our team has prepared for the challenge by re-thinking our internal processes and touchpoints, pulling clients tighter into the conversations, and establishing a realistic learning pathway that allows for some exploration along the way.”

Shana Kohen, SVP, Group Account Director, Carat


“We will likely continue to face rapid reactions and movement in the digital space, especially in light of continued social & political unrest. As The Digital Leadership Company™, our plan to navigate this is to lead by taking the signals and data we have and planning ahead. We are pushing our clients to remain nimble and relevant. Creating flexible media and contingency plans enables us to act without being reactive.”

January Digital Team


“The data conversation will continue to evolve and be a challenge for marketers and advertisers. As Google phases out third-party cookies, the question remains: how do I get valuable and consented data from my consumers to deliver the right message at the right time? Additionally, consumers will prioritize privacy and personalization in their brand loyalty. Brands who embrace modern technology that relies on first-party data rather than third-party will be the winners of 2021 and beyond.”

Jaimie Villacarlos, Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships, Jivox

“ID deprecation, consumer privacy and, I suspect, anti-trust will be the headlining ‘challenges’ facing advertisers, and our industry at large. It will at times appear logical to run to the safe refuge of walled gardens as advertisers face the specter of constrained targeting, measurement and frequency capping, which will be counterbalanced by ongoing anti-trust investigations and a belief that a healthier open ecosystem is better for brands and consumers than a federation of walled gardens.

In terms of advice to advertisers, I’d encourage them to focus on the future. Embrace positive changes in consumer privacy—happy consumers are core to the ongoing endurance of our ecosystem. Embrace new targeting vehicles that are designed with both privacy and advertiser efficacy in mind. Also, focus on what your business problems are, not what the industry is talking about. We see a lot of focus on how identity plays a role in the future, but don’t see as much focus on how to reach users at scale and in a performant manner when there’s an absence of tracking / user IDs.

If I’m an advertiser, I’m trying to figure out how to make my advertising spend reach as many potential customers as possible, not necessarily only those that are measurable. Insert trite historical reference to which half of one’s ad spend works.”

Evan Hills, SVP of Business Development and Strategy, Dstillery

“Viewership and consumption fragmentation was prevalent pre-COVID and was magnified during and post-COVID and this trend is anticipated to continue as we head into 2021. Building flexibility into media deals is key in order to best pivot as needed to follow consumption as best we can for clients and to provide financial relief if another lockdown presents itself.

An additional challenge that I am constantly being challenged on is over-frequency in digital video. With many access points in to buy inventory, the landscape becomes cluttered, difficult to navigate, and a universal ad server is currently not on the horizon. A device-first approach to maximize scale and utilizing new technologies (i.e., ACR) to mitigate spot overlap is an optimal strategy today. Continuing to test tech and push partners to aid is key to solving this industry-wide issue.”

Sara Johnson, VP, Group Director, National Video Activation at Carat

“We’ve reached an inflection point that will continue to shape the industry with an emphasis on transparency and trust. How business leaders choose to respond and create opportunities amid adversity is a true measure of the strength of our resolve and acumen, and helps prepare our organizations for the challenges yet to come. Three transformative shifts will challenge advertisers and simultaneously present opportunities for the ecosystem to emerge stronger:

(1) Data builds strategic advantage. When the right permissions are in place, every customer interaction can become a strategic asset. To create a competitive advantage with data, businesses should invest in a strong first-party data strategy and explore data partnerships that deliver better customer experiences. Each should center around establishing a clear value exchange and communication of consent with the consumer to build a valuable and lasting one-to-one relationship.

(2) The old ways no longer work. It’s time to update some long-held conventional processes and embrace innovative new approaches—from TV to paid search to programmatic. The most innovative companies are executing a media strategy across screens to accurately measure business outcomes, ensuring CTV accounts for at least 10% of a brand’s TV/video budget, investing in people-based search, and reimagining programmatic to embrace solutions that build trust.

(3) Tilt the balance of power. True omnichannel people-based marketing is only possible when the mosaic of walled gardens is connected with the open internet. We have an opportunity and responsibility to bring equity back to the ecosystem by helping tilt the scales towards brands, publishers and companies delivering great experiences to all people in a time when big tech is increasingly scrutinized. Therefore, we must be intentional about developing products that provide people with proper consent for what data is collected and how it’s used. This is a critical effort that will define winners and losers of the next generation. Advertisers must accelerate their strategies forward with sustainable, people-based solutions and seize the chance created in disruption of the status quo.”

Michelle Hayman, Account Director, Enterprise Partnerships, LiveRamp

“In addition to the challenge of speaking thoughtfully through marketing to a traumatized public, 2021 will also be a turning point in the privacy landscape. It’s become clear that platforms, not regulators, will drive the next generation of privacy-safe marketing technology. 2021 will begin with Apple allowing iOS users to block sharing of mobile IDs and emails, and will end with the closing months of Google’s 2-year window for sunsetting 3rd party cookies. The winners will be those marketers who let go of yesterday’s dream of ubiquitous user-level tracking, and embrace a future of cohort-level tracking that demands more of their team in terms of measurement expertise.”

Ken Archer, VP Product, Upwave

“Despite the growth and attention CTV and OTT are getting, consistent measurement is still a challenge — not only in terms of standards, but also in terms of how agencies and brands are approaching CTV and video buying. Advertisers want the same level of protection and the same measures of efficacy that they are accustomed to in their digital media investment. While DoubleVerify (DV) has made major leaps ahead in terms of innovation in CTV, the industry at large has a good amount of work to do in order to achieve measurement parity between CTV and digital advertising.
 
When it comes to protection on video, current controls suffer from a number of gaps. For example, DV data shows that less than 40% of video impressions are eligible for post-bid blocking. This is an even bigger problem in CTV and mobile app environments, where measurement technologies are not widely adopted and blocking isn’t possible. 
 
In order to help advertisers combat these challenges, we’ve developed a new solution called Video Complete. With three layers of protection — pre-bid avoidance, post-bid blocking and DV Video Filtering — advertisers are able to further reduce waste and minimize infractions across all video environments and devices. This comprehensive protection is estimated to further reduce the delivery of non-compliant inventory by about 40% on average, allowing advertisers to reinvest their spend on quality supply.”
 
Steven Woolway, EVP, Business Development, DoubleVerify

“The shift to a cookie-less world will necessitate different targeting strategies across the whole industry. First-party data and Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) will undoubtedly fuel many of the data-driven creative campaigns of 2021. With the challenges of adapting to new targeting strategies, there will be a necessary and welcome emphasis put on digital creative to be as engaging and relevant as possible, to help advertisers stand out and connect with consumers.”

Les Seifer, VP, Head of Creative, Tremor Video

“In the video world, the scale and quality of supply will continue to be a challenge. The fragmentation of platforms, apps, channels, etc. continues to create friction with buyers and we need to find ways to reduce this.”

Anthony Flaccavento, Chief Revenue Officer, Tremor Video

“2021 will continue to see greater focus on consumer privacy and changes to how advertisers reach their target customers. It’s critical for advertisers to think through alternative targeting tactics that don’t rely solely on cookies and mobile ad IDs in order to prepare for these industry changes. Identifying a partner who can help provide a robust mix of targeting solutions across digital channels will be key.”
 
Amy Guenel, VP Product Marketing, Tremor Video

Q. Consumers are increasingly embracing Connected TV (CTV) as a primary means of engaging with content. Do you think brands will also expand their commitment to CTV as part of their audience reach strategies for 2021, and if so, why?

“With CTV penetration growing in such rapid ways, with 4 out of 5 households streaming their content on large TV devices, CTV is one of the most important channels in our media mix.

More time spent from viewers on CTV means more inventory. This coupled with the technological improvements such as more targeting and identity options, ability to bring data in, cross-device measurement, all this helps ad spend flow to CTV.

We used to think of CTV as a way for brands to reach younger viewers who we couldn’t target as easily on linear TV, but that’s changed now with all ages fully adopting CTV as their primary viewing system, helped with the increase in smart TV access. It is still an important channel to reach Gen Z and millennials, and especially with advertisers still figuring out how to navigate the divisiveness of users on social platforms, CTV becomes a safer place for brands to invest.”

Shana Kohen, SVP, Group Account Director, Carat

“Brands will continue to adopt CTV and reinvest dollars dedicated to traditional formats to digital, due to the flexibility, improved targeting, measurement, optimization and attribution capabilities. The significant increase in CTV subscriptions and consumption seen since the start of the pandemic will only act as a catalyst for this trend, increasing reach capabilities which will improve the CTV offering even further.”

January Digital Team

“CTV is on the rise, and we’ll see new opportunities in 2021 for providers to leverage data to personalize content even more based on the household. Now, providers are targeting based on channel topics, such as sports, rather than specific interests of households. But in the future, we’ll see a focus on CTV as part of their overarching strategy as advanced technology provides more valuable data to truly personalize the message that each household receives.”

Jaimie Villacarlos, Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships, Jivox


“Yes, and I believe the CTV horse is already out of the metaphorical barn. While they’re not at parity yet, the transformation from linear to addressable formats for TV consumption was accelerated by almost two years over the early months of COVID, and it’s our perspective that this trend continues. Brands will continue to increase their embrace of CTV because that’s where they can find their customers. Simple as that.”

Evan Hills, SVP of Business Development and Strategy, Dstillery


“Absolutely. With the fragmentation that continues to grow, we are seeing more and more viewers watch content via CTV. With that, it’s imperative that media plans reflect the viewing habits and educate and lead clients to allocate and shift budgets to these dayparts to find their valuable demo.

Furthermore, activating against audiences in CTV is a way to further reach a client’s specific target audience on a 1:1 basis, further solidifying the need for strategies within the CTV space.”

Sara Johnson, VP, Group Director, National Video Activation at Carat


“We’re watching the TV landscape evolve before our eyes. With a growing cohort of cord-cutters and fewer people paying for subscriptions, linear TV can no longer deliver the same GRP quality alone as before. With this massive uptick towards advanced TV, CTV has deemed itself more than just a box brands need to check.

In 2021, I anticipate brands will look to dive deeper and enable cross-screen measurement. Without this multi-channel approach to planning, activation, and measurement, brands are not equipped to tackle viewer fragmentation, reach will continue to degrade, and frequency will become infinitely more difficult to control. Ultimately, cross-screen allows brands to add CTV to their plan in the smartest way possible. This will help them garner actionable insights so they can not only understand how their audiences are consuming, but also optimize their business needs while laying a foundation for a future of successful planning.

Advertisers who are embracing an experimental mindset have a unique opportunity to leapfrog over standard KPIs and jump light years ahead. If brands look to test against actual business outcomes, they can show the true value they are driving with their advanced TV media.”

Michelle Hayman, Account Director, Enterprise Partnerships, LiveRamp


“Brands will have no choice but to follow their customers to CTV. The initial forays into CTV, according to Upwave’s measurement of several campaigns, show it to drive the same brand lift with fewer impressions, but with less audience accuracy than traditional digital video. In order to reach their audience where they are spending their time in 2021, new and better measurement of CTV audiences will be needed.”

Ken Archer, VP Product, Upwave


“The great convergence of linear TV budgets to digital is here, and it’s manifested today through CTV.  CTV provides a well-lit, engaging advertising experience, and we will continue to see share shift into CTV as more and more consumers use the medium as their primary source of media consumption. Through our recent study with Sapio Research, we found that 44% of consumers are using CTV devices even more since the pandemic began. We expect these changes to be long lasting — even after the pandemic subsides. Between this drastic increase in consumption and the channel’s immersive, full-screen capabilities, we feel that CTV will continue to be an incredibly attractive medium in terms of exposure and engagement for brand messaging.
 
Beyond the sheer growth of CTV households, marketers need to remain laser-focused on CTV in order to maximize reach. The famed “cord-cutters” and ”cord-nevers,” are growing in number and rank, even more so during the pandemic. In fact, cord-cutters and -nevers will outnumber pay TV subscribers by 2024, according to eMarketer.”
 
Steven Woolway, EVP, Business Development, DoubleVerify

“Yes, absolutely. CTV has so much appeal to advertisers right now. Beyond the obvious appeal of CTV for homebound, binge-watching viewers, it combines the epic creative potential of the largest screen in the house with some of the measurement and versioning capabilities you get on mobile and desktop.”

Les Seifer, VP, Head of Creative, Tremor Video


“Yes, CTV will have increased focus. Brands go to where the attention is. They need to compete for that attention, which is hard, but CTV offers consumers quality programming, premium viewing experiences, and more choice! Everyone loves to have options…the challenge for brands will be how to maximize ROI from this emerging medium.”

Anthony Flaccavento, Chief Revenue Officer, Tremor Video

“Absolutely! If advertisers aren’t capitalizing on the increased viewership happening on CTV, they are definitely missing out! CTV viewers are captive, engaged and leaning in and not just within SVOD environments. We see a growing number of CTV viewers tapping into ad-supported video on-demand content which provides marketers with a significant opportunity to deliver their brand message in environments where viewers understand the value exchange.”
 
Amy Guenel, VP Product Marketing, Tremor Video

Q. If you were to summarize how you feel about the new year ahead in 3 words, what would they be?

“Exponential learning and adaptation.”

Shana Kohen, SVP, Group Account Director, Carat

“Unpredictable. Adaptive. Fast.”

January Digital Team

“Open to possibilities.”

Jaimie Villacarlos, Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships, Jivox

“Privacy, innovation, and sustainable growth. I know that’s technically four words, but three concepts!”

Evan Hills, SVP of Business Development and Strategy, Dstillery

“Hopeful. Attribution. Fragmentation.”

Sara Johnson, VP, Group Director, National Video Activation at Carat

“People-based. Trusted. Data-first.”

Michelle Hayman, Account Director, Enterprise Partnerships, LiveRamp

“Respect your audience.”

Ken Archer, VP Product, Upwave

“Quality Drives Performance.”
 
Steven Woolway, EVP, Business Development, DoubleVerify

“Expect the Unexpected! And Embrace Change! I know, that’s six words. No rules in 2021.”

Les Seifer, VP, Head of Creative, Tremor Video

“Slow, steady, relief.”

Anthony Flaccavento, Chief Revenue Officer, Tremor Video

“Optimistic, focused, excited.”
 
Amy Guenel, VP Product Marketing, Tremor Video