Looking to 2022, we’ve collected predictions from the world of adtech and performance to find out the big trends of the next 12 months in digital advertising.

From first-party data and retail media, to ad creative and upper-funnel campaigns, the list is dominated by the ongoing challenges created by Covid-19, changing views on privacy, and a talent gap.

For more on what’s on the horizon for 2022, don’t miss Econsultancy’s upcoming briefing, Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Trends For 2022 on 26th January at 3pm GMT/10am EST. Register your place now!

Activating diverse first-party data (beyond CRM)

Silvia Sparry, Global Chief Operating Officer at Xaxis:

“Over the last decade, the industry has become over-reliant on high-volume and high-recency signals. This was an age signified by hyper-personalised Real Time Bidding (RTB) and third-party audience data availability. However, we’re now seeing the tide turn back towards longer horizon data points, which are lower volume and lower recency. Brand Impact Studies and Media Mix Modelling will gain importance, largely due to the imminent demise of the third-party cookie, and I expect we’ll see the impact of this measurement shift in 2022 and beyond.

“In the forthcoming cookieless world, it’s essential for marketers to explore new targeting and measurement methods. Advertiser first-party data is going to be the most important area of focus and marketers must find a way to successfully connect this data into an activation strategy. This won’t be limited to advertiser CRM data, but extends to data points such as store locations, warehouse stock levels, seasonal sales trends and many more data points which are much lower-volume than huge audience DMP data sets, but which are in most cases more effective in driving outcomes.

“In 2022, I predict that the companies who have mastered ingesting and orchestrating a diverse set of first-party data inputs through Artificial Intelligence in a privacy-compliant way will be most successful in helping marketers navigate the complex and rapidly evolving landscape of digital media.”

First-party data is more than just a lever to pull for efficiency

Emma Welland, co-founder, House of Performance:

“The importance of first party data is going to continue to be a key trend in 2022. With all the updates over 2021 and before, owning high-quality ethically-sourced first party data is going to continue to help advertisers stand out in the crowded digital space.

“As users become more aware of the data they are sharing and how it is being used there is going to be more onus on advertisers to utilise this data in intelligent ways that adds value to the end user/customer as opposed to just being a lever they can pull for their own advertising efficiency and benefit. Over the past few years, larger advertisers have started to see this trend and invest in CDP’s, as we head into 2022 this is going to continue to be a trend with advertisers who have invested in their data and analytics set up seeing better outputs.”

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Retailers to grab a piece of the pie

Rich Ashton, Managing Partner, FirstPartyCapital:

“The growth in retail media is set to continue in 2022, with Boston Consulting Group claiming the sector represents a hundred billion dollar opportunity for marketers. Retailers are therefore realising they need to provide an advertising proposition and offer broader services for advertisers to grab a piece of the pie. Boots and Tesco, for example, have just launched their own media businesses and it’s likely we’ll see other major retailers following suit next year.

“With first party data inevitably set to lead the way next year, as the death of the cookie approaches, these retailers, as well as publishers with logged-in users, will become the gatekeepers and media activation partners of choice for advertisers. We’ll also see a growth of clean room technology in specific verticals to support this move, empowering information to be shared in a privacy-sensitive way across the entire industry.”

Simon Thorne, MD Western Europe, Flashtalking by Mediaocean:

“… retailers and publishers are looking to expand their ad space proposition and are enlisting technologies and interfaces to help manage and utilise their first-party databases. Competition will continue to increase between established walled gardens and their new competitors resulting in advertisers receiving increased audience insights as part of their investment.”

Upper-funnel focus as brand meets performance

Ken Harlan, founder and CEO, MobileFuse:

“Due to the constant industry evolution around tracking with iOS and cookies, and its expected impacts in 2023, brands and marketers will double-down on brand equity, brand affinity and overall awareness efforts, shifting away from predominantly conversionary goals. More investments will be made in video and rich media.”

Brands to beef up their in-house skills in pursuit of hybrid management

Emma Welland, House of Performance:

“The other trend that is going to continue as we head into 2022 is the way digital media is managed (continuing the age-old debate of agency versus in-house!). This is going to be driven by a number of factors. The key factor will be data ownership and control; with all of the changes and awareness around first party data that we have seen in 2020 and 2021, brands are going to continue to focus on data ownership and a logical journey with this is to in-house their digital activity.

“The challenges within the digital space with retaining and sourcing talent are impacting some agencies, which will be another driving force for brands wanting to take back control. Alongside these, the changes in marketing spend due to Covid-19, is also going to make brands think and consider whether their current set up needs a refresh.

“We predict that more brands are going to move to a hybrid approach of digital media management – building up skills and expertise in-house but utilising the benefits of an agency to ensure they are making the most out of their media.”

Phil Acton, Country Manager, UK & BeNeFrance, Adform:

“In-housing has remained one of the most persistent trends in recent years, causing equal concern for agencies and their technology partners. But the reality is that while roles have changed, key partnerships are still thriving. Agencies that set their sights on taking back control have ended up leaning heavily on programmatic platforms for brand advertising, building deals and customer-specific setups within automated systems.

“Meanwhile, advertisers are taking on considerably more than before and playing an active role in buying. This means agencies, advertisers and technology partners all hold a place at the table. Working closer together brings greater scope for mutual value and success, with ties only due to strengthen in the year ahead.”

Hasan Arik, Founder and CEO, Redmill Solutions 

“In 2022 we expect to see more global advertisers taking greater control of their own media investment data. While in-housing media planning and buying will still be an agenda item, in-housing media data is the smart approach that brand owners will increasingly adopt.”

“Brands are starting to recognise the value of data ownership and the efficiencies that arise from fingertip access to a single source of trusted data. There will be a shift away from dependency on ad-hoc data supply from media and other agencies, and a shift towards owning and accessing their full data picture, which allows brands to combine data points to create a single source of media truth for their entire business to use.”

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Personalisation can use bigger creative concepts

Clark Boyd, Head of Strategy, Cadeera:

“Personally, I would love to see… a higher level of quality in digital advertising creative.

“We have allied ourselves with this narrow sense of “personalisation” in search [for example], where it is sufficient to keep showing people the same remarketing ads until they finally submit. This leads to cheap creative concepts that can be rolled out quickly and adapted endlessly.

“True personalisation can be highly effective, but it has to be a conversation and the consumer has to be in control. So I hope that 2022 sees a return of bigger creative concepts that form part of a “full-funnel” strategy. The talent and the technology are certainly available.”

Supply chain issues call for flexibility

Paul Carreo, Director of EMEA Growth, VidMob:

“Creative departments have typically relied on a series of relatively static insights and creative intuition that rarely connect to performance; past campaign performance, prior brand requirements, and qualitative research are less relevant and slow companies down. Brands that have managed to become more flexible and make bolder, quicker, creative decisions will continue to see their results improve in 2022.”

Dan O’Brien, Director of Partnerships, EMEA, at StitcherAds:

“We’ve been hearing about the supply chain crunch for a number of months now and it is undoubtedly going to have an impact on social media ads, as retailers won’t want to promote products that consumers may have to wait months to receive – especially with bigger ticket items like a bed, sofa or other home furniture. One great way that social media ads and in-store sales can align is in using local inventory feeds to ensure that audiences are targeted with ads for products that are in-stock and available to them.

“Ad formats like Facebook’s Dynamic Ads for Retail allows retailers to do just this. When combined with creative overlays, there’s a whole host of tactics available to retailers like calling out ‘In-Stock’, ‘Low Stock’, and ‘In-Store Pickup’ to support the consumer and drive conversion.”

Attention metrics and channel-specific creative

Simon Thorne, Flashtalking by Mediaocean:

“Despite continuing uncertainty caused by the pandemic, recent forecasts predict an increase in marketing budgets. But the demand for clear return on investment and understandable campaign results is also stronger.

“A wider selection of sophisticated digital marketing channels are becoming available to advertisers, including digital out of home, connected TV, social commerce, and soon the metaverse. It will therefore be crucial for brands to prioritise suitable content creation to successfully advertise across multiple channels. As a result of this increased variety of platforms, consistent, cross-media measurement will be required. We are likely to see a move away from traditional metrics towards attention metrics, to gauge audience engagement more thoroughly.

Linear converges with connected TV

Stefanie Briec, Director, Demand Sales, UK & International at FreeWheel:

“Advanced TV channels, such as Connected TV (CTV) and Broadcaster Video On Demand (BVOD) are proving to be effective at reaching new audiences – meeting marketers’ objectives of acquiring customers and growing revenue. Brands also seem to see the appeal of shifting ad spend to these cookie-less channels, as customer acquisition becomes more challenging on existing digital platforms as a result of data privacy restrictions.

“Moving into 2022 and beyond, it seems that the ongoing convergence of linear and digital TV will continue to bring opportunities for advertisers. However, as investment grows, attention might turn to measurement as a top priority. Industry collaboration on initiatives such as the broadcaster-led CFlight – the post campaign measurement tool providing un-duplicated reach across linear and Broadcasters VOD ­– and ISBA’s Origin – the advertiser backed UK cross media measurement programme – should be crucial in the development of industry-wide standards across TV and video. This in turn should provide a clearer picture of return on investment from these channels.”

Broader, contexual targeting and its implications for creative

Tony Marlow, CMO, IAS:

“As we march toward a cookieless world, marketers’ focus on a broader range of data such as contextual signals – has accelerated. We’re seeing impressive adoption of contextual technology that not only helps brands avoid running ads next to unsuitable content, but also ensures brands can target towards the contexts that drive greater results for their specific campaigns.

“This shift is well underway as more of the industry recognises the benefits of contextual targeting technology, applying context as a proxy for interest and relevance. Marketers can think about this as “marketing by mindset” that helps encourage action and drive ROI. In fact, we’ve recently found that context can boost ad memorability by up to 40%.”

Paul Carreo, VidMob:

“As more automation and contextual targeting is brought about by loss of signal identifiers and cookie deprecation, this will make campaign audiences broader, and the fight for people’s attention and actions will be harder.  Media performance reports may indicate which ad in its entirety worked better, but teams are left to guess why.

“Partly to stand out from the crowd and partly due to the drop in digital campaign performance triggered by data privacy decisions, we will see traditional media agencies looking to ramp up their understanding of advertising creative with the help of AI technology. If you don’t have “machine eyes” on the problem, you will be falling behind your competitors.”

The utility of user-generated content in ad creative

Eloise Shuttleworth, Senior Director of Customer Success at Iterable:

“I also expect to see user-generated content play a bigger role in 2022. Customer trust in advertisements is low, particularly amongst younger consumers, so brands need to take active steps to turn happy consumers into brand advocates –  sharing reviews of their preferences and increasing demand, on channels that resonate with their consumers.”