So, we called on a bunch of them to ask what the heck is going to happen in digital advertising in 2020.

There’s a lot to get through, and if you’re still left none the wiser, why not check out Econsultancy’s Getting to Grips with Digital Advertising Best Practice Guide.

Happy reading!

Breaking out of the walled gardens

James Patterson, VP Client Services, EMEA & Global Operations at The Trade Desk:

“Growing numbers of advertisers are waking up to the importance of objectivity when it comes to advertising and the benefits of investing their spend beyond the walled gardens – whether that’s greater control of their data, more transparent pricing or more objective measurement. Beyond this, the industry is beginning to appreciate just how important advertising on the open web is for society more generally, to preserve and fuel the content required to educate and inspire us all.

“For the first time, we’re starting to see large brands, who have experienced the power of programmatic, prioritise the open web and add walled garden inventory to complement their campaigns – rather than the other way around, as we’ve previously been accustomed to.

“As we enter a new decade, I believe the next ten years will bear witness to the end of the walled gardens’ unsustainable practices and the flourishing success of the power of the open internet for all – consumers, content providers and advertisers alike.”

Sort your data strategy or face the consequences

Daniel Gilbert, CEO, Brainlabs:

“In 2018, I predicted that creativity would take a back seat during the economic unrest following Brexit negotiations, in favour of investment into channels that are effective at driving sales. In the past year, we’ve been inundated by articles decrying a lack of creativity in the industry, backed by an IPA report finding a “crisis in creative effectiveness”. There’s an ongoing battle between creative and data that I just don’t agree with. They’re not enemies: creative is informed by good data architecture, which is why data strategy is going to be the key theme for 2020.

“This year, we started to see the impact of a new age of data privacy, with a number of high-profile fines being issued under the GDPR, on top of a number of incidents of media owners misusing user data.

“Initiatives like Intelligent Tracking Protection have sent a clear message to advertisers: data needs to be handled appropriately, and personalisation should not come at the cost of user privacy.

“In 2020, I’d like to see the industry actually following through on past promises and collecting data transparently to improve the overall data economy, and increase trust with consumers. There will be consequences for all of us if we don’t step up our game and treat data with care.”

Innovation in connected TV has just begun – but streaming poses a problem

Daniel Gilbert, Brainlabs:

“With a number of newcomers in the streaming world, including Apple TV+ and Disney+, on top of fragmented viewing habits and the shift to mobile, 2020 may be a challenging year for TV marketers. They will need to find an opportunity for elevated reach through cross-platform strategy and get serious about programmatic TV.”

James Patterson, The Trade Desk:

“To call 2020 the year of Connected TV may seem like a dis-service to the leaps and bounds the advertising industry has made over the past 12 months. But this is only the beginning. With the entrance of three new players to the streaming market in as many months, the so-called ‘streaming wars’ are set to rage fiercer than ever as we head into the new year. And our research revealed that the majority of UK consumers aren’t willing to spend more than £20 a month on streaming services, meaning it’s only a matter of months until some of the key players will be forced to adopt advertising as a means to funding quality original content.

“The value of this advertising opportunity mustn’t be underestimated. How often are advertisers presented with the opportunity to reach brand new, valuable audiences – like Gen Z – at scale, through one of the most powerful advertising channels? It’s a no-brainer for brands. But rather than our favourite shows being broken up into the 15-minute portions we grew up with on linear, we’ll see TV advertising innovate beyond recognition with CGI product placement and branded content developed to complement the viewing experience.”

Hannah Thompson, Programmatic Account Director, Tug:

“Paid TV streaming services have certainly gained momentum in 2019, and while the trend may be draining advertising revenues, I believe ads can survive if they know how to ride the wave. They need to step up and listen to consumers carefully. Agencies and their brands need to be nimble and need to be able to adapt to this evolving OTT landscape. This means redistributing ad budgets towards sponsorship and advertiser-funded programming, second screen campaigns on social and other awareness mediums that align with a digital model, such as out-of-home and audio.”

Broadcast media still attractive as the cookie crumbles

Stephen Kenwright, co-founder and Technical Director, Rise at Seven:

“Brexit is probably going to happen now – and there’ll be even more economic pressure on businesses – so getting the most out of marketing spend will be crucial. More businesses will also fall foul of regulators – GDPR will still be in force – and technologies like ITP will continue to evolve, making granular targeting harder.

“You could say marketing will regress: messaging will be everything (again). Broadcast media will again increase in importance. Brands will be concerned with getting the highest number of eyeballs on their efforts, rather than accepting a smaller number that they can prove. But is that really a bad thing?”

Joe Root, CEO and co-founder, Permutive:

“The third-party cookie is crumbling and 2020 will see its death throes. Safari, Firefox and even Google are increasingly blocking by default the use of third-party tracking cookies while regulations such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act legally enforce the right to privacy.

“Little wonder the industry has panicked: up to half of the web is now “hidden”, with that traffic unavailable for commercial purposes. Indeed, a recent Google study suggests that without third party cookies publisher revenues would drop an average of 52%.

“But there is another way. And that is to leverage a publisher’s powerful own first-party data to contextually target audiences not impressions.”

The year of ‘platform right’ advertising

Sarah Baumann, MD, VaynerMedia:

“Tighter data regulations, greater ad blocking capabilities, privacy concerns and increasing competition are going to push advertisers to do more with less data in 2020 – giving increased importance to understanding what platforms offer which audiences and how consumers are behaving on them.

“Understanding the audiences offered on each platform, the user behaviour within and the influencers / content creators that can be leveraged will be key. This looks poised to be true outside of just social networks, as 2020 will be the year of streaming service fragmentation, giving brands new avenues to work with different publishers to capture consumer attention in VOD / OTT.”

A new era of connectivity in out-of-home

Claire Kimber, Group Innovation Director, Posterscope:

“Advances in data, technology and inventory have driven strong growth in OOH in 2019. That’s great news, of course, but what we’re excited about is what’s to come in 2020, in what promises to be another thrilling year for our medium.

“A new era of connectivity in OOH will open up a realm of possibilities, turning DOOH into a network of connected portals.

“The diversification of datasets and the creative interpretation and application of these will supercharge planning and creativity. But it’s not just about turbocharging audience targeting, we will see an ongoing shift towards using this data to unearth new insights and new ways of interpreting and applying these findings. After all, everything happens somewhere, so using location as the lens to examine data and extrapolate insight is the ultimate in understanding on-the-go human behaviour.”

A huge opportunity for young talent

Daniel Gilbert, Brainlabs:

“…big advertisers are becoming savvier in the digital sphere, and are questioning marketing effectiveness. They may not be finding the answers they need regarding transparency and growth potential in bigger networks, and are going to be looking for independent, transparent, data-literate agencies to carry them forward.

“On the other hand, it’s also getting easier and easier for new entrants to come into the marketplace and scale their business thanks to digital marketing (e.g. challenger brands like Bulb). Digital is going to empower more and more innovative, scale-up, globally-known consumer brands.

“As a result, there’s still a huge opportunity for young talent to join the industry. Despite the huge surge in people in skilled digital media practitioners over the last decade, there’s still a shortage of technically-literate digital marketers in the UK.”

In-housing should change the agency operating model

Glen Conybeare, Managing Director, Stickyeyes:

“There has been a significant increase in the number of (typically large) companies talking about [in-housing]. We’ve heard this from existing clients as well as prospects and indeed are starting to see it in RFP’s as well. Albeit in the latter the question is often a little vague, for example, “In time we may consider in-housing [service] how would you support us on that”. It’s perhaps fair to say these are the follow organisations, waiting to see how others fair before taking on the challenge in any meaningful way.

“However there has also been an increase in the number of (typically large) companies actually doing something about it. …However there is no big bang. Clearly Boardrooms are recognising the significant risk and are therefore targeting certain areas, often starting with the more commoditised end of the marketing mix. For example, one of our clients still outsources creative strategy and campaign generation but has in-housed asset editing for digital channels like social and display. Will they do more of this over time? Almost certainly, but perhaps quite sensibly they are learning to walk before they can run.

“…As is often the case it’s the smaller more nimble agencies that have grabbed the (perceived) hornets’ nest and recognised the opportunity, perhaps because they have less to lose than the larger networks. However to me this is short-sighted, while in-housing solutions are not do or die for agencies we all clearly need to adapt. An agencies job is not unlike Google’s, “be relevant”. If we do not provide solutions our clients want we become less relevant, so whether that’s allowing our clients to license our proprietary tech, seconding our people to a client’s site or running in-housing training we need to adapt to remain relevant.”

Mindful consumption leaves no room for empty promises

David Yates, Managing Partner – Strategy, Elvis:

“In a world of high quality, commoditised products, the mass consumer is finally starting to pay attention to the bigger picture of the brands they choose: supply chains, ingredient provenance, worker conditions, political affiliations, et al.

“And in the world of advertising, this means that advertisers can no longer get away with the glossy, empty promises of yesteryear. You only have to look at Gillette’s ridiculed brand purpose-led ad from January to see where that gets you.

“In 2020, advertisers will need to walk the talk and talk the walk. Not only making real and substantial changes to the way they run their businesses to align with modern consumer expectations, but also talking about that boldly and authentically so that it gets noticed and drives purchase behaviour.”

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