Industry Outlook: Programmatic Advertising Trends in 2021

021 Predictions - Programmatic Advertising

2020 taught us that the best roadmaps are ones that can bend to changing circumstances. In preparation for 2021, we’ve asked our own internal thought leaders plus experts across the industry to reflect on their learnings from 2020 and share their programmatic advertising trends and predictions for the year ahead. 

Meet the Programmatic Advertising Experts

From changing privacy regulations to the rise of connected TV, Morgan Rigsbee, VP of Product and Strategy at Fluent, and our friends at LiveRamp and Tremor Video provide tips for navigating the evolving programmatic advertising landscape in 2021.

Morgan Rigsbee Headshot
Fluent Logo

Morgan Rigsbee

VP, Product & Strategy

Nicole Ruzicka Headshot
Tremor Video Logo

Nicole Ruzicka

Manager, Data Strategy

David Wells Headshot
LiveRamp Logo

David Wells

Sr. Director, LiveRamp Marketplace

Reflections & Predictions: Programmatic Advertising Trends

What was your biggest learning from 2020?  

Morgan Rigsbee, Fluent 

“In industry, as in life, you must be able to adapt. Between COVID-19, changing privacy regulations, and the elephant-sized cookie in the room, much of the industry is in an “adapt or die” mode. Revising our initial roadmap, we quickly shifted our focus to addressable data for CTV given the drastic increase in streaming during nationwide lockdowns. Beyond strengthening brand and agency partnerships during this time, we were also proud to work with the Ad Council, White House, HHS, and CDC to deliver COVID-19 response messaging to at-risk populations. By leveraging Fluent’s ability to survey nearly one million consumers daily, we led the charge in building custom audiences for pandemic-related outreach.” 

Nicole Ruzicka, Tremor Video 

“I was very impressed with the flexibility and adaptability of advertisers to meet consumers where they were. Consumers spent 2020 at home – on the couch, in front of the TV, with their laptop on their lap and cell phone in hand. The pivot to an online, ecommerce-focused strategy with tailored creative messaging and intuitive, dynamic data-driven targeting enabled a significant shift in the way consumers engage with brands. This shift brought a brand’s message into the home – into people’s lives – and made it personal. I think there’s a huge impact in that achievement that will be felt for some time to come.” 

David Wells, LiveRamp 

“Apple is changing policy as it pertains to IDFA. Google is deprecating the cookie. CCPA, GDPR, and other privacy legislation is live. Marketers, tech platforms, and data providers must make consumer privacy the cornerstone of the way in which they advertise and operate respectively. Those that do will thrive. Those that don’t will go the way of the dodo.” 

What are some of your predictions for 2021?  

Morgan Rigsbee, Fluent 

“2021 is the year CTV blossoms. Not only are buyers expected to shift advertising budgets from linear over to CTV, but targeting capabilities, reasonable scale, and optimization efficiencies are now a reality. We’re also going to see the rise of the retail walled gardens. Amazon did it first, but Walmart, CVS, and other retailers are primed to compete with access to their own first-party data assets. With endless insight into consumer shopping preferences and habits, retailers’ ability to work across channels in a post-cookie world will stem from a strong foundation of first-party data – something which should be on every marketers’ priority list in the coming year.”

Nicole Ruzicka, Tremor Video 

“I hope to see the industry’s learnings from this year’s crisis applied to be even better, faster, and more creative in 2021. As we head into the new year we expect to see major shifts in the ways we operate, understand and account for privacy, and innovate. Maintaining that efficiency and that openness to new ideas, like we did in 2020, will be a smart and intuitive way to help us stay the course. 

On the tailwinds of this, I expect to see the popularity of CTV and video continue to rise as advertisers seek new ways to reach consumers with more engaging brand messaging. Alongside that rise, I predict parallel growth in the data space as providers look toward new CTV and video-specific data sets for enriched targeting solutions.” 

David Wells, LiveRamp 

“At the start of 2020, TV viewers were leaving linear TV for streaming solutions, and the arrival of the pandemic only sped up that migration. As we continue to wage war against COVID-19 and acclimate to the new normal of our work and personal lives, these services only will continue to win more viewers in 2021. As such, connected TV will present itself as a more viable advertising channel versus linear TV across all types of advertisers. Moreover, advertisers will target in a more sophisticated manner across connected TV through the use of first- and third-party data.”

What are proactive steps advertisers can take now to prepare for a world without third-party cookies?  

Morgan Rigsbee, Fluent 

“With in-housing on the rise over the last few years, advertisers have begun to take control of their media execution by building impressive tech stacks. Now, they must adopt a “build your own data” approach, working with trusted partners to generate a foundational layer of first- and second-party consumer insights. The upcoming changes will have a severe impact on third-party data inventory. Beyond preparing internally, advertisers need to challenge their vendors and clarify how they plan to combat the loss of cookies. Several of the top technology platforms are working on various replacements, but nobody has a comprehensive solution yet that could be easily and universally adopted.” 

Nicole Ruzicka, Tremor Video 

“A change in the way we do business should prompt a change in the “why” we do business. Advertisers should be taking a step back to refine their brand’s message, objectives, and goals for the short and long term – why are we spending advertising dollars right now, and what is the intended effect of that advertising? A more articulated, deeper understanding of a brand’s value, consumer base, and mission will drive the tactics we adopt in a cookie-free data strategy – be it a focus on first-party data, AI-based modeling, or contextual solutions.”

David Wells, LiveRamp 

“LiveRamp has an innovative solution, our Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS) to solve for this industry issue. Presently, there are a host of demand side platforms that partner – or will partner – with LiveRamp to allow marketers to leverage our unique identifier in the bidstream rather than cookies or other anonymous identifiers. Marketers should double down on those programmatic partners that are using ATS. There is no sense to wait on the demise of the cookie. ATS allows greater accuracy and performance across programmatic activations.”   

Stay tuned for the next installment of our “Industry Outlook 2021” series where we’ll examine the future of mobile app marketing. If you’re a programmatic marketer interested in learning how to activate Fluent audiences across channels and devices in the new year, connect with us here.