Marketers were forced to react to constantly changing user dynamics over the last 18 months of the pandemic. And while this was a challenging time for everyone, those who managed to react effectively benefited massively. The world is slowly going back to normal, which means that marketers have to continue to look at the trends in programmatic that may drive user behaviours.
With the world going predominantly digital, the advertiser focus should continue to move towards digital formats. The pandemic accelerated digital adoption among marketers, where we saw a significant amount of traditional ad dollars flowing to digital streams. In 2020, while traditional ad spending dipped by as much as 16 per cent, digital advertising outperformed its original prediction, growing by 12 per cent in 2020 followed by a 20 per cent growth this year. Among digital advertising, programmatic continued to emerge as a leader with close to seven out of 10 dollars being spent programmatically globally, a trend we only see growing next year.
Trends in online connect consumption
We saw an explosion in online audiences across the globe over the past 12 months, with an additional 330 million users connecting to the internet. With growing audiences and active engagements, online content consumption jumped up during the early phase of the pandemic. While content consumption normalised in 2021 (although it is still higher than pre-pandemic levels), an increased interest across categories like news, education, online shopping and entertainment domains is still high. This shows lasting changes in user interactions. Marketers take note, these shifts in focus indicate massive opportunities that are already being seen in the travel and entertainment sector.
The increased programmatic inventory opportunities during the early phases of the pandemic caused the inventory to become moderately cheaper, although that didn’t necessarily translate into increased ROI. A few reasons for this were the dip in quality metrics associated with the incremental inventories (viewability dipped, completion rates suffered) and a general content overload, which put stress on user engagements and consequently cost-per-acquisition (CPA) goals. This was fixed and we are now closer to exceeding the pre-pandemic levels across different supply types across the globe.
Mobile, connected TV and video trends
Mobile usage fell slightly during the early parts of the pandemic but returned with a bang in 2021 with mobile gaming, social networking and in-app shopping seeing massive increases. But what were the biggest winners? Connected television and online video. And we are confident this will continue in 2022. Online video viewership went past 3 billion in 2021 as it continued to outpace the display and traditional advertising landscape in both engagement and advertiser interest. YouTube continued a solid push from 2020 among both agencies and marketers globally. Connected TV (CTV) emerged as the fastest-growing video advertising platform because of the cord-cutting trend and new streaming services by major players.
Not only did we see a growth in the CTV landscape in terms of active households, but the demographics of audiences transformed. We saw increased CTV adoption and engagement among older audiences. While linear TV still remains in the plans for marketers, we are seeing a transition with CTV being part of the media plans for seven in 10 marketers for 2021. The growth in CTV engagement was supplemented by an increase in second-screen opportunities (over four connected devices per CTV household in the US) offering marketers the opportunity to develop connected marketing approaches through one-one retargeting solutions.
The DOOH return?
People are starting to leave their homes so we see the slow return to offline advertising, especially digital out-of-home (DOOH). There is a renewed focus on developing a truly omnichannel reach. Identifying partners and building analytical and reporting capabilities to identify, activate and optimise based on opportunities across platforms will be a key challenge for marketers and agencies engaged across different service levels.
With Google’s decision to phase out third-party cookies by the end of 2022, marketers will continue to focus on identifying privacy-first identity solutions that help them achieve scale without compromising on performance considerations. A continued focus on making the most out of first-party data integrations and optimising supply paths will remain key conversation themes among media partners.
Measurement is top priority
Revisiting the existing measurement and attribution paradigms were on the top of the list for marketers and agencies in 2021, something that will continue next year. Marketers are moving away from traditional metrics and will devise metrics that help them track business outcomes more effectively. Incrementality measurement and focus on an attention-based economy are some popular themes doing turns in conversations today, with niche and more personalised approaches like sales uplift also being considered by marketers.