Why Streaming Companies Are Embracing Ads

Why Streaming Companies Are Embracing Ads

Advertising

Amazon got all the headlines with the news of its $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM on May 26. But days earlier, HBO Max made an announcement with equally big ramifications for streaming companies and advertisers: the launched of a tiered version in which consumers will pay less for a subscription that includes advertising. The news raised eyebrows. After all, HBO has essentially been known as something of a “walled-off garden”: freedom from advertising has been practically a calling card for the television network since its origination. The new offering is the latest example of a streaming company introducing ads — and a sign that HBO is paying attention to trends and consumer behavior. Let’s take a closer look at the news.

Ad-Supported Streaming Is Gaining Ground

HBO is clearly aware of a shift to more ad-supported services in the streaming realm. And as noted by CNBC, Nielsen data supports the uptick: “In January 2021, 34% of U.S. households that had video streaming capability used ad-supported streaming services, up 6 percentage points from January 2020 . . . That applies both to ad-supported on-demand video platforms and linear streaming.”

The advent of ad-supported services is just the latest chapter in the so-called streaming wars, which have been raging over the last year and a half as media and tech giants rolled out their versions of competitors to Netflix and Amazon Prime. Ad-supported tiers have become part of that contest, as streamers gauge what balance of ads consumers will tolerate — for a lesser fee.

HBO Max’s bid to navigate that balance is HBO Max With Ads, which at $10 a month represents a $5 discount to HBO Max’s ad-free subscription. Even with the discount, HBO Max is still one of the pricier alternatives out there. As CNET observes, “HBO Max’s $15-a-month ad-free pricing goes up against Disney Plus at $8 and Netflix’s cheapest plan at $9. Even among the services with discounted advertising-supported tiers, Hulu and Paramount Plus both charge only $6.”

But Julian Franco, vice president of product management at HBO Max, is confident that consumers will appreciate the dynamic their ad-supported platform creates (if at a higher price point): in Franco’s estimation, viewers won’t be bothered by the ads at all.

In some cases, that’s because even on HBO Max with Ads, there may not always be any. Franco explained that the amount of video advertising one sees — that is, the ad load — may vary depending on what one watches. Programs licensed to HBO Max, like Big Bang Theory, will have ad breaks. But programs that originated on HBO’s regular network won’t feature bumpers or spots during playback. Bottom line: HBO Max estimates that typical ad load for an ad-supported subscriber will clock in at just under four minutes per hour. If this projection holds true, HBO Max will be honoring its vow that it will have the lightest ad load in the streaming industry (NBCUniversal’s Peacock currently holds that crown, with an ad load of five minutes per hour).

Why Are Streaming Companies Introducing Ad-Supported Options?

In part, it all goes back to the streaming wars referenced earlier. More people are online watching content, a phenomenon that really picked up during the online surge of 2020. Streaming companies are competing for those eyeballs — and trying to entice viewers by offering ways those consumers can pay less.

Another factor: it costs a lot of money to operate a streaming service, whether you are producing original shows and movies (like Amazon’s new Lord of the Ring series) or buying rights to someone else’s content. Ads help defray those costs.

What’s Next: A Prediction

Will more streaming companies adopt advertising? Possibly so. But Netflix may not be able to pull it off. Netflix is spending billions to create new content, and the company has gradually increased subscription prices to recoup some of the costs. Netflix does not dare introduce advertising to its 200 million subscribers who are already paying a premium. But offering a lower-priced subscription with advertising may not attract enough subscribers at a time when its customer base is plateauing. I predict that Netflix will be sold to Apple. That’s because Apple has deep pockets and is eager to achieve brand cachet, which it lacks right now.  But Netflix has plenty of brand cachet. I could see Apple buying Netflix but allowing the company to keep its own name. Time will tell. But the day is coming.

What Advertisers Should Do

How should brands respond in this evolving environment? We suggest:

  • Consider the different options available. According to CNET, HBO Max intends to embrace some unconventional ad formats, including “pause ads,” which come up only after viewers have paused playback for at least 10 seconds, or a “branded discovery” option that places a sponsor’s banner at the top of a page of recommendations. Think about what format best serves your brand.
  • Use analytics to monitor the reaction to ads. The industry is still learning how receptive people will be to ads — and if different approaches, such as HBO’s effort to provide a more “high end” ad experience, engender a more positive response.

Contact True Interactive

Eager to learn more about this new world of advertising in the streaming world? Contact us. We can help.

Walgreens Doubles Down on Its Advertising Business

Walgreens Doubles Down on Its Advertising Business

Advertising

In December 2020, Walgreens launched its own advertising business, Walgreens Advertising Group, wag.  Now Walgreens is doubling down on advertising by expanding wag’s capabilities into over-the-top (OTT) services, connected TV (CTV) and traditional linear TV across 100 apps and 10 supply-side platforms, with an inventory of 2.5 billion daily impressions. This development demonstrates a growing trend of retailers using their customer data to provide advertising services.

What Walgreens Announced

Walgreens has touted wag as an effective way to leverage insights from 100+ million Walgreens loyalty members and one billion daily digital touchpoints with customers to create personalized advertising. wag provides businesses access to advertising platforms on Walgreens-owned and third-party channels, with the potential of achieving higher match rates versus the industry standard method of digital media buying. wag provides the ability to reach shoppers across digital display, video, social, streaming audio, email as well as Walgreens digital platforms and stores. On May 17, Walgreens announced that wag will extend its reach into television. According to Walgreens, the new capability consists of:

  • The addition of OTT & CTV inventory accessible via the wagDSP — a proprietary programmatic buying technology that integrates Walgreens customer and transaction data with dynamic creative capabilities and real-time optimization.
  • A first-to-market collaboration with OpenAP, and integration with the OpenID that enables brands to reach audiences powered by Walgreens first-party data as part of their television buys. Brands will be able to collaborate with Walgreens to execute against deterministic audiences now, and closed loop measurement will be in place by the start of the broadcast year.

Inventory is sourced through 100+ apps and 10 supply-side platforms with 2.5 billion+ available impressions daily, including access to inventory from key platforms.

Brands activating against this inventory can do so with all of the same functionality, optimization, and measurement capability as in digital video and display executed through the wagDSP. This enables people based media targeting, with measurement and real-time optimization.

Why the Expansion of Walgreens Advertising Group Matters

This news matters for two reasons:

  • wag’s expansion is part of a broader effort by retailers to capitalize on their own-first party data to provide advertising services. Retailers such as AmazonDollar TreeKrogerMacy’sTarget, and Walmart are all monetizing their first-party customer data by building ad businesses. Each retailer can give advertisers access to different types of consumers. For instance, wag gives advertisers access to consumers in the health and wellness space, and Macy’s is geared toward businesses wanting to reach fashion-conscious shoppers. We expect more of these platforms to emerge as businesses seek alternative ways to reach consumers amid the demise of third-party cookies, which are crucial for third-party ad targeting. With third-party ad targeting across the web threatened, platforms that give advertisers entree to shoppers within retailers’ walled gardens are more appealing.

What Advertisers Should Do

We suggest that advertisers:

  • Consider retailer-based ad networks as a complement to your existing digital ad strategy, not as a replacement. If your strategy focuses on Facebook and Google, for instance, don’t move your ad dollars over to a retailer network. Remember that Facebook and Google also already offer proven advertising products that capitalize on their vast user base. For example, location-based digital advertising tools help strengthen Google’s advertising services at the local level.
  • Do, however, monitor the effectiveness of your advertising on Facebook and Google amid the demise of third-party cookies and the onset of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, which includes more privacy controls that may make Facebook ads less effective (which remains to be seen).
  • Learn more about the ad products that might apply to you – and those products are evolving, as the expansion of wag demonstrates. In addition, we recently blogged about how Amazon is creating more ad units. The time may come soon when advertising on the web means constantly capitalizing on walled gardens’ offerings.
  • Work with an agency partner that knows the terrain. For instance, at True Interactive, we help businesses advertise through connected TV, complementing our deep expertise with online advertising on Google, social media, and the retailer networks such as Amazon and Walmart.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut Is Back

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut Is Back

Google

Google’s advertising business has come roaring back. In 2020, Google found itself to be in the unusual position of seeing a downturn in its advertising revenue for the first time in 29 years. That’s because a pullback in ad spending among Google’s clients, many of whom come from a travel/hospitality industry ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, hurt Google even as ad competitors Amazon and Facebook were reaping a windfall. But Google’s recent financial results show that the downturn was temporary, and Google will continue to exert an enormous influence on the advertising world.

Recently, Google’s parent firm Alphabet announced quarterly earnings that exceeded investors’ expectations. Although the growth of Google’s cloud computing business had a lot to do with Alphabet’s success, the rebound of Google advertising played a big role, too. Google’s advertising revenue rose to $44.68 billion for the first quarter of 2021, up from $33.76 billion the year before, prompting CNBC to note that the ad revenue spike was the fastest annualized growth rate in at least four years. So, what can we conclude form the turnaround?:

  • Google is benefitting from the popularity of video. YouTube earned $6 billion in revenue for the quarter, increasing 49 percent from a year earlier. Earlier in 2021, we predicted a surge in online video consumption, a reality that has been borne out during the pandemic. To be sure, online video is much bigger than YouTube, as the success of TikTok demonstrates. But as Google reported later in 2020, during the pandemic, people were turning to video more as a learning tool when in-person learning options were shut down, which benefits YouTube given the amount of instructional content that exists there. The only question that remains now is whether the popularity of online video, and, by extension, YouTube, will remain as strong in a post-pandemic world.
  • Google’s Knowledge Graph is becoming more powerful. The Google Knowledge Graph consists of all the sources of information that Google draws upon to provide search results to queries. It’s a wonky concept that people in the search engine optimization (SEO) industry follow closely. But the Knowledge Graph applies to advertising, too. When Google provides answers to searches such as “Where can I find a plumber near me?” or “Where can I find Anime T shirts?” Google draws upon sources such as Google Maps, Snippets, and a company’s Google My Business (GMB) listings (among other sources) to share information about relevant businesses. Well, guess what? Google is doing such an effective job tapping into its Knowledge Graph to serve up answers on search engine results pages (SERPs) that people are finding answers to what they need on Google without needing to click anywhere else. More eyeballs on Google SERPs means that Google can deliver a larger audience to advertisers through Google Search. As Google becomes an even stronger all-purpose search tool (hard to believe given Google’s dominance in search already), the company becomes even more valuable to advertisers.
  • Google is creating its own future. As widely reported, Google has intensified its war against third-party cookies that are essential for businesses to deliver ads based on a person’s browsing behavior across the web. As Google forces the demise of third-party cookies, advertisers will need to tap into businesses that possesses first-party data (such as Amazon) in order to continue to deliver effective personalized ads. And as it turns out, Google is sitting on a lot of first-party data through that Knowledge Graph I mentioned. When people use Google Maps, YouTube, and other Google properties, they give Google a ton of information about their search and purchase habits, which Google uses to create better ad products. According to Brendan Eich, cofounder and CEO of the privacy-focused browser company Brave, “The reality is that Google already has first-party access to nearly every site—via Google Analytics, ad words, Google Tag Manager, Google Maps, etc.—and that its users are being data mined for profit.”

All of this is not to say that businesses need to dial up their advertising on Google. We’ve always recommended that advertisers go where their audience is, period. At the same time, Google has demonstrated the wisdom of businesses taking the long view with their advertising. The Big Tech ad platforms – Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – have carved out a powerful space in the advertising world. Those companies are all big targets for critics, which has resulted in antitrust action and negative PR. But the negative PR can lead a business around by the nose, too, resulting in short-sighted thinking. The ad giants are not going away. If they’re important to your business – and I suspect they are if you’ve read this far into my post – don’t pump on the brakes in 2021.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Amazon Unveils New Ad Units Across Its Ecosystem

Amazon Unveils New Ad Units Across Its Ecosystem

Amazon

Amazon keeps giving advertisers more reasons to choose its advertising platform, Amazon Advertising.

We recently blogged about the fact that Amazon and Facebook are steadily chipping away at Google’s online advertising marketshare. As eMarketer reported, Amazon’s share of the online advertising market increased from 7.8 percent in 2019 to 10 percent in 2020. Amazon just reminded us why Amazon Advertising will keep growing: product innovations.

We’ve already talked about how Amazon keeps launching ad units such as Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands that make it possible for businesses to place ads on Amazon, which functions as a powerful search engine for people looking to purchase things. As reported in Advertising Age, Amazon is rolling out new products that extend beyond the Amazon site:

  • Amazon will expand advertising opportunities on Fire TV, which competes with devices such as Apple TV and Roku to stream content on connected TVs for millions of viewers. Fire TV is more than a device. It’s a way for advertisers to reach people as they browse and discover new entertainment. One new ad unit, Sponsored Content Rows, is designed for businesses to promote content such as new shows and movies in the form of a row (or carousel) of sponsored content while people browse for shows on their connected TVs (akin to sponsored search results in a Google search engine results page).
  • Amazon also expanded the places where it will show display ads across the Amazon network, including Fire TV, Prime, IMDb TV and Twitch. “We’re making it easier by introducing sponsorship opportunities paired with high-quality content from Prime Video, IMDb TV, Twitch, and third-party content,” Amazon said. This is an important development because it shows that Amazon is expanding its advertising reach beyond the core Amazon site. Many consumers are not aware that Amazon’s network of brands includes sites such as IMDb and Twitch – but indeed they’re part of Amazon’s empire. Amazon is figuring out more ways for advertisers to monetize those popular sites. (Twitch ranks 32 among the world’s 50 most popular websites, with Amazon ranking 13.)

This news comes on the heels of a huge week for Amazon. On April 29, The company announced quarterly earnings that exceeded analysts’ expectations. Although Amazon does not disclose revenue results for Amazon Advertising, it’s estimated that Amazon Advertising realizing revenue growth of 77 percent year over year to achieve $6.9 billion in the first quarter alone.

Earlier in 2021, Amazon scored a huge advertising coup when Amazon Prime Video became the first streaming service to secure an exclusive NFL national broadcast package, which will begin in 2022. The agreement will open up more advertising revenue streams as Amazon monetizes the value of the audience that relies on Amazon Prime Video.

It’s important that advertisers keep their options open by capitalizing on the power of platforms such as Amazon that are harnessing the value of their first-party data to create ad units. (We’re seeing the emergence of more similar platforms such as the Macy’s Media Network.) True Interactive works with brands to capitalize on these offerings such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect, along with our longstanding work with advertising partners such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.  To succeed on these networks, contact us. We can help!

Why Amazon and Facebook Are Catching up to Google

Why Amazon and Facebook Are Catching up to Google

Advertising Amazon Facebook Google

The race to lead the online advertising market is getting tighter. According to a new report from eMarketer, Amazon Advertising and Facebook are catching up to Google’s share of the online advertising market. Let’s take a closer look.

What eMarketer Reported

eMarketer says that in 2020:

  • Amazon’s share of the online advertising market increased from 7.8 percent in 2019 to 10 percent in 2020.
  • Facebook’s share increased from 23.6 percent to 25.2 percent.
  • Google’s leading share dropped from 31.6 percent to 28.9 percent.

To put this data in perspective, eMarketer says Google’s share of online advertising was 38.6 percent in 2017.

What Does the Marketer Data Mean?

  • Amazon Advertising is only going to get bigger. That’s because Amazon delivers advertisers insight on its vast customer base – and not just casual searchers, but people searching with intent and making purchases. Per eMarketer, Amazon is enjoying growth across the board — search revenues from Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands, and video ad revenues on properties including Amazon Fire TV, Twitch, and IMDb TV. It’s worth noting that Amazon’s growth is coming not just from ads on Amazon.com but from the Amazon network, as noted (e.g., Twitch and IMDb). That means Amazon is figuring how to use data about its customer base to expand its ad services across the web. In addition, as we noted on our blog recently, Google’s crackdown on third-party cookies is favorable to companies such as Amazon that know how to sell ads based on their massive inventories of first-party cookie data.
  • Facebook and Google are doing just fine. Despite Google’s drop in market share, the company generated a whopping $147 billion in ad revenue in 2020. Google saw a dip in its ad revenue in 2020 because its travel advertisers were hit hard by COVID-19, but the company came roaring back in the back half of the year. Google’s ad revenue actually increased by 9 percent year over year. The decrease in Google’s market share may actually help the company combat multiple anti-trust lawsuits at the state and federal level. Meanwhile, Facebook continues to reap the benefits of being the world’s largest and dominant social media network. Despite numerous controversies, Facebook enjoyed advertising growth in 2020. An increase in its user base has played an important role. That growth spiked owing to the massive uptake of social media that occurred during COVID-19, but Facebook’s user base has been climbing for years. Simply put: there is a disconnect between news media criticisms of Facebook and the behavior of its user base.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • First, follow your audience. Make your advertising investments based on the journey your own customers are making. Most customers rely on multiple digital touchpoints on their way from awareness to purchase. It’s likely that no single ad platform will (or should) dominate your spend. Incorporating Amazon, Facebook, and Google into your ad spend is probably not going to be an either/or choice (more about that on our blog).
  • Do your homework. The ad giants are going to launch more ad tools as the market place becomes more competitive. Amazon recently launched Amazon Live, which makes it possible for retailers to use livestreams to sell products – part of the live commerce trend we blogged about recently. In addition, up-and-comers such as Walmart Connect and Macy’s will launch more ad products as they capitalize on their own first-party data to generate more ad revenue.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we’ve been helping businesses succeed through online advertising for many years. Our services span Google, Facebook, Amazon Advertising, and much more. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

 

Live Commerce: Advertiser Q&A

Live Commerce: Advertiser Q&A

Marketing

Twenty years ago, online shopping transformed retail; today, live streaming is poised to shape e-commerce. “Live commerce” is a term applied to the partnering of streaming video and shopping. Read on to learn more about the concept dubbed “QVC for the digital age.”

What Is Live Commerce?

The QVC analogy is an apt one. Back in the 1980s, home shopping network QVC expanded shopper reach by connecting with consumers in their homes. Television was the medium; suddenly, shoppers could browse and buy in the middle of the night, from the comfort of a favorite living room chair. With live commerce, consumers can still make purchases from their homes, but the fusing of online retail with live streaming brings shoppers even closer to the energy of an in-person experience. Live commerce can take different forms:

  • Online marketplaces. Marketplaces like eBay have traditionally allowed users to buy and sell online. These same marketplaces are now responding to consumer behavior by incorporating live streaming into their platforms. The real-time interactivity replaces static exchanges with the energy and experience of actually “being” in a marketplace.
  • Live auctions. Live video streaming gives auction houses an opportunity to bring bidders from all around the world into the saleroom. The benefit? An institution like Sotheby’s can reach a broader audience with widely varied interests.
  • Influencer streaming. Using live streaming, influencers can leverage their personal brand to promote their favorite products in an interactive format. While influencer streaming got its start on social media, the practice is now common across e-commerce sites, as well. (Brands targeting Gen Z take note: influencers especially resonate with the Gen Z generation. According to Wowza, 44 percent of that demographic make purchase decisions based on social influencers’ recommendations.)
  • Live events. Events like product launches, limited edition drops, and retail holidays such as Black Friday are well suited to shoppable live broadcasts.

Why Is Live Commerce Popular Now?

Before 2020, online commerce was already gaining traction. Then the pandemic hit. According to IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, COVID-19 hastened the shift from shopping at brick-and-mortar stores to digital shopping by approximately five years. And home shopping channels like QVC, which had already started exploring on-demand video shopping prior to 2020, enjoyed a surge of popularity with Americans staying home because of COVID-19. Econsultancy reports that between March and May of 2020, viewership for networks like Home Shopping Network and QVC rose 10 percent.

The interactive nature of live commerce has made it particularly resonant during the pandemic. People are social beasts. They crave connection. During COVID-19 lockdowns, when social interaction has been limited, being able to ask questions about a product or directly interact with an influencer online helps fill that need to connect.

Who Is Embracing Live Commerce?

Live commerce is a huge market in China; according to a survey by AlixPartners, reported in November 2020, two-thirds of Chinese consumers say they made purchases via livestreaming in the previous 12 months. But United States brands are also getting on board:

  • An early adopter of livestream shopping in the US, Levi Strauss reached out to consumers afraid to visit brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic. Shoppers could ask questions—and make purchases—during 30-minute to one-hour sessions devoted to featured products and tips.
  • Walmart and TikTok recently worked together on a livestreamed shopping event. During the “Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular,” TikTok creators like Michael Le showed off their favorite Walmart fashions on Walmart’s TikTok profile, and shoppers could buy the same products using mobile checkout.

How Should Brands Be Involved?

Live commerce can help brands connect with consumers in meaningful ways, even when physical contact is limited. Interested in experimenting with what live commerce can do for you? We recommend that you:

  • Do your research before working with an influencer. Find the right match for your brand. Does it make sense to work with a superstar? It can be more economical to work with micro-influencers who draw a strong following from a geographical region or niche industry relevant to your brand. (According to Econsultancy, micro-influencers can also generate higher levels of trust and authenticity.)
  • Pay attention to the “commerce” part of live commerce. Does your checkout process run seamlessly? Make sure it does before unrolling a live commerce campaign.
  • Continue to make customer experience a priority, even after checkout, even from afar. Live commerce can never exactly re-create the in-store shopping experience, but taking shoppers’ needs into consideration goes a long way towards building customer satisfaction—and brand loyalty. Zappos, an early e-commerce adopter, is an instructive example. By encouraging customers to order multiple sizes of an item, then making it not only easy, but free to return anything that didn’t fit, Zappos built satisfaction and encouraged return visits.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about live commerce—and how digital can elevate your brand? Contact us. We can help.

2021 Advertising and Marketing Predictions from True Interactive

2021 Advertising and Marketing Predictions from True Interactive

Advertising

If 2020 had a few surprises up its sleeve, the year certainly set the stage for 2021. In the months ahead, businesses are poised to transition more boldly to a digital-first economy, which includes a more seamless approach to e-commerce and increased opportunities for engaging with people through immersive experiences such as e-sports. At the same time, businesses will continue to navigate an increasingly complicated consumer privacy landscape. All those trends, and others, will influence the uptake of digital advertising and marketing in 2021. Read on for our fearless predictions for the year:

E-commerce Grows Up

We’ve all heard the same statistic bandied about: in 2020, the pandemic accelerated the shift to e-commerce by five years, according to IBM. But that doesn’t mean the acceleration went smoothly. As we saw during the holiday season, the surge in online commerce has exposed cracks in the seams for many retailers. Sellers struggled with a variety of issues ranging from stocking items properly to following through with orders. Going into 2021, these challenges are forcing companies to integrate all their processes (online, in store, shipping logistics, etc.) more seamlessly. Larger retailers such as Target and Walmart have already successfully expanded services such as curbside pick-up, which make it possible for shoppers to buy online and pick up merchandise at the store without needing to go inside. Going forward, they’ll follow Amazon’s lead and invest more in their own shipping and delivery services to own the order fulfillment process (Target and Walmart already have them – they’re still refining them, though). As we have seen during the holidays, the strain on shipping services such as FedEx and UPS is becoming unacceptable to retailers, and if they lack the resources to build out their own delivery services, they will partner with businesses such as InstaCart.

In addition, learning from the events of 2020, retailers will likely become more nimble in their approach to advertising and supply chain management in order to adapt to quickly changing shifts in consumer demand. They’re going to do a better job using tools such as Google Insights to adapt their campaigns to consumer behavior. The key will be to ensure their supply chain processes are as nimble.

— Kurt Anagnostopoulos, co-founder

Rough Sledding for Facebook

It may be rough sledding ahead for Facebook in 2021. Do a quick Google News search for Facebook and you will see a slew of articles depicting the challenges the social media giant currently faces. At the top of the list? News that more than 40 attorneys general and the U.S. government are expected to sue Facebook for alleged antitrust violations. And while Mark Zuckerberg has routinely appeared at congressional hearings addressing concerns of privacy, misinformation, and censorship, this latest lawsuit might be a final awakening for businesses who use Facebook as an ad platform.

Adding to Facebook’s already uphill battle is the release of the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, which explores the dangerous human impact of social network platforms as told by tech experts who expose secrets behind their own creations. Many media outlets reported a wave of people canceling their social media accounts after viewing the documentary. Of course, Facebook has slammed the documentary, claiming it’s full of misinformation, but is the damage already done? Even if the documentary did not get all the details right, it has undeniably affected public perception of social media platforms. And if even a fraction of current users de-activate their accounts, this will absolutely have a negative impact on audience size available to advertisers. More importantly, with the continued negative publicity surrounding the biggest social media platforms, are businesses really going to want to ramp spend on Facebook and Instagram? My prediction is no. After a crazy year filled with pandemic fears and general social unrest, I do not believe businesses are looking to invest in platforms embroiled in controversy. And if media spend is pulled from some of the social media giants, it may leave the door open for other search engines or community-based ad platforms to emerge. Stay tuned!

— Beth Bauch, director, digital marketing

Walmart Gains Ground as an Ad Platform

The Walmart marketplace is still very much in its infancy. I believe that 2021 will lead to exponential growth of Walmart’s advertising services, and the company will become more competitive with Amazon in this regard. The current platform is still very small scale and, technically, still in beta or just out of it. Many larger advertisers have not been invited to join the Walmart marketplace because it is still so brand new. I believe that Walmart will enjoy a large jump in advertising on their app and site Q1-Q2 2021.

— Tim Colucci, vice president, digital marketing

Augmented Reality Takes Hold

I think in 2021 we will see more brands invest money into creating virtual experiences for their customers. Augmented reality (AR) was already becoming popular before the onset of COVID-19, but now, given the urgency to shop online during the pandemic, consumers are missing the in-store experience of physically trying on items. And retailers are responding with AR: Warby Parker, for example, has created a virtual try-on for their glasses via their app. My glasses broke this weekend, and instead of going to a Warby Parker store to try on different frames, I could use their app to see what the glasses would look like on me, and felt more confident ordering online. Another brand capitalizing on the opportunities inherent in AR? A make-up line called NARS. They allow you to experiment with their products, such as blush and eye shadow, through a virtual try-on feature. Overall, I think more retail brands will create virtual shopping experiences for their customers in 2021.

— Taylor Hart, senior digital marketing manager

E-sports Dominates

The world of e-sports is never one to stop changing. With e-sports accumulating a total revenue that reached more than $1 billion in 2020 (a $150 million increase from 2019), we can only expect that to continue to rise in 2021. Given the ongoing global pandemic and application of stricter stay-at-home rules, more and more people will turn to e-sports as another form of entertainment. It all starts with streaming services that allow e-sports players to become household names in the gaming industry. Giving these players an opportunity to reach tens, potentially hundreds of thousands of viewers without leaving their home is something advertisers can only dream of. Players will do sponsored streams, with designated ad reads to be presented at certain points during the broadcast. The NFL is also getting involved with Twitch (the biggest live streaming platform), getting some of the big name streamers (e.g., NICKMERCS and TimTheTatman) to watch Thursday Night Football on stream with various advertisers as sponsors. Watch for more professional sports and entertainment services to follow in the footsteps of the NFL and try to reach this large, somewhat untapped market.

— Max Petrungaro, digital marketing associate

Privacy Dominates the Executive Agenda

For years, CEOs and CMOs have treated consumer privacy as a problem for their information technology teams to worry about. No longer. Privacy is rapidly becoming a C-level problem that can damage a company’s reputation if managed poorly. A variety of forces have elevated the importance of privacy in the United States. First off, the state of California rolled out a tough privacy act, the California Consumer Privacy Act, in January 2020, and then made the law more strict in November. Because California is one of the world’s largest economies and is a bellwether state, what happens there will influence how other states treat consumer privacy. In addition, the big technology firms are already under close scrutiny, and the new presidential administration is likely to take an even closer look at their privacy practices.

Speaking of the tech giants – their actions are casting a spotlight on privacy. As widely reported, Facebook has launched a public campaign attacking Apple’s privacy iOS 14 updates, which are going to make it harder for Facebook and other platforms to target users with ads. Meanwhile, Google continues to move forward with its plans to stop supporting third-party cookies on the Chrome browser by 2022 – an action that continues to reverberate across the ad industry. In 2021, businesses will face a year of transition as they navigate an increasingly complicated consumer privacy landscape. The challenge involves more than reacting to changes in legislation and cookie tracking technology; advertisers also need to stay on top of emerging tools such as Verizon Media’s ConnectID, designed to manage ads without the use of third-party cookies. School will be in session constantly.

— Mark Smith, co-founder

More Social Shopping

With the world of online shopping expanding in 2020 due to the pandemic, I predict that 2021 will bring new ways to shop across social. Instagram has already released its e-commerce store to elevate shopping online. I predict that the platform will continue to refine its online shopping tools, even as more social networks follow Instagram’s lead and create additional opportunities for shopping right from consumer smart devices.

— Bella Schneider, digital marketing manager

Online Video Explodes

Online video is going to explode as the number of streaming services expands. I believe we are also going to see a cheaper, monthly subscription option (akin to the base Hulu subscription) that includes video ads as a way to subsidize lower-cost services. It is rumored that HBO Max will offer this option, but I believe we will see similar offerings from Peacock, Disney+/Hulu (which I believe will be combined at some point . . . in 2021?), and Amazon Prime. I think the opportunity for more ad space is going to be too good to pass up as more and more consumers cut the cord OR sign up for multiple streaming services. In addition, I believe we will see other live TV options becoming available from streaming services: cord cutters will still have the opportunity for live TV . . .  plus the ad space that goes along with it.

— Tim Colucci, vice president, digital marketing

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash