Google’s Optimized Targeting Feature: Advertiser Q&A

Google’s Optimized Targeting Feature: Advertiser Q&A

Google

Managers of Google Ads accounts were surprised recently when Google began to gradually roll out a new feature, optimized targeting, apparently with little fanfare. It’s important that Google Ads users understand what’s going on with optimized targeting. The new feature may provide benefits but also higher costs for performance marketers. Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Optimized Targeting?

According to Google, optimized targeting helps businesses using Google Ads to reach new and relevant audiences who are likely to convert. Optimized targeting looks beyond manually selected audience segments in a campaign in order to find audience segments that an advertiser might have missed. The overall goal of optimized targeting is to improve the campaign’s performance.

When Should a Business Use Optimized Targeting?

Per Google, optimized targeting works best when a business wants to expand an audience segment most likely to convert, acquire new customers (beyond existing segments), identify new audiences who will perform well for an existing campaign, and increase conversions without increasing bids or the cost per customer. A recent Search Engine Land article notes that optimized targeting is beneficial if an advertiser is not sure who their audience is.

What’s the Difference Between Optimized Targeting and Audience Expansion?

Many advertisers already use the Google Ads audience expansion feature to expand an audience segment. Audience expansion does so based on an advertiser’s manually selected audience segments. Optimized targeting uses real-time conversion data to find more users who are more likely to convert.

Google cites the hypothetical example of a business that wants to attract people to the upcoming launch of a new running shoe. The business targets people using two audience types: a custom segment based on top performing keywords from their search campaigns (e.g., “running shoe sale”), and the “athletic footwear” in-market segment. Audience expansion and optimized targeting may handle the company’s campaign as follows:

  • Audience expansion: in addition to the business’s manually selected audience segments, audience expansion includes similar segments such as the “trainers sale” custom segment and the “sporting goods” in-market segment.
  • Optimized targeting: optimized targeting expands to users who are likely to convert by creating a profile of what a converter looks like based on real-time conversion data. For example, that data could include Google searches for specific running shoe brands or clicks to a popular sportswear website. While advertisers’ manually selected audience segments provide a starting point, optimized targeting looks for conversions outside of their selected segments.

According to Google, Discovery and Video campaigns that use audience expansion will transition to optimized targeting.

How Do I Get Started Using Optimized Targeting?

If you manage a Google Ads account, Google already got the ball rolling for you by enabling optimized targeting for all campaigns automatically. And you might encounter an initial fluctuation in your Google Ads costs as a result. Per Search Engine Land, “This could potentially be an expensive option if your budget is lower as your initial conversion quality could fluctuate as the data is collected and optimized targeting figures things out.”

What if you don’t want Google to automatically enable optimized targeting? To disable it, you need to change your ad group settings. If an ad agency manages your account for you, ask them how they are managing this feature and the impact on your budget. At True Interactive, we’re keeping a close eye on this new feature and protecting our clients’ budgets.

Our advice to advertisers who use Google Ads:

  • Watch your account closely. As Search Engine Land reported, managers of Google Ads accounts began to notice the roll-out of optimized targeting through a new “Signal” indicator that appeared in their Google Ads account.
  • Watch your budget closely. As noted, the automatic roll-out of optimized targeting could create an increase in costs.
  • Work closely with your ad agency partner to understand what’s happening and why. If you work with Google directly, reach out to your Google rep and ask for clarity about any future product changes in store.

Contact True Interactive

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

Apple Announces New Privacy Features

Apple Announces New Privacy Features

Apple

Apple has once again made some moves to make the internet more private. At its 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple announced new features intended to give consumers more control over how businesses interact with them. Let’s take a closer look.

What Privacy Controls Did Apple Announce at WWDC?

Apple announced that later in 2021, the company will roll out new features to help people control how their online data is used by third parties. They include:

  • Allowing people to disable the ability of marketers to see if and when an email is opened via Apple’s Mail app.
  • Making it possible for people to hide their internet protocol (IP) address information in order to prevent businesses from tracking web usage on the Safari browser.

In addition, Apple indicted that premium iCloud users will be able to access the internet with a feature called Private Relay. This feature will  block network providers from using IP addresses and web usage to create a user profile for tracking.

Why Does Apple’s WWDC Announcement Matter?

The news from WWDC is the latest in a series of actions from technology giants Apple and Google to make it more difficult for businesses to track users in order to deliver personalized advertising. For instance:

  • In 2020, Google announced it would stop supporting third-party cookies on the Chrome browser. In 2021, Google toughened its stance by saying it would not support workarounds for third-party cookie tracking.
  • Apple recently launched a privacy control known as Application Tracking Transparency (ATT), which requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers.

The advertising world has reacted with a mixture of concern and resignation as businesses adapt to a reality in which third-party cookies will be less useful for creating targeted advertising. In addition, Facebook has argued that Apple’s ATT will hurt small businesses that rely on Facebook’s advertising tools to create personalized content.

How Will the WWDC Announcement Affect Advertisers?

It’s really too early to say yet how advertisers will be affected by Apple’s latest announcements. For one thing, they have not been launched yet. In addition, although Safari is the second-most popular browser in the world, it lags far behind Chrome in terms of usage. On the other hand, Chrome and Safari together constitute 83 percent of the global market share for browsers. The real impact will be seen when both Google’s and Apple’s tighter restrictions take hold together. It will be interesting to see the impact of the restrictions in Apple Mail, which has the largest market share among email apps.

What Should Advertisers Do?

As I noted in a recent blog post,

  • Don’t assume targeting and personalization are dead because of the way Apple and Google are focusing on privacy. You can still use your own data to buy targeted ads on Google properties such as YouTube, Gmail, and Google Search – so long as you bring their first-party data into Google through the company’s existing Customer Match product. Moreover, as we noted in a recent blog post, if you want to use your own data to serve up targeted ads outside Google’s walls, Google is developing its own cohort-based alternative to third-party cookies to help you do that. Stay tuned for more product developments.
  • Do consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). For example, collect more first-party data by using cookies to understand who visits your site; or run a promotion that collects email addresses. Collect purchase data if applicable to your site.

My blog post “Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers” contains more tips.

At True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting to help our clients navigate these changes. Bottom line: be ready to adapt. But don’t panic.

Contact True Interactive

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

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For Further Insight

Five Lessons From the 2021 Ad Spending Surge

Five Lessons From the 2021 Ad Spending Surge

Advertising

Ad spending is surging. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, U.S. companies are expected to spend 15 percent more on advertising in 2021 year than they did in 2020. That’s because consumer confidence is increasing, and the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations is accelerating. And digital is getting a bigger share than ever of the advertising pie:

Digital Share of Ad Spending

Announcements from technology giants and social media apps in recent days underscore just how much businesses are investing into digital advertising:

  • As we reported on our blog, Amazon Advertising and Facebook reported strong year-over-year ad revenue growth in their most recent quarterly earnings announcements.
  • Alphabet announced 32 percent year-over-year ad growth for Google, demonstrating an impressive rebound from a slump triggered by the pandemic.

Amid this spending surge, we see some important lessons emerging:

  • Businesses that maintained their spending levels during the depths of Covid-19 in 2020 are at an advantage over those who pulled back and are now kickstarting their spending. Consumer behavior and sentiment are changing faster than ever. We predicted in 2020 that reducing ad spend during the pandemic would catch businesses flat-footed when consumer behavior shifted again – as it has done in 2021.
  • We’ve hit an inflection point with digital. As the stay-at-home economy takes hold, consumers are remaining online at higher levels than ever. As a result, online spending continues to accelerate. Businesses that asked, “But how long will the growth last?” in 2020 fell behind those that saw the surge for what it is: a behavioral change. The faster businesses adapt to those changes by boosting their online advertising, the sooner they’ll attract shoppers online.
  • The tech giants are experiencing a golden era. We’ve seen the tech giants – namely Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – experience heavy criticism in recent years for reasons too numerous to summarize in a blog post. And of course the specter of antitrust lawsuits looms over Facebook and Google (and Apple in Europe). On top of that, they’re at war with each other, and the demise of third-party cookies calls into question how well advertisers will be able to target consumers across these platforms. But guess what? Amid the blowback, the tech giants continue to run the table, as noted above. Smart advertisers aren’t allowing negative headlines to scare them away from the tech giants. They’re watching how these platforms innovate with new ad units that monetize the surging online audience.
  • Retail ad platforms are on the rise. Savvy marketers are capitalizing on the fact that retailers such as Amazon, Dollar Tree, Kroger, Macy’s, Target, and Walmart are monetizing their first-party customer data by building ad businesses. Each retailer can give advertisers access to different types of consumers. We expect more of these platforms to emerge, contributing to robust ad growth.
  • Social commerce is going to fuel more ad spending. As we discussed on our blog recently, businesses should capitalize on social commerce advertising tools such as Pinterest Product Pins, through which a business can connect its product catalog to Pinterest, filter and organize inventory, create shopping ads, and measure results; or numerous ad units on Instagram that make it easier for businesses to turn advertising into shopping experiences.

We urge businesses to take a fresh look at how your customers’ journeys are changing amid the rise of digital-first living and spending. Monitor performance closely as consumer behavior fluctuates. Businesses that invest in strong real-time analytics tools will have the upper hand.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we know how to help businesses navigate the complex waters of online advertising. Contact us. Learn more about our work here.

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Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers

Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers

Google

Google continues to nudge businesses away from using third-party cookies to personalize ads and toward the management of first-party data. On March 11, Google announced some product developments intended to make it easier for publishers to use their first-party data programmatically for ad buys. Let’s take a closer look.

What Google Announced

Google is going to help publishers expand the use of Publisher Provided Identifiers (PPIDs) in Ad Manager to more programmatic campaign types, including the Open Auction. PPIDs are created from anonymized first-party data and then fed into Google Ad Manager by the publisher. PPIDs improving functions such as audience segmentation and frequency capping. Publishers will now be able to surface their first-party data programmatically for buyers — so long as they use Google as their intermediary.

As AdExchanger explains,

The PPID’s technical setup works like this: the publisher will create a unique ID for users, based on a first-party cookie or a log-in ID. Then it will put that ID into Google Ad Manager, and choose who it wants to share that data with. Google will hash that ID and pass it through to buyers.

Buyers won’t know that PPID 123 is a sports fan in an open auction. But as they observe the ID in bid requests, they may notice that the user ID goes to a sports site frequently, for example, and deduce that a buyer is a good fit for an ad campaign.

Google also said it is experimenting with functionality that will provide publishers with the option to share encrypted data directly with advertisers with whom they already have a direct relationship. Publishers will have full control over what data is collected, and who can receive the data. Google will not be able to read or decrypt the data. Ad Manager will only act as an intermediary on behalf of the publisher to pass the signals to the third-party bidders they choose.

What the News Means

The announcement is another sign of Google’s intention to bring about the demise of third-party cookies and push businesses toward using first-party data to personalize content. Over the past several months, Google has announced that it would stop supporting third-party cookies on its Chrome browser and that Google would reject alternatives to third-party cookie tracking. As an alternative, Google is developing alternatives to third-party cookie tracking in Google’s privacy sandbox. Tellingly, Google also noted in a March 3 blog post:

We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their own customers. And we’ll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with.

Google’s March 11 post now shows that Google is going to nudge publishers to use their first-party data more effectively.

What Advertisers Should Do

Flexibility and patience are key. Don’t assume targeting and personalization are dead. You can still use your own data to buy targeted ads on Google properties such as YouTube, Gmail, and Google Search – so long as you bring their first-party data into Google through the company’s existing Customer Match product. Customer Match takes information a consumer gave to a brand, such as an email address, and determines whether it matches data Google already has. If so, advertisers can work with Google to send an ad to that individual. Moreover, as we noted in a recent blog post, if you want to use your own data to serve up targeted ads outside Google’s walls, Google is developing its own cohort-based alternative to third-party cookies to help you do that. Stay tuned for more product developments.

Do consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). For example, collect more first-party data by using cookies to understand who visits your site; or run a promotion that collects email addresses. Collect purchase data if applicable to your site. Note that brands that have relationships with publishers can pass first-party data directly to those publishers, outside the Google environment, and still manage the buy inside Google’s automated ad-buying system Display & Video 360 (often called DV360). But the use of data and the ad buy will be supported by proposed methods that enhance privacy as discussed in Google’s March 11 blog post.

At True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting to help our clients navigate these changes.

Contact True Interactive

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

For more reading:

Google Rejects Alternatives to Cookie Tracking: Advertiser Q&A.”

Google to Stop Supporting Third-Party Cookies on Chrome: Advertiser Q&A.”

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Google Rejects Alternatives to Cookie Tracking: Advertiser Q&A

Google Rejects Alternatives to Cookie Tracking: Advertiser Q&A

Google

Google recently made another major announcement in its quest to usher in a cookie-less world. Recall that in January 2020, Google said it was going to phase out third-party cookies on Chrome in a bid to protect consumer privacy more effectively. On March 3, Google published an update: Google will not build alternative tracking technologies (or use those being developed by other companies) for its own ad buying tools to replace third-party cookies. Let’s take a closer look at what Google announced.

What exactly did Google announce?

Google said that once third-party cookies are phased out of Chrome browsers, Google will not build alternative identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will Google use them in its products. Examples of those alternative identifiers include Unified ID and LiveRamp IdentityLink.

Instead, Google wants advertisers to adopt cohort-based targeting, or grouping people based on their common browsing behavior as an alternative to third-party cookies. Specifically, Google is advocating for the adoption of FLoCs (federated learning cohorts) developed out Google’s own Privacy Sandbox initiative. According to Google,

. . . our latest tests of FLoC show one way to effectively take third-party cookies out of the advertising equation and instead hide individuals within large crowds of people with common interests. Chrome intends to make FLoC-based cohorts available for public testing through origin trials with its next release this month, and we expect to begin testing FLoC-based cohorts with advertisers in Google Ads in Q2. Chrome also will offer the first iteration of new user controls in April and will expand on these controls in future releases, as more proposals reach the origin trial stage, and they receive more feedback from end users and the industry.

How will online advertising be affected?

It’s likely that advertisers will still be able to create targeted ads based on user behavior – but the ads will be based on larger cohorts of people based on their common browsing behavior as an alternative to third-party cookies. Google told The Wall Street Journal that ads using cohort-based targeting have performed nearly as well as the existing tools that target consumers individually.

But no one yet knows exactly how targeting will change. As Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communication officer at Mastercard, told The Wall Street Journal, “When you’re able to target precisely to individuals your effectiveness is very high. When you’re doing it to cohorts it’s bound to be lesser than the individual, but we don’t know how much less at this point in time.”

What should advertisers do?

We always recommend that when Google makes a major change to its products that advertisers keep a close watch on their spend and costs especially for any potential near-term fluctuations. (If you are a True Interactive client, we do that for you.) Beyond that, it’s time to wait and see. The worst action to take is to stop advertising on Google. Google remains the Number One digital advertising platform, even if targeting consumer behavior across Google’s universe changes from personal to cohort-based targeting.

Also:

  • Keep an eye on how the Google sandbox initiative evolves especially as Google begins testing FloC with advertisers in the second quarter.
  • Consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). As Google pointed out, “We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their own customers. And we’ll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with.”
  • Google’s FloC may not be your only alternative, the March 3 announcement notwithstanding. Watch the development initiatives such as Unified ID 2.0, which is a next generation identity solution built on an open-source digital framework. Unified ID 2.0 is the result of a collaboration among publishers, buyers, and technology providers. According to a recent announcement, Unified ID 2.0 serves as an alternative to third-party cookies. Unified ID 2.0 aims to improve consumer transparency, privacy, and control, while preserving the value exchange of relevant advertising across channels and devices. Tom Kershaw, the chief technology officer of Magnite and chairman of Prebid.org — which is the operator of Unified ID 2.0 — dismissed the Google news. He told Campaign that Google’s March 3 announcement has zero effect on Unified ID 2.0. He also said that he was never under an impression that Google would participate in Unified ID 2.0. For more insight, read his newly published commentary on AdExchanger.
  • Consider ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect, which give businesses entrée to a vast base of customers who search and shop on Amazon and Walmart. True Interactive offers services on both platforms in addition to our longstanding work on Google, Bing, and other platforms.

Contact True Interactive

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

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Google to Expand Phrase Match and Drop Broad Match Modifier

Google to Expand Phrase Match and Drop Broad Match Modifier

Google

On February 4, Google announced changes intended to help advertisers reach searchers more efficiently and precisely in context of search intent. Within the next few weeks. Google will expand phrase match to include additional broad match modifier traffic. In addition, Google will end support for broad match modifier. As a result, Google says that advertising on Google will become more relevant to search behavior.

In a blog post, Google explained how the expansion of phrase match will work. Google cited the example of a moving service wanting to have its ads appear alongside someone searching for “moving services NYC to Boston.” The way phrase match works now, that ad might appear alongside a “moving services NYC to Boston” search – but it also might appear alongside “moving services Boston to NYC” searches, which is obviously an irrelevant ad placement. But this problem will go away over the next few weeks with the expansion of phrase match, as Google depicted on its blog:

Google search query

Google also shared more examples to illustrate how matching behavior will change after this update:

Google Content

Meanwhile, Google is phasing out support for broad match modifier. Google intended for broad match modifier to trigger a business’s ads if keywords were present in the search query in the exact or close variant form.

To minimize disruption, Google will roll out the change over several months. According to Google:

  • Starting mid-February, both phrase match and broad match modifier keywords will begin to transition to the new matching behavior. Advertisers will keep their performance data and will not need to migrate their keywords.
  • In July, once the new behavior has been rolled out globally, advertisers will no longer be able to create new broad match modifier keywords. But, existing broad match modifier keywords will continue to serve under the new behavior – so Google suggests that advertisers start now by create new keywords in phrase match going forward.

What Advertisers Should Do

Google suggests that advertisers:

  • Monitor performance and shift budgets where necessary. Traffic may fluctuate due to these changes; so make adjustments as needed.
  • Regularly check Recommendations page: “Add new keywords” helps an advertiser maintain keyword coverage, and “Remove redundant keywords” helps an advertiser consolidate duplicate keywords.
  • Consider using broad match with Smart Bidding. If an advertiser is concerned about losing coverage, broad match with Smart Bidding helps reach more relevant searches that meet an advertiser’s performance objectives. Google cited the example of online food delivery service Just Eat Takeaway.com, which just tested the combination of broad match with Smart Bidding. The business said, “[W]e’ve been surprised by the results of using broad match with Smart Bidding. We saw a 127% increase in conversions while hitting our goals.”
  • Continue to use negative keywords: Exclude matches an advertiser doesn’t want with negative keywords.

In the near term, advertisers will find themselves busy adapting their campaigns, and they may experience some traffic fluctuations – so it’s best to watch performance metrics closely during the transition.

Of course, if you are a True Interactive client, we’ll do all the heavy lifting for you. We’ve got you covered!

Contact True Interactive

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

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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.

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