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

Three Reasons Why Snapchat Is Back

Three Reasons Why Snapchat Is Back

Social media

Snapchat has come roaring back. Its parent company, Snap Inc., was once on the verge of collapse, but recently it posted stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings: according to a FactSet poll, while analysts had estimated revenues around $557 million, Snap’s quarterly revenue in fact enjoyed a 52 percent rise to $678.7 million. And its stock value is soaring, with shares gaining 74 percent this year through the October 20 close.

Why is Snapchat rebounding?

Reasons for the Rebound

Understanding Snapchat’s renaissance means understanding the factors in play during a complicated year:

  • Snapchat’s user base has grown. According to Adweek, the social media company has seen 249 million daily users in the third quarter of 2020: that’s an 18 percent increase from the 210 million users noted for the same period last year, and 11 million more new daily users since last quarter. Notably, the growth is not restricted to the United States: in India, for example, daily active users in the third quarter are up almost 150 percent from the same time in 2019. The growth makes sense: as The New York Times reported earlier this year, “Stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic . . . Americans have been spending more of their lives online.” That online phenomenon has been repeating itself again and again around the globe during this year of COVID-19, and at least some of those users are gravitating to Snapchat.
  • Advertisers are spending money on Snapchat. The July ad boycott of Facebook, which protested the company’s policies on hate speech, may have helped Snap in terms of where advertisers are channeling their dollars. TikTok’s troubles, both domestically (attempts by the Trump administration to ban it) and abroad (India’s successful TikTok ban) also likely gave advertisers pause. While Snap has declined to draw a direct line between other companies’ struggles and its own resurgence, Chief Business Officer Jeremi Gorman said in a prepared statement, “As brands and other organizations used this period of uncertainty as an opportunity to evaluate their advertising spend, we saw many brands look to align their marketing efforts with platforms who share their corporate values.”

In another example of innovation, Snap Inc. worked with Headspace to mark World Mental Health Day on October 10, releasing two new meditations in Snapchat’s Headspace Mini. During a year when Snapchatters in the U.S. are feeling significant stress — a survey by independent research company GroupSolver indicates that COVID-19, finances, politics, and school are leading sources of that stress —the meditations, called Snap Minis, are “bite-sized utilities” that require no installation and are accessible via chat and search. Headspace director of meditation Eve Lewis guides the meditations, which run approximately six minutes each and focus on practicing kindness and navigating uncertainty during the school year.

What Should Advertisers Do?

What does this news about Snapchat mean for brands? We recommend that advertisers:

  • Consider Snapchat if you are interested in the Millennial and Gen Z markets. As we’ve blogged, the app appeals to these demographics. Meet your desired audience where they are at—and right now, these powerful demographics can be found on Snapchat.
  • Consider Snapchat to be a complement to your advertising with Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Snapchat is not going to challenge the Big Three. But if you are interested in experimenting with technologies such as augmented reality, Snapchat is a good platform to try.

Contact True Interactive

Should Snapchat be part of your digital plan? Contact us. We can help.

Facebook Lifts “20 Percent Rule” with Ads – but Should You?

Facebook Lifts “20 Percent Rule” with Ads – but Should You?

Facebook

Many marketers had reason to rejoice recently when Facebook lifted a longstanding requirement that Facebook ad images contain no more than 20 percent text. But at True Interactive, we believe marketers need to tread carefully. Just because you can pack more texts into your ads, it doesn’t mean you should.

What Is the 20 Percent Rule?

The “20 percent rule” means that ad images on Facebook can contain no more than 20 percent text. Advertisers who run afoul of the requirement have had their ads penalized or blocked on Facebook. But recently, Facebook began letting advertisers know it was eliminating the rule:

Search Engine Journal confirmed the accuracy of this update.

Why Facebook Is Lifting the 20 Percent Rule

Why is Facebook changing course? As an agency that creates ads for many clients on Facebook, we believe the COVID-19 pandemic has made the Facebook staffed overburdened as it has for Google. Reviewing and flagging advertisements requires human intervention. We have noticed that since COVID-19, the platform was mis-flagging quite a few ads we’ve created that should have been acceptable. Lifting the requirement is probably Facebook’s way of reducing the amount of work on their end.

What Advertisers Should Do

We believe lifting the 20 percent rule is good because advertisers have more flexibility. There are times when a banner ad on Facebook would be better off containing a bit more text than Facebook has allowed. At the same time, advertisers should be very careful about increasing text size. Facebook notes that ads with more images perform better, which should surprise no one. We’re living in a visual age, and advertising is no different. People are more likely to pause their news feed and explore your ad when you lead with visually arresting content.

So, we recommend to our clients that they consider using more text only if they have to. We suggest performing A/B tests, as well: run one image with minimal text against an image with more text and see how it serves on the platform. Let the performance numbers be your guide.

In addition, lifting the restriction might be signs of Facebook relaxing creative constraints in other ways, too, depending on how long the pandemic affects the company’s operations. Stay tuned.

Contact True Interactive

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

Why Changes to Apple Maps Matter to Online Advertising

Why Changes to Apple Maps Matter to Online Advertising

Advertising

Businesses, keep your eyes on Apple Maps. The increasingly popular wayfinding app is making some big changes with the roll-out of iOS 14 this fall. As widely reported, Apple will:

Empower Visual Storytellers

People who visit businesses may upload photos of those businesses on their Apple Maps listings, just like they can do on Google Maps. The next time someone wants to post a photo of their stay at your hotel, they can do just that on your Apple Maps listing. Or if they want to depict the quality and safety of their dining experience at your restaurant, you can expect them to do so on your listing.

Rate Your Business

For the first time, people can rate their experience at your location by giving you a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Now, this is a pretty basic change. On Google Maps, people can actually write reviews, not just ratings. But even still, allowing for ratings is probably going to move Apple Maps closer to being a full-fledged site for reviews and ratings. This development means businesses will need to pay more serious attention to Apple Maps as a source of reputation building. Customer ratings and reviews are increasingly important. Nine out of 10 people read them.

Why the News about Apple Maps Matters to Online Advertising

So why should businesses that advertise online care about these changes? Well, for one thing, anytime Apple changes its products, businesses need to pay attention. Apple is a bellwether brand with a wide-ranging influence across the business landscape. When Apple acts, the world is affected. We believe that the Apple Maps changes mean a few things:

Mind Your Own Visual Storytelling

Businesses need to strengthen their ability to create compelling visual content, including images and video, in their online advertising. Apple is responding to the reality that in the age of Instagram, visual content creates lasting impact. Apple is appealing to the same consumer who follows sites like Instagram closely. The question for any business: how powerful is your visual content? How well do you capitalize on visually appealing ad formats on sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat to connect with customers?

Think of Maps Apps as Brand-Building Tools

True, Apple Maps is not an advertising destination. But apps such as Google Maps and Waze evolved beyond consumer wayfinding a long time ago, as we have discussed on our own blog. And Google Maps is easily the most dominant map app. As Apple continues to position Apple Maps as the ad-free, pro-privacy alternative to Google Maps, businesses should expect Google to go in the opposite direction. Rather than allow Apple to define its brand, Google will roll out more advertising options for businesses on Google Maps. Watch for them and capitalize on them.

Contact True Interactive

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

 

 

 

Why Snapchat Keeps Growing

Why Snapchat Keeps Growing

Social media

Snapchat has experienced its ups and downs in the past few years, but one undeniable truth prevails: the app continues to flourish. Snapchat is, in fact, exceeding growth expectations: eMarketer, for one, expects Snapchat to gain more than 63 millions users by the end of 2023, as contrasted to an original estimate of 52 million. In addition, according to The Street, Snapchat is on course to be profitable in the very near future, after years of losses: “Analysts expect Snapchat to soon reach its ‘break-even’ point in profits, most likely by 2022. A group of 34 technology analysts estimates the company will earn a profit of $48 million in 2022.”

Why the Growth?

Why is Snapchat continuing to grow despite increased competition from apps such as Instagram and TikTok? Some possible reasons include:

1 Continued Innovation

Snapchat’s owner, Snap, was just named Fast Company’s most innovative company in 2020, which speaks volumes about why Snapchat has rebounded from the brink. TechCrunch also reports that new products are bound to boost engagement with Snapchat and, crucially, ad views. Snapchat’s recent innovations include Cameos, which allow users to edit their own face onto an actor in an animated GIF. And Bitmoji TV features comical cartoons that star the consumer’s customizable Bitmoji avatar. For users who have always dreamed about being a secret agent, say, or a zombie president, Bitmoji TV brings those fantasies to life via episodes featuring a main story as well as shorter, single-gag clips. User avatars appear in the regularly scheduled adventures, which range from sit-coms to soap operas and infomercials. “It’s scripted but its personalized,” Bitmoji co-founder and CEO Ba Blackstock has said. “First and foremost, I hope that everyone who watches this has kind of a mind-blowing experience that they’ve never had before.”

2 Excellent Timing

Snapchat came along at the right time, as the Millennial and Gen Z population began to swell—and come of age. Launched in 2011, the app appeals to the Millennial and Gen Z populations with its promise of content that is both ephemeral and authentic. As co-founder Evan Spiegel noted in the company’s first blog post, “We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, honest or whatever you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.” And the platform has captured a sizable demographic. As Statista notes, Millennials and Gen Z, together, now comprise about half the U.S. population.

3 International Expansion

Snapchat continues to expand effectively into international markets, one profound example being the uptake of Snapchat in India. As TechCrunch observes, “Snapchat’s user growth has been on [a] tear thanks to international penetration, especially in India, after it re-engineered its Android app for developing markets.”

The Challenges

It’s not all smooth sailing, of course. As 24/7 Wall St. points out, Snapchat’s features can be—and in fact have been—easily copied by competitors like Facebook. When Snapchat introduced Stories, which allows users to share snaps in a narrative style, it was making a successful bid to keep users engaged and coming back for more. Facebook’s response? Its own version of Stories on both Facebook and Instagram; and the release of Instagram Threads, a camera and messaging app for “close friends.”  As Wired notes, Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear to employees that doing what’s best for users might include replication: “Zuckerberg’s message became an informal slogan at Facebook: ‘Don’t be too proud to copy.’”

Furthermore, Snapchat lacks the reserves of cash that Facebook enjoys. 24/7 Wall St. opines, “While it’s still too soon to assess the impact of Instagram Threads on Snapchat, the salient point is that Instagram’s owner (Facebook) has a virtually unlimited war chest and a seemingly visceral need to stomp on Snapchat, if not to stamp it out entirely.”

Staying Viable

The key for Snapchat? Staying nimble and creative in the competitive and ever-evolving social landscape. In short, the app will continue to thrive if it keeps on generating features that both users and advertisers will love – especially advertisers, whose revenue Snapchat needs. One example of courting advertisers with more features: Snapchat’s Swipe Up to Call ads, which give users the opportunity to swipe up on their screen and immediately and directly call or text the advertiser.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising in 2020, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Snapchat: The End Might Be Near

Snapchat: The End Might Be Near

Social media

Unless Snapchat figures out a new game plan to create proprietary features and experiences, 2019 will be the end of the popular photo-sharing app. The stock of its parent company, Snap, is scaring away investors. Its user base has plateaued. Each time Snapchat introduces a new feature, Facebook and Instagram copy it. For instance, Instagram users can share permanent photos on their profiles as well as more temporary content on stories that disappear within 24 hours, a feature that was once unique to Snapchat. Instagram is also becoming more engaging for users with the option to share public comments, likes, as well as create polls in stories, all features that Snapchat lacks. With the launch of its latest feature IGTV, Instagram is on the rise for 2019.

Where does the rise of Instagram leave Snapchat? In a very difficult place. That said, Snapchat still has cards to play, such as monetizing its location data for advertisers and building up its content platform as a broadcast media for businesses such as the National Football League, which told Advertising Age that it doubled viewership of its highlights video to 2 million during the most recent season. Another ray of hope for Snapchat: Facebook keeps hurting its own brand, to the point where it is vulnerable to losing advertisers.

What Snapchat needs is a proprietary feature that makes it so lovable to advertisers that they remain loyal no matter what Instagram or Facebook do. To that end, its R&D center is looking for a solution, perhaps involving augmented reality, where Snapchat has succeeded.

But Snapchat needs to work fast before investors’ lack of faith in Snap and pressure from other platforms brings the fabled platform to an end.

Apple Offers a Glimpse of an Augmented Reality Future

Apple Offers a Glimpse of an Augmented Reality Future

Branding

Apple’s September 12 special event was mostly about hardware product launches, as it usually is. But Apple also reminded us of the company’s commitment to building an augmented reality future.

First, let’s recap a few of the big announcements:

  • Pushing into healthcare: Apple also revealed the latest version of the Apple Watch 4, which features a slew of personal wellness features such as the ability to monitor and report when the wearer experiences a fall and better heart monitoring/reporting. The Apple Watch is one essential element of Apple’s growth as a healthcare player, with the development of wellness apps being another essential element. In coming months, watch for Apple to make more announcements about healthcare as part of a broader strategy to develop its services.

The above announcements have dominated the news. In addition, two developments caught my eye:

  • Augmented reality for learning: the launch of a new iPhone app, HomeCourt, which uses augmented reality (AR) for basketball training. As reported in GeekWire, HomeCourt uses AR to track basketball shots. According to GeekWire, “AR tech built into the iPhone — including the newA12 Bionic chip— and artificial intelligence technology developed by HomeCourt maker Nex Team can detect a hoop and basketball to measure kinematics, trajectory, release times, and number of shots made.”
  • Augmented reality for play: the announcement about a new real-time augmented reality game, Galaga AR. As VentureBeat reported, “This AR adaptation of Galaga comes from Directive Games. When you look at your iPhone screen, you can see a bunch of alien-bug spaceships that you have to shoot down. You’re not only trying to survive, but you’re also trying to beat the other players. It was a pretty cool demo, with a lot of blasting onscreen and loud sounds.”

These launches are not so much about sports and gaming – they are signs of Apple’s continued growth as an AR leader. CEO Tim Cook has made no secret of his passion for AR. It’s telling that Apple demoed two very different forms of AR – one for training and one for entertainment. Both learning and entertainment comprise the sweet spot for AR.

As I noted earlier this year, various AR apps and games are currently being introduced into the App Store and Google Play, and many more are in the process of being developed using Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. Consequently, incorporating AR technology into new tools or games for phones, tablets, and laptops will become the new norm.

You can take it to the bank: AR is going to continue growing for both business and pleasure – and Apple will have a leadership role in that growth. For more insight into how businesses can use AR to build their brands, contact True Interactive.