Programmatic advertising | 07 min read

5 key programmatic advertising trends you need to know | 2021

Programmatic advertising trends for 2021 promise an exciting time for online marketing. Indeed, if there was ever a method of advertising keeping the industry on its toes, it’s programmatic.

As we highlighted this time last year, it was predicted that $81 billion would be spent programmatically by 2021 with Zenith also suggesting advertisers would spend $98 billion on programmatic advertising.

The nature of programmatic meant it was able to be flexible during the global pandemic. Indeed, MediaRadar reported back in September that after the initial impact of COVID-19 on the advertising sector, programmatic was once again experiencing a marked resurgence.

This was described as getting back to a ‘pre-pandemic normal’ with a 36% uplift of programmatic ads in July, since January. Fascinatingly, the total spend on programmatic between April and July was up 11% year-on-year.

Businesses of all sizes, but especially SMBs, are displaying an increasing appetite for targeting and data-driven strategies. And programmatic advertising is set to thrive!

Understanding where to focus your ad spend is important and the capability of programmatic to withstand even the harshest of industry conditions might appeal to your brand.

In this guide, we detail the predicted programmatic advertising trends for 2021 to help you take advantage of this exciting, agile component of advertising.

What 2021 programmatic advertising trends will we be discussing?

  1. Worldwide growth of in-house programmatic
  2. The importance of asset optimisation
  3. Planning for P3PC
  4. Continued rise in investment
  5. Adoption of emerging formats

1. Worldwide growth of in-house programmatic

When planning out strategies, the ability to have control is becoming increasingly crucial for many brands. This is why one of the key trends for 2021 is a worldwide movement to bring programmatic efforts in-house. This trend is shaking up the industry and could change the relationship between brands and agencies moving forwards.

In-house programmatic advertising in numbers

The 2020 IAB report focusing on programmatic in-housing shows a clear international shift towards many brands moving an element of this buying in-house.

Worldwide figures show:

  • 21% of surveyed brands have shifted programmatic buying in-house
  • 48% have partly brought this work in-house

European figures show:

  • 74% of brands surveyed in Europe have totally or partly moved programmatic buying in-house
  • Why is programmatic moving towards in-house?

The study also notes that bringing programmatic buying in-house means brands have increased transparency across the whole process. This helps businesses to heighten the effectiveness of campaigns by improving reach, lowering ad spend and increasing efficiency.

Programmatic advertising has established itself as a key digital marketing tool across the industry. How effective programmatic can be in terms of efficient targeting at scale helps brands to quickly identify where ad spend needs to be weighted. This can help to explain why many businesses across the world are choosing to create capacity to handle this efforts internally.

2. The importance of asset optimisation

Creating relevant, targeted, high-quality ads has increased in importance in recent years, but the continued optimisation of assets will be a real focus of programmatic managers in 2021.

Back in August, Google rolled out an advanced feature on Chrome to block ‘heavy ads’ to heighten user experience and discourage practices that use bad UX. What this means in practice is that any ad that is deemed ‘heavy’ is ‘unloaded’ and replaced with a grey square labelled ‘ad removed’.

The criteria for a heavy ad includes the following:

  • More than 4MB of network data usage
  • Over 15 seconds of CPU usage for 30 seconds
  • 60 seconds of CPU usage all told

This means video-based ads will most likely be impacted by this Chrome feature. This feature will ultimately impact brands using unsophisticated methods without utilising any optimisation.

Harry Kargman, CEO of Kargo, an ad-tech firm, told Digiday that this update is most likely to “hurt all the less sophisticated more invasive players who have large ad payloads and haven’t done a lot of optimization — mostly the in-ad gaming providers.”

Therefore, ensuring your strategy for asset optimisation is up to scratch during 2021 and beyond is a must.

How can a Creative Management Platform (CMP) help?

Any worries you have as a brand relating to asset optimisation can be removed by employing the assistance of a CMP. But how?

CMPs enable you to create programmatic advertising efforts of the best quality possible. Meaning it is possible to produce impactful, personal ads at scale, quickly and simply. Using a CMP such as Bannerflow, brands can produce incredible ad campaigns – from the initial idea to publishing and beyond with continuous optimisation.

A premium CMP such as Bannerflow uses a scaling tool to ensure every single ad asset is network-ready as standard. This eliminates the need for file size reduction and additional code writing, when publishing ads.

Meaning every single campaign created via your CMP is ready to go live in rapid time! And best of all, this includes ads for creative, dynamic and personalised campaigns.

3. Planning for P3PC

Programmatic advertising trends third part cookies

The advertising industry is undoubtedly being shaken by Google announcing that the company is phasing out the use of third-party cookies on Chrome by 2022. Reacting to this development is a key programmatic advertising trend.

However, while this situation brings major changes for programmatic advertising efforts, 2021 is the year to focus on planning for 2022, when third-party cookies are no longer available.

Approaching a post-third-party cookies (P3PC) world will require different strategies. The fact that the online advertising space is built on the foundations of third-party cookie will mean a many-layered approach may need to be taken.

Can a P3PC world be good for my brand?

Even though it’s a shakeup, Google is removing third-party cookies from Chrome for good reasons, the main ones being:

  • Customers expect more from brands
  • Legal and privacy issues – including GDPR
  • Browsers blocking cookies

This signals a further shift towards more consumer control, with an increased focus on transparency. Therefore, it could be the ideal opportunity for your brand to seek alternative, effective and efficient solutions for how to interpret online consumer behaviour.

Whether you look into Google’s Privacy Sandbox, encourage your customers to create personal accounts with you, or use contextual targeting – 2021 is the year to plan for these changes in 2022.

4. Continued rise in investment

Programmatic advertising continues to experience a rise in investment, year on year. Today, it is a smart move for your brand to allocate ad spend to programmatic.

According to the 2020 IAB Europe Attitudes to Programmatic Advertising report, budgets for digital advertising remain on an upward trajectory and programmatic is experiencing the largest investment.

Investment in numbers

The IAB report shows many encouraging statistics for the world of programmatic advertising, including:

  • Advertisers that invest more than 41% of their display budget into programmatic leapt from 55% in 2019 to 70% in 2020
  • 54% of agencies now purchase over 41% of their video programmatically. Up from 50% in 2019
  • The purchase of ads.txt inventory also looks to be growing. 52% of publishers reported that they were selling over 81% of their inventory.

As 2021 progresses expect these numbers to increase further.

5. Adoption of emerging formats

Programmatic advertising trends 2021 emerging formats

Exciting, emerging formats such as audio, Connected TV (CTV) and Digital out-of-home media (DOOH) are readily available. However, these formats are yet to truly takeoff! Expect this to change on quite a considerable scale during 2021 and beyond.

Emerging formats is another area the 2020 IAB Europe Attitudes to Programmatic Advertising report covers in interesting detail.

A closer look at CTV

Advertisers were questioned about their take up of CTV in relation to their overall programmatic advertising budget. Fascinatingly, 60% of these agencies and advertisers responded that they were investing less than 20% of their budget on CTV. Another 73% responding by saying they weren’t investing anything.

Despite this, consumers of over-the-top media (OTT) content is rising and CTV is quickly becoming the top option for customers to view it.

The report also states that CTV is going to rise in popularity when it comes to programmatic advertising. Why? It’s the only way to reach two types of audience group:

  • People wanting to watch TV according to their own timeframe (known as cord-cutters)
  • People that reject linear TV altogether (known as cord nevers)

Ad spend for CTV, according to eMarketer, is predicted to reach $8 billion this year and climb to more than $17 billion by 2024.

Expect this upward curve for CTV to look similar across several emerging formats too. Programmatic is an agile arm of advertising so this is an exciting one to watch!

Apply these programmatic advertising trends now

Programmatic advertising is a digital marketing heavyweight that’s gaining serious ground. Therefore it will pay for your brand to be on the pulse of latest developments and programmatic advertising trends.

While the pandemic inflicted damage on many industries this year, the robust recovery and subsequent growth of programmatic has created optimism for 2021 and beyond.

If you’re looking to attribute a portion of your ad spend to programmatic and want to learn a little more, head to our ultimate guide.

At Bannerflow, we can help you with creating, circulating, optimising and measuring all your digital advertising assets. Apply for a demo today to experience this seamless process for yourself from start to finish.

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