Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Programmatic Predictions: Why programmatic’s exponential growth will continue on multiple fronts in 2021

Chloe Gilman, Director of Xandr, North Europe, gives NDA her programmatic predictions for 2021.

How was programmatic advertising affected by the events of 2020, what is the impact going to be going into 2021?

Programmatic already entered 2020 as the big growth channel in digital advertising and this is only set to continue into 2021. Not just in display, but in new channels, such as digital television, audio and native.

Perhaps ironically, the fact programmatic could be dialled down so easily to match the lower level of activity brands were looking to achieve during lockdown, is the big take-out advertisers will take in 2021. They’ve found more traditional channels are not so flexible but with programmatic they could dial it up or down. They were already used to the lower barrier to entry and the convenience of automation, but the added bonus of flexibility was really brought home this year. It’s only going to mean programmatic’s exponential growth will continue into 2021.

What is also likely to change is the messaging. Brands started to wonder this year, under lockdown, if they should be advertising at all and, if so, how they should approach the market. The result has been a far better understanding that they need to still be advertising but with a focus on how they help their customers and the wider world.

What is going to be the impact of advertisers not being able to track audiences through third-party cookies?

The end of third-party cookies is a really interesting one. Everyone’s going to be spending next year looking for solutions to a cookieless world.

The technology was not always perfect. The idea was that a profile of people would be built up as their behaviour was tracked and sophisticated profiling would bring relevant, highly targeted advertising. The reality was the technology was used far too much to retarget people with things they had probably already bought.

I’m not sure there’s a one-stop solution, though, because whatever we use instead to provide relevant targeted advertising will need to scale. What will definitely be needed is a coming together of the industry to adopt different solutions.

What impact will AI and machine learning have?

We’re going to see a lot of really interesting work that’s going to be highly relevant to brands seeking to measure campaign success and find new audiences, after they lose tracking cookies.

So far, AI and machine learning has generally been used to help brands optimise campaign performance, typically within a DSP. It’s being used quite tactically to see which keywords perform well to aid contextual targeting.

I can see the technology maturing and being used more frequently for probabilistic modelling to identify people and to also go out and find new audiences. We’re going to see this next year as AI and machine learning move on from a static piece of technology used within a DSP to one that has a secondary role in identifying new audiences for brands.

How will the multiple channels programmatic is now embracing progress in 2021?

Audio will go from strength to strength while connected TV and video on demand is going to keep on growing next year to the point, maybe the year after that, where programmatic is as commonplace in TV as it is in display. The market is more difficult in the UK, compared to the US, because there’s a lot of fragmentation in channels and platforms. We need some consolidation and cross-industry collaboration to open up the full opportunity.

As for outdoor, I expect advances are a couple of years away because it’s not a one-to-one medium so you don’t get the full benefit of audience data. Programmatic will be adopted as more of a frictionless, automated way to buy a one-to-many medium.

Any wishes for the wider digital media industry in 2021?

I hope brands support and accelerate the development of the open internet. There is a real opportunity for everyone to collaborate on an open internet where content is supported by advertising. The alternative is people just end up getting their news from just one source, and that can’t be good for anyone.

I also hope that means brands will be able to speak to people outside of echo chambers. Those that can communicate unity and a feeling of community in their messaging will be in a really good position going forward.

I think communicating brand values is going to be a welcome trend going forwards and it’s why we’re already seeing brands really scaling back on Christmas 2020 and focussing on the things that really matter, like community and families coming together.