three developments for digital advertising in 2021

A global pandemic, widespread social unrest and polarizing political events. With 2020 almost in the rearview mirror, is it wise to predict what the next year will bring? I think it's worth a try! Here are three key industry predictions, based on everything that's down this year and the general trends we're already seeing.

Digitization and diversification continues

After widespread cuts to the ad budget earlier this year, a recovery is expected in 2021. Zenith predicts that ad spend will rebound 5.8% worldwide. Brands will no doubt continue to shift their advertising and marketing spend from traditional media to digital, which is expected to account for 51% of advertising spend in 2020. Some brands may still be wary of losses as the second wave of the pandemic hits. Hence, we can assume that large chunks of this budget will be used for influencer marketing, where brands can make a lot of money compared to domestic ads on social media.

Buying media has become incredibly accessible. Editing tools and open source software programs make it easy for anyone to run a creative campaign on their own without being monitored or advised by the agencies. However, the smartest brands will choose to keep agencies and professionals in the mix so as not to compromise on quality. Agencies must also take into account the wishes of some brands for “DIY” campaigns and offer solutions that combine traditional management with simpler consulting approaches. Agencies who want to pretend this media buying diversification doesn't happen and continue their typical approach will not appeal to brands looking for more creative control and accessibility, and so could suffer in 2021.

Synthetic media cloud the water

Synthetic media covers everything from face swaps and AI developed stock photos to CGI influencers and deep fake videos. Synthetic media is on the rise and in 2021, social media advertising and marketing campaigns could bring more of this content to consumers' everyday lives. These tools provide brands with safe and affordable ways to develop content while taking public health constraints into account. Conversely, they can become weapons of disinformation, creating serious problems for users looking for accurate, authentic content and leading to a dystopian social media experience.

These tools can have their advantages when used properly. For example, a combination of AI and deep fake technology enables brands to quickly and easily dub videos in thousands of languages, making content much more personal and relatable for global audiences. However, making the decision to use synthetic media all-in in all facets of a marketing campaign could be a risky endeavor for brands in the long run. There is no point in killing potential customers with videos and pictures that they find unsettling or untrustworthy. Not to mention the risk of a synthetic video being tampered with for nefarious purposes. For these reasons, we can expect brands best attuned to their audiences and broader trends in content and marketing plans led by real, relatable ambassadors and influencers, rather than engaging in synthetic media.

Other platforms and functions come and go

Every technology or platform has its moment until something else is added. Yes, some have more stamina than others, but there is almost always a “next best item” waiting in the starting blocks. We are currently experiencing a renaissance in social platforms and apps, especially as users are looking for new and engaging ways to connect virtually. Brands and users can choose, and many have specific use cases and benefits. In 2021, as more platforms emerge and we approach critical mass, keep an eye on the biggest players to see how they solidify their position in the ecosystem.

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