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2021, What Can We Expect From You?

December 7, 2020

2020 what a year, huh? There is no doubt that adtech – like almost every other industry – has been severely impacted by the pandemic. I’ve been in the industry for nine years now and I can honestly say this has been the weirdest and most challenging of them all. I started my career in Berlin within the online gaming industry way before programmatic and header bidding kicked off. I remember that every year was the “year of mobile” and programmatic “is here to stay”. Now that it’s been nearly 10 years, I’m glad to see that as an industry we have overcome the debate about mobile and that programmatic is the day-to-day reality.

However, as this year comes to an end, I wonder what we can expect from 2021? And whilst I have no crystal ball, here are my predictions for the year ahead.

CTV and targeting. Connected TV has definitely been the buzzword in EMEA adtech news and conversations. I don’t think I’ve seen a panel this year where it hasn’t been discussed. 2020 was a significant year for CTV, and it will keep being a major investment for marketers in the US. As we enter the new year, I expect more and more brands and agencies demanding quality CTV inventory at scale. It’s no secret that lockdown has increased the number of OTT users with all of us spending more time than ever indoors.

For those of us who believe the UK market is not yet mature enough for programmatic CTV targeting, we expect to see its consolidation during 2021 with key publishers joining the programmatic ecosystem and marketers investing more on it. As CTV targeting capabilities widen, and so does its measurement systems, we will see a shift of media spend to it.

Third-party cookies alternatives. Browsers such as Safari and Firefox were already blocking third party cookies, however, the big drama came when Google announced that Chrome will be joining this initiative starting in 2022. Through this year we have witnessed the rise of the not so universal ID, and various start-up companies seem to have taken the lead whilst the big players are still AB testing and waiting to see “where the market goes”.

On the publisher side we know that the subscription model is hard, that’s fairly obvious.  Free content is ubiquitous, so getting enough subscriptions to make this a viable alternative is pretty hard for the majority of publishers, irrespective of their brand perception or content quality. There’s way too much stuff “for free” out there for the general public to pay for it, thus looking for an alternative makes sense. In 2021 will see a consolidation of these new tech vendors and a workaround for contextual and vertical audience targeting.

Data privacy. Not the most exciting topic, I know, but let’s not forget that CCPA became effective on January 2020 and that we already had GDPR in place in the EU. Clearly the industry is heading towards a more secure treatment of personal data and whilst majority of users still click and “accept all” – myself included – in 2021 will see the rest of US, Canada and Australia enacting their own policies. As this new measurement gains more visibility in generalist media users, they will be more aware and careful of the usage of their own personal data. In 2021 we will see publishers worldwide partnering up with CMPs platforms as well as adopting the IAB’s Transparency and Consent Framework. There is, of course, room and appetite for in-housing a consent management system across those tech savvy publishers that would rather keep it in-house.

Transparency. For those of us on the media supply chain side of the business we are still suffering from the “murky at best, fraudulent at worst” from Mark Pritchard back in 2017. While the industry has been talking a lot about increasing transparency level and trust, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to meet marketers’ expectations (just see how hard it was for the creation of the PWC/ISBA report from earlier in the year). For some brands the automation of their media buying means the loss of transparency and lack of control over their campaigns. It’s within the interest of the whole industry to support the continued initiatives around transparency and tackle fraud together. Some might drop the “blockchain” buzzword as a cure to the lack of transparency over the next year. However, and in my opinion, it’s just a tool. Will the industry head towards it in spirit of transparency in 2021? I doubt it, but what do I know? I would not have seen the pandemic coming early this year either…

To sum up, I expect a challenging year while we recover from Covid’s impact. As we enter the new year, brands and agencies will need to reconsider their strategies and CTV will have a big say with those executing media planning. The cookie drama is yet to properly kick off, but the 2022 fearsome deadline is getting closer and a lot of work will need to be done in order to be cookie-less ready.  Whereas data privacy and transparency are not new topics per se, we cannot live in denial and it’s time to assume that they are gaining relevancy as users become more aware and conscious about their digital print.


Written by Amaia del Olmo, Head of Demand Sales and Partnership Strategy UK and EMEA,EMX