2020 may very well go down as the year the word, “unprecedented” reached unprecedented usage. The online advertising ecosystem witnessed the acceleration of consumer behaviors that will carry well into 2021 and continue to shape the industry for many more years to come. For starters, even as publishers scrutinized their vendors more, there was an appetite to diversify revenue streams as changes to advertiser volume abruptly changed. While the advertising spend did not see a major uptick, the volume of advertisers surged as companies and brands adapted to an increasingly digitized world. According to MediaRadar, “in 2020, there were 173 thousand native programmatic advertisers spending $2.75B. In 2019, there were 77 thousand advertisers spending $2.3B.” 


As more brands and marketers look for solutions in an already crowded ad tech space, a few underlying trends will continue to shape the digital advertising landscape in the year ahead.

  1. Machines haven’t replaced humans...yet

Machines, however, continue to ingest increasing amounts of data and are taking on process-oriented tasks, providing professionals with the needed time and energy to focus on higher impact activities. In fact, 2020 may well prove to be the tipping point for adopting automation as the move to remote teams is forcing the technologies we use to become that much more effective at easing workflows and driving growth in a meaningful way.


  1. Programmatic advertising will continue to morph

As advertisers increasingly embrace the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning the explosion of programmatic advertising across new channels will become even more targeted to specific audiences. That being said, the headwinds of government regulation and the deprecation of third-party audience tracking by Apple and Google in the next 12 months will alter the programmatic playing field and define the winners and losers across the entire ecosystem. 


  1. Value of the partner ecosystem will remain under scrutiny 

In 2021 we’ll see even more publishers doubling-down to understand the value their ad tech partners are providing. More players in the ad ecosystem will be evaluating their partner’s value to their advertising stack across all channels, which means yield optimization and revenue management will continue to be big themes this year. 


  1. Efficiency is the name of the game for ad tech 

The ad tech industry witnessed the biggest advertisers churn in 2020. The usual suspect big spenders were dethroned by more new entrants into the market. With this rapid growth of the ad ecosystem, comes the exponential growth of data collection. Companies are on a mission to centralize revenue analytics and create smoother workflows around the insights generated. Organizations are also striving to breakdown silos with their ad ops team by embracing unified platforms and reporting. It is not more about just that one “data person,” but teams efficiently using analytics to optimize revenue.


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