What’s Ahead? Digital Marketing & Advertising Trends for 2021

VDX.tv Team

If there’s anything we’ve learned from last year, it’s that uncertainty is the only certainty there is. However, that certainly won’t stop us from sharing our predictions for the new year! At VDX.tv, we’re proud to have leaders on our team with multi-disciplinary expertise that stems from a deep understanding of technology, analytics, creativity, and hands-on experience working with brands across numerous verticals. So without further ado, we share the trends that digital marketers and advertisers can expect to see in 2021.

Connected TV & Video

Advanced TV, which is inclusive of Connected TV (CTV), will continue its ‘shakedown cruise’ as it irons out the kinks around measurement, fraud and brand safety. I anticipate that Advanced TV will become a serious complement or even potential replacement for linear TV. In terms of new brands entering the CTV space, one appeal is that it has lower barriers to entry than linear television, which means small and midsize businesses can more easily test it out as a natural extension of their digital activity. Additionally, with a foundation that is non-cookie based, CTV provides brands with an advertising platform that doesn’t rely on individual-level targeting; this is especially useful as the third-party cookie gets phased out and the industry moves toward a ‘post-cookie’ world.

Another trend I expect to see is advertising-based video on demand (AVOD) services such as Pluto growing significantly and bringing further advertising inventory into the market, as it becomes increasingly more difficult for smaller streaming services to convince audiences to sign up for yet another service.”

-Matt Keating, UK Sales Director

“Household targeting, omnichannel video and CTV will take center stage as marketers enhance their focus on the ‘sphere of influence’ impacting most buying decisions, understanding that consumers often look to family and friends for advice before making purchases. This is especially true for big-ticket items such as cars and vacations, but also for daily decisions such as which restaurants to order from, which movies to watch, or which nearby stores carry the best wine selection. This underscores the importance of localization within creative messaging as well, as studies show most consumers fulfill daily purchases close to home. Additionally, consumers are increasingly buying online to pick up in store (BOPIS), and looking to support local businesses as communities around the country recover from the pandemic.”

-Jim Johnson, VP Account Planning. Originally published in MarTech Series

“With the ongoing pandemic crisis and recent government regulations in India, consumers are turning to online video to adapt, cope and connect. Indian viewers now have more TV content choices than ever before, meaning that brands should shift to an omnichannel approach for advertisers to retain their reach and engagement. But, with the shift towards CTV – and OTT – viewing has led to more fragmented and elusive audiences, so advertisers need to re-evaluate their established advertising strategies and adapt fast to accommodate the new normal.

Advertising simultaneously across several channels, on multiple connected devices, will help brands reach potential cord-cutters who would be otherwise unreachable through traditional TV. A paradigm shift is taking place in the TV advertising landscape and the time has come for advertisers to deliver seamless lean-in consumer experiences across screens to successfully reach Indian consumers. With the use of cross-platform video, advertisers have access to premium addressable audiences in brand-safe desktop, mobile web, mobile app, OTT and CTV environments.”

-Amritpal Bedi, SVP, Global Operations and Country Head, India

“As CTV and OTT advertising environments expand within MENA markets, advertisers have an opportunity to place their creative messaging amongst TV content, while also maximising reach and ROI with ads that are more relevant and targeted than ads on linear TV. CTV has the benefit of being ‘smarter’ than the traditional televisions that have come before, and can create a powerful halo effect for viewers, as ad messaging is viewed on the big screen and then further amplified through desktop and mobile devices.”

-Amer Attyeh, Managing Director, MENA. Originally published in Campaign Middle East


As the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt across the entertainment industry with television, film, sports and concert cancellations and postponements, celebrities and pro athletes are looking for outlets, beyond social media, to leverage for fan interaction. Enter gaming, which promises to be vastly more dynamic than any other medium used.

Gordon Hayward, star forward for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, became the first professional athlete to sign with a pro gaming league, IGN’s Pro League, back in 2011. Since then, athletes across all major sports have participated in eSports. In fact, this past spring and summer, we even saw ESPN and FOX host NBA and NFL stars to stream live gameplay of NBA 2K20 and Madden NFL with the winners donating money to various COVID-19 relief causes.

Musicians have also used ‘traditional’ gaming platforms to raise awareness for causes and to stream live concerts in the wake of live music cancellations. Travis Scott (or more accurately, his avatar) famously held a short concert in Fortnite, while Trey Anastasio of Phish raised more than USD$1m (£747,700) for addiction recovery by streaming a series of concerts through Twitch.

All of this points to a future for eSports where celebrities and athletes alike can use their platforms for altruistic purposes, raising money for charity through mini tournaments involving their fans and supporters, in addition to savvy brands looking to gain new fans. After all, getting a Twitter shout out from an actor is fun, but strapping on a headset and playing Call of Duty with your favourite NBA star would likely be the thrill of a lifetime!” 

-Jim Johnson, VP Account Planning. Originally published in TheGamingEconomy


“One trend that may amplify in 2021 is the focus on loyalty programs and branded apps. In addition to introducing first-time customers to their brands, restaurants have also sought out loyalists to increase frequency among these diners. Loyalty rewards programs and apps, which are always present on a diner’s phone, are a sure bet to keep brands top of mind when decisions around meals are being made. Smaller physical footprints are also a consideration for 2021. New restaurant locations are likely to be smaller, recognizing a larger focus on off-premises demand. 2020 has shown the success of ghost kitchens, takeout-only locations, and third-party delivery partners. With these features, restaurants are less in need of physical space than ever before.

We have continued to see large restaurant brands step away from traditional, linear TV to seek out alternative options to reach households. Connected TV (CTV) reaches more than 70 million homes and perfectly complements the reminder ads on mobile and desktop. While 2020 saw a decrease in advertising budgets for most casual dining restaurants and a competitive surge in spending for top-performing QSRs competing for market share, I believe more advertisers will be spending in the first half of 2021. The renewed spending will likely be placed behind loyalty programs and new menu messaging to drive awareness and maintain market share in a takeout/delivery-centric industry. CTV’s record of driving brand awareness is key in cementing market share against competitors and will likely be a key piece in marketing mixes in 2021.”

-Justin Worster, Performance Strategy Manager. Originally published in Modern Restaurant Management Magazine


“In 2021, we will see the pharmaceutical industry ramp up custom video advertising solutions that extend their reach beyond endemic sites. Pharma has relied on standard IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) ad units for years, but recently we’ve seen more and more clients express an openness to exploring alternative formats, such as video-first solutions, to reach both healthcare practitioners (HCP) and direct-to-consumer (DTC) audiences. The ability to create a compelling narrative and target relevant audiences is what makes digital video advertising such a powerful and effective tool for pharmaceutical companies.”

-Lauren Ohlsson, Director of Account Management and Vertical Lead, Emerging. Originally published in MedTech Intelligence 

Data, Privacy & Cookies

“There will be significant activity from companies taking steps to support some of the big identity initiatives like Unified ID 2.0 (and indeed, we expect to be one of these companies!) While support for such initiatives will likely grow towards critical mass and the capabilities will be tested, everyone will still be using the third-party cookie this year. During this transition period, I expect there will be pressure in two forms:

  1. Pressure on the new identifier mechanisms from organisations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who take the position that these new mechanisms do not in fact offer improved user privacy versus third-party cookies
  2. Pressure on Google from data protection authorities to address whether its decision to pull support for the third-party cookie constitutes anti-competitive behaviour

Industry bodies will need to do plenty of work establishing how these new non-third-party cookie mechanisms will comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), as the existing tools (TCFv2, DAA) will no longer function. As an industry, we’ll also probably want to adjust for the replacement of Privacy Shield once that replacement becomes available – it appears as if codes of conduct might be the new approach, which would be more scalable than the SCC clauses. Such an approach may also help with EU-UK transfers if the EU decides that the UK  does not offer adequate protection for cross-border data flows during Q2 2021.”

-Tim Sleath, VP Product Management & Data Protection Officer


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