Advertising Trends to Expect in 2021

by Andrew Anglin

Happy New Year! The ball has dropped, the champagne bottles have been popped, and 2021 has finally arrived. As we put 2020 behind us, the start of the new year brings a renewed sense of hope and optimism. For many of us, 2020 was not a year that will be remembered fondly. However, we have persevered. During this tumultuous time governed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we balanced work and domestic responsibilities from our homes, remained socially distanced from our friends and family members, and put our leisure plans on hold.

Of course, the effects of the pandemic have not spared the advertising industry. According to The Freedonia Group, the final projections for 2020 indicated an 18 percent decline in advertising revenues in the U.S. Also, in a survey of nearly 400 media buyers and brands conducted by the Interactive Advertising bureau, 74 percent of respondents indicated that the pandemic would have a larger impact on advertising spend than the Great Recession of 2008. A turn of the calendar page does not mean advertisers are out of the woods just yet. However, with the approval and distribution of a vaccine, a return to normalcy feels as if it is in reach. How does this change the outlook of the advertising industry for 2021? Let’s take a look at some of the predictions for the industry for the upcoming year.

According to Joanna O’Connell, Vice President and Principal Analyst for Forrester, virtual ad revenue will continue to grow. Impacted by reduced budgets and concentrated staffs, advertisers will rely on the use of animation, virtual influencers, and “increased investments in creative adtech.” O’Connell also predicts that pandemic-friendly advertising will remain the norm. Depictions of individuals socially distanced from each other through video teleconferencing products, talent wearing personal protective equipment, and messages of unity and safety will still be prevalent in advertising messages.

After reviewing IPG’s Magna, Publicis’ Zenith, and WPP’s GroupM ad spending forecasts for 2021, media consultant Brad Adgate highlights a number of trends in his article for Forbes. As Adgate states, “Digital media ad spend will continue to grow at a greater rate than traditional media accounting for over 50% of ad spend.” The return of certain entertainment options will also bolster ad spend, including an increase in cinema advertising. Also, out-of-home advertising will “have strong support from marketers compared to other traditional media” as people venture outside their homes again on a more consistent basis. Finally, the Tokyo Olympic Games, postponed in 2020, will provide a major boon to ad spend.

In 2021, content marketing will be more important than ever. Stephanie Stahl of the Content Marketing Institute aggregated over 100 content marketing predictions for 2021 from industry leaders. According to Stahl, “A few themes emerged from the otherwise varied responses – empathy, connection, inclusiveness, transparency.” She also noted that, “The term ‘human’ showed up in many predictions. Several predictions recognized content marketing’s elevated role in the business – supplementing sales, helping data acquisition, impacting the bottom line.” One of the quotes that Stahl highlighted came from Michaela Scampoli of Datto. Scampoli predicts that, “Videos and podcasts will play a huge role in content strategy for marketers in 2021. In lieu of in-person events and experiences, offering more creative ways for consumers to connect with brands will be key. These two content types give marketers room to get creative, tell an engaging product story, and connect with their target audiences in a more visual and auditory way.”

With 2020 in the rearview mirror, 2021 brings hope for not just advertisers, but the world. Although advertisers will not forget what changed in 2020, ad spending looks to rebound in 2021 and content marketing will play a major role in that rebound. What do you think 2021 will bring for advertisers? We’d love to hear from you on our social media pages!

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