Paid media

David Wharram, CEO, Coast Digital 

“In paid media 2020 – budgets continuing to move to agencies that can adapt and evolve campaigns with a focus on the test and learn.  We are moving away from a world where large agency groups dominated due to buying power and into an open playing field based on innovative approaches. Agencies that focus on experts on the platforms, data and attribution will be very competitive. 

Designing creative that is based not only on data performance but also the emotional resonance in their audiences will ensure ads not only perform against KPI’s but offer ad recall – particularly where the AI embraces personalisation.” 

Claire Young, SEO manager, Loom Digital

“Ranking is going to be about real-world signals that can’t be faked and communicating your true brand image on all digital channels, not just Google. She also believes that keywords will be much less important, it’ll be more about the overall value of amazing content. 

Mobile search will make local search vital and with 5G being rolled out, Google sites need to get faster. It’ll be all about fine-tuning your site performance in the perps – speed = visibility and success.”

Bill Swanson, VP EMEA, Telaria 

“Actively adjusting to the rise of Connected TV (CTV) will be crucial to advertising success in 2020. So far, we’ve seen plenty of enthusiasm to reach audiences via a wider range of platforms, but the momentum needs to be maintained ­– brands and agencies must keep adapting their strategies to the different platforms and screens that digital content is now consumed.

Audiences don’t distinguish between linear and digital, and advertising activity should reflect that. Budgets will converge into a single pot for all TV platforms; brands and their Agencies need to wisely plan this joint budget to ensure linear and digital spend complement each other to not only fulfil the campaign needs but enhance the performance that these platforms can help deliver through technological enhancement that programmatic/digital buying allows. This will allow campaigns to flow across the interwoven TV landscape. 

Supply-side platforms ­– many of which have originated in display – are increasingly jumping on the CTV wagon in a bid to cash in on growing investment. Brands should be cautious about such shapeshifters; CTV campaigns require a different set of capabilities and tools, especially when delivered programmatically. CTV platforms must also be cautious as they need to work with technology platforms that understand the particular requirements of this evolving environment.”

Marlene Grimm, data and partnerships manager, TVSquared 

“TV attribution has been a hot topic over the past year, with brands demanding greater proof of performance for their campaigns. To overcome the attention deficit of today’s consumers, marketers must invest in platforms that are not only effective at driving audience response, but also offer a measurable impact. This means that old-school metrics such as ratings and audience will soon be replaced with methods that test both TV and digital in a comparable way. The industry will need to make decisions based on real-time, actionable data and analytics; tying together spots on programmes, channels, times of day, and days of the week, all the way through to business outcomes.

Moving into a new decade, performance will become the new currency for TV, meaning accountability and visibility into a campaign’s impact will be the gold standard for the industry. Brands need an in-depth understanding of how their media budgets are driving audience response, to make sure ad spend is maximised for efficiency.” 

Anthony Capano, managing director, international, Rakuten Marketing

“There’s no doubt that connected TV (CTV) will continue to pull viewers away from linear TV, with its promise of original, on-demand content. At the same time, the increasing arsenal of streaming services is fuelling “subscription fatigue,” which will push consumers in the direction of seeking options offering free, ad-supported video content. We’re seeing a rise in ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) options coming to market, with the likes of Amazon Prime launching an AVOD service in the US and even our own Rakuten TV announcing AVOD services in Europe. 

It’s unrealistic for consumers to subscribe to everything, from Netflix to Hulu, to HBO NOW, to Disney+ but with the unwavering demand for real-time accessible content, AVOD is going to become a more substantial player in the CTV ecosystem. Brands should consider capitalising on the benefits of AVOD, including advertising to incremental audiences (13% of audiences in the UK are streaming, but not watching traditional TV); reaching young, affluent demographics; and delivering personalised, engaging content, all in a brand-safe environment that fosters consumer consent.”

Graeme Lynch, head of demand, SpotX

“2020 marks the start of a new decade in which audiences will become even more connected. Over the past ten years, internet speeds have improved, smart TV penetration has increased and audiences have displayed more sophisticated viewing habits. This has resulted in video advertising solidifying its position as a crucial strategy for brands and their advertisers wishing to retain and attract customers. 

Next year, we will see connected TV advertising continue to develop as agencies get to grips with its new audience reach and analysis formats. The measurement gap which has slowed the pace of adoption will be tackled head-on by a number of different companies keen to resolve the challenge of measurement and attribution. This will benefit brands hugely as they will be provided with better device reach and frequency understanding. Overall, the industry will enjoy a more complete view of audiences leading to a better understanding of media value and attribution. A further consequence is an improvement in the user experience through more targeted content and advertising.

Alongside this, device manufacturers, such as Samsung, and native CTV broadcasters, such as Rakuten and Pluto TV, will offer a different product set to traditional internet-delivered broadcaster advertising. These native OTT platforms will drive innovation in the market through audience data and create more choice for the consumer as well as new opportunities for advertisers. 

In the new year, we will see technical evolutions on both the supply and demand side. In-housing has been a hot topic for 2019 but is not black and white. Often, advertisers want to determine the buying and data platforms they use while still relying on an agency’s skill set for strategy/innovation, campaign planning and media activation. I predict this will continue into 2020 and will put the emphasis back on building knowledge and expertise across the industry.”

Consumer journey and advertiser mindset

Andrew Buckman, CEO, Sublime

“Alongside technology and consumer behaviour continues to shift and evolve in 2020, our mindset as an industry will also undergo a transformation, with more emphasis on people and wellbeing. The stereotypical ‘boozy’ culture is gradually on the demise, as we move towards a more sustainable and mindful way of doing business. Respect for people’s time and health – both mental and physical – is rightly more of a priority, with pertinent issues starting to be discussed more widely. We need to continue investing in employees to ensure we provide supportive and positive work environments. High job satisfaction not only reduces employee turnover rates, but it also increases productivity, reduces stress for individuals, and ultimately benefits the company as a whole.

Meanwhile, the cookie won’t crumble in 2020 but there will be more focus on other ways to target the consumer, with contextual-based targeting high on the agenda. We will also see a shift in advertiser requirements – those who want to use their expensive made-for-TV video assets digitally, but are dissatisfied with the larger tech platforms pushing them to accept shorter formats, which don’t allow the same level of storytelling.”

Oli Marlow-Thomas, director & founder, Adlib 

“With Brexit still unresolved, marketing budgets are likely to continue to struggle through 2020, meaning marketers will be put under pressure to look for new ways to create efficiencies and differentiation. But currently, the data vs. creativity narrative is holding the industry back, preventing digital advertising from reaching its full performance potential.

With 86% of consumers saying relevance plays a role in purchasing decisions, personalisation will continue to be the key objective for marketers in increasing the performance of digital campaigns. Yet while all other aspects of media buying are now highly personalised and targeted, only 3% of ads personalise the creative for each audience segment in real-time. 

And although 70% of digital campaign performance is attributed to the creative quality, creative production receives only 10% of the campaign budget. Furthermore, current processes for delivering tailored creative across diverse geographies, languages, formats and buying platforms are slow, expensive and difficult to manage. 

Heading into 2020, creative will be the differentiating optimisation tool that brands will rely on to stand out. Using machine learning, smart, budget-conscious marketers will be looking to ‘robotomise’ the Creative Director in order to serve personalised, highly targeted data-driven creative in real-time, cutting campaign build and production costs.  The data vs creativity narrative will die; instead, the two will work together to inject the boost of efficiency really needed to reach peak creative performance.”

Andrew Morsy, managing director international, Peer39 

“In 2020 we expect to see the pendulum swinging back to balancing audience and environment rather than just focussing on the audience, as advertisers and publishers look to maximise ad impact. With concerns high within the industry about the ability to place ads alongside suitable content without falling foul of data regulations, brands will be undertaking initiatives to ensure their media procurement is compliant, both in term of the data itself, and the path in which it reaches its audience.

Increasing compliance demands, as well as the absence of behavioural learning left by the demise of the third-party cookie, will see an emerging focus from advertisers on cookie-free, privacy-friendly technologies. Data that is compliant to shifting regulatory and consumer changes while delivering scale will be in high demand. With this in mind, contextual targeting will undergo a resurgence in the year ahead, but this time with a focus on semantics.

The context in which individuals view content is a strong proxy for their intent. For example, if a person is looking at material relating to a sporting event, at that moment there is a good chance they’re more open to ads relating to buying tickets, merchandise, cross-promotions and so on. By harnessing contextual, ads can be matched with consideration to the environment, place and time the individual is viewing them, and linked to content users are currently consuming. This high level of granularity is exemplified by the adoption of semantic targeting.

With concerns high within the industry about the ability to place ads alongside suitable content without falling foul of data regulations, semantic contextual targeting looks likely to take a bigger share of ad revenue next year.”

Jenny Stanley, MD and founder, Appetite Creative

2020 is the year of the consumer and anyone who doesn’t put their consumer first is going to fall short. They want immediate answers delivered directly and they want to find exactly what they need in a very short space of time. Consumers are becoming more conversational, from social media even to Alexa to Siri, and we need to embrace formats that generate leads directly and answer questions users have, without a need for them to leave the site. Marketers need to deliver creativity that allows for real interactions with consumers in a unique, innovative, engaging yet, not the intrusive way.

Aftab Aslam, head of UK operations, Savings United

“Our experience and all the available data shows that voucher code usage is increasing across all demographics. And, as we head into 2020, this will continue to grow. As has often been the case, voucher codes will flourish in conjunction with changing consumer behaviour. This will be led by macroeconomic factors such as Brexit and global economic uncertainty; changing social norms, e.g., dining habits or; technological trends like increased smartphone usage. In addition, the ability to deploy and deliver codes through a range of means, such as personalisation, push notifications and proximity targeting, will continue to evolve. Crucial to this should be the need to maintain relevancy and positive user experience throughout.”

Publisher revenues

Richard Reeves, managing director, AOP

“As we enter a new decade, the same issues will continue to challenge digital publishers, but we have seen evidence that when we work together, we can become an irresistible force – take for example the Ozone Project – and this will become more apparent in the next 12 months.

With a keen focus on transparency, 2020 could be the year we see real progress with deploying distributed ledger technology to help identify discrepancies and increase financial transparency within the supply chain, contributing towards creating an accountable ecosystem. At AOP, we will continue working closely with members, vendors and other trade bodies to test and trial various technologies, to inform recommended best practice for the benefit of both the advertiser and publisher.

It would be almost impossible to discuss the future without drawing attention to data privacy and the ultimate demise of third-party cookies, especially with increased pressures from both changing browser policies and compliance enforcement of data privacy regulations from DPAs across all markets. While social platforms have had the advantage over media owners through having log-in data, single – or unique – identifiers could redress the balance, effectively bringing publishers similar benefits from having log-in data and, will help counter concerns over the possible demise of the cookie.

As premium publishers shift their focus to diversifying revenue streams, and not solely relying on advertising as their main source of income, affiliate commerce will be increasingly prioritised.”

Mike Klinkhammer, director of advertising sales EU, eBay

“Trust in third party data has fallen even further in 2019 and the future of the cookie has become increasingly uncertain. Looking forward, as marketers consider how to deliver the most effective campaigns in a cookie-less world, first-party publisher data will fast become more important and valuable than ever – especially for brands and for publishers, such as eBay, that are looking to target audiences based on behaviour and context.

In 2020, brands and publishers should look to harness the powerful first-party data at their fingertips – such as their search keyword data and, if they have it, their e-commerce data for more granular and intelligent targeting. After all, the days of cookies may be numbered, but necessity is the mother of invention – and marketers now have a chance to create cookie-less targeting solutions which are more efficient and relevant for both brands and consumers.”


Ben Samuel, VP sales EMEA, Nielsen Marketing Effectiveness 

“As we move into the new year, there are signs that this reliance on digital is being questioned – with many brands now seeing value in taking a more holistic approach. As Adidas discovered to its detriment, focussing purely on performance to address short-term targets based on KPIs falls short when it comes to longer-term planning and brand awareness.

This will be the year of re-balancing to achieve both long and short-term results. Re-balancing measurement through the combined use of multi-touch attribution (MTA) and marketing mix modelling (MMM) tools will enable marketers to optimise results across all media. Meanwhile, re-balancing responsibilities across the business – for example ensuring that measurement tools are not owned by just the marketing or finance departments, but are accessible across the business – will allow the company to deliver improved outputs to meet the needs of all stakeholders.”

AI and technology

Paul Rowlinson, managing director, GroupM Digital UK  – responsible for Xaxis

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the defining technologies of our time, and its impact is being felt in the advertising industry. Marketers are already applying AI to identify prime retargeting opportunities and better predict high-performing impressions, helping to improve the ability of ads to achieve all-important outcomes. But the power of AI isn’t limited to performance-boosting benefits. Marketers can run thousands of tests using AI to pinpoint the best time and price for a bid in an exchange, making each media buy more cost-effective.

Custom algorithms created with AI will continue to be a defining feature of advertising as we head into 2020 as marketers invest greater budgets. Although this investment will be heavily directed toward the human intelligence behind the technology, rather than the software itself, because making the most of AI relies on being able to optimise against clearly defined custom outcome indicators. This is an immensely complex task in practice, which requires highly-skilled data scientists and engineers to create and customise algorithms based on a specific set of measurement metrics defined by individual brands. Going into 2020, it will be the brands and agencies that have access to this talent through strategic partnerships that will achieve the best business outcomes.” 

Jeff Pfefferkorn, head of sales, UK, MainAd 

“If the past few years have been about the proliferation of big data with the rise of IoT, hyper-connectivity, and marketers focusing on ‘being there’ at every touchpoint, 2020 will be the year of relevance. Efficient AI and machine learning will be key to managing this abundance of data and make it meaningful for marketers. And there will be further investment in fields such as programmatic advertising where data points are leveraged at their best. 

Audiences are spread across a multitude of touchpoints, but they tend to gravitate towards messages that resonate with them specifically, answering their needs and interests. They are also willing to offer information if they can have relevant experience in return. The focus will need to shift from “be everywhere” to “be where it counts”, to find that crucial point between engagement and the brand’s desired outcome, where they can truly deliver value and tell their story in a brand-safe environment. 

What will work in marketers’ favour is if they have the right tools, giving them an advantage as the consumer moves down the funnel. Next year, we can expect predictive analytics and in-app retargeting to play a bigger role in the industry. With robust device-agnostic data-driven insight, marketers will be able to drive better creativity, smarter re-engagement and avoid missing opportunities through irrelevant messages.”

Sarah Assous​, CMO, Zoovu

“Voice search will become increasingly prevalent – especially in manufacturing, retail and electronics, where people will buy more through voice over time. As this happens, we will also see more dynamic conversations. These will be increasingly unstructured, where technical language will begin to resemble more human language. This is especially important in the case of very technical product information where those conversations will lead to higher levels of engagement. AI and machine learning will play a big part in this across the board.” 


James Shepherd, managing partner for growth, M&C Saatchi Performance 

“There is no doubt that direct‐to‐consumer (DTC) brands have been disrupting established brands and sectors. Typically, when discussing these brands, we’re talking about disruptive companies that have emerged in the past decade. We’re getting side-tracked by this definition, as many traditional brands are a direct‐to‐consumer enterprise – think buying flights via British Airways. We need to change our approach. Whether it’s established companies, such as John Lewis, or DTC disrupters like Eve Sleep – DTC is about driving direct action with the connected consumer in a measurable, accountable­, and ultimately ROI-positive way.

In 2020, we can expect to see more brands embrace the strategy that has made these inherently direct-to-consumer brands so successful. Highly effective user acquisition is central to the rapid scale of DTC and fundamental to achieving the accountability and efficiency needed to accelerate growth. By harnessing all available data, brands will be able to elevate their marketing efforts and reach target consumer groups. As more products and services begin to mirror that provided by disruptor brands, we can expect their marketing strategies to do the same.

Digital media is going to play a crucial role in allowing brands to shift the conversation to scale, growth, and engaging customer bases. Tracking, measuring, and optimising the customer journey through the funnel are essential parts of the consumer conversion, and it is time more brands adopt a performance‐first approach to help meet their targets.”

Ivan Guzenko, CEO, SmartyAds 

“If Martech is about communication strategies, AdTech is what helps to execute these strategies personalized customer experience, and measure results. These 2 systems will sync in the future to blend data sets, achieve the right level of targeting precision, and personalize messages for DTC communication in e-commerce.”

Catch up on Part 1 of our 2020 predictions here.