Agencies and Publishers Look Back at 2020 and Ahead to 2021

By Comcast Advertising InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Agencies and Publishers Look Back at 2020 and Ahead to 2021

This has been an unusually challenging time for prognostication. The once-in-a-generation pandemic and the current political environment have upended expectations and has created what some believe is a "new normal." How are the advertising and publishing spheres of media looking back and looking forward? The FreeWheel Council for Premium Video offers a look back at 2020 while Comcast Advertising's Agency Leadership Council looks ahead to 2021.

Publisher 2020 Look Back

2020 was a year of major changes from the global pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement to the U.S. Elections and aftermath. But the first look at the year 2020 began with a push forward on addressability with Comcast Advertising's initiative on enabling addressability.

The full force of the global pandemic hit the market in March, changing viewing patterns across dayparts, devices and platforms. According to FreeWheel, in the first half of 2020, premium video views increased 17% year-over-year and premium video ad views increased by 32% in the U.S. Europe saw a significant increase in TV viewership as well with average daily viewing per household up to 6 hours and 25 minutes per day on average from 90 minutes. Tent pole events had mixed performances with the Superbowl achieving a five-year rating high, while the Oscars slumped and the Olympics in Japan were postponed.

Certain advertising categories benefitted from consumers sheltering at home, such as Food, while other categories such as Travel held more optimism for an eventual recovery in 2020 than actually happened. Sports returned by the start of summer, registering huge increases in viewership especially for Baseball, Hockey and Basketball Publishers, anxious to offer more viewing options to content starved consumers, launched a range of streaming services including Peacock from NBCU.

As the year progressed, the Upfront proved to be very different from prior years with smaller-than-normal and delayed events. Adding to this difficulty was the uncertainty of TV schedules, with delays in production due to the pandemic and advertisers buying closer to program airings because of the unknown. Lee Barstow, vice president of revenue operations at A+E Networks, comments

"We survived and thrived in 2020 and will continue with the new normal of video distanced collaboration to create stronger partnerships in product development, operational execution and marketplace development. This is especially relevant in the exploding CTV space where consumption continues to grow exponentially and drive advanced solutions for our advertisers."

As 2020 wound down, the world braced for a COVID-19 resurgence and further lockdowns. But there are signs of optimism and hope for 2021. A FreeWheel survey of 500 European Marketers reveals that when it comes to advanced TV budgets, 84% expect spend to grow in the next 12 months.

Agencies 2021 Look Forward

For agencies, 2020 has been a year of adversity, complexity and, yes, opportunity. According to Comcast Advertising, Measurement has risen to the top of priorities for both the buy side and sell side of the business. Comcast has found that "the whole industry is looking for workable solutions," in an area that has historically lagged behind in innovation, relying on legacy data sets.

But 2021 looks to be a very different measurement environment. According to Michael Law, president Amplifi USA: "As consumers have clearly shown they are in control of their experiences with brands and with media, it's imperative our industry works collectively to evolve to a consumer-centric, cross channel and platform measurement solution, that can be used universally as a future trading currency and benchmark for the efficiency and effectiveness of all brand communications efforts."

Programmatic is projected to be another hot growth area for agencies and as media converges, it is accelerating adoption of this advertising format. As Hayley Diamond, executive vice president, US digital investment and partnerships, Publicis Medi, noted, "Two factors are driving new investment behavior in the TV space: increased buying automation and utilizing data for enhanced targeting. We see increased programmatic interest and activity, directly driven by a need to drive efficiency, the higher volume of options in terms of supply and investment, and the unique dynamics of 2020 and into 2021."

The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted what has always been an important issue for agencies and our industry at large– Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. There can be no more delay in implementing policies and actions that foster substantive change in this area. "Diversity, equity and inclusion is a way of life not a moment. We must reimagine the industry with inclusion to open all the possibilities – stronger impact, increased engagement, and more purposeful work" suggested Monique Nelson, chair & CEO, UWG

A major area of change that might lead to a "new normal" for viewership is streaming which is now 25% of total video consumption, fostering further fragmentation. Agencies realize that unification is necessary for the healthy future of television that can be bought at scale more holistically.

Fueling this need for convergence is Addressable which, for agencies, is the necessary next step in television's growth and relevancy to marketers. Comcast Advertising noted that in June 2020, nine programmers began addressable trials for project OAR (Open, Addressable, Ready) and AMC was the first to join Comcast Advertising's On Addressability initiative in the U.S. This is expected to expand in 2021.

For Jason Han, senior vice president of addressable innovation for Matterkind, "Addressable TV is taking significant steps in its evolution as programmers are opening up their national inventory and new solutions are being tested. 2021 promises to unlock new levels of scale for advertisers looking to reach specific desired audiences in a premium environment that client's value."

Will 2021 hearken in a "new normal" for our business? There is every indication that the seeds planted in 2020 from measurement to addressability to programmatic to inclusion will blossom into a stronger, more viable media ecosystem that is, indeed, a new, robust normal

To download the full Publisher 2020 infographic, click here.

To download the full Agency 2021 Infographic, click here.

Photo courtesy of Comcast.

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