IAB 2021: Media Buyers Focus On Performance, View Data Privacy, Ad Tracking As Top Challenges

Sixty-four percent of media buyers said they will focus on performance marketing in 2021. Cause-related and mission-based advertising rose at the end of Q1 and during Q2 2020, but marketers latched on to performance marketing in Q3 of 2020, and this will continue in 2021.

The Interactive Advertising (IAB) report released Tuesday -- the 2021 Marketplace Outlook Survey Results -- was fielded between November 12 and November 30, 2020. Representatives from brands and agencies participated.

The findings show that data privacy and ad tracking were their top challenges in 2021. Some 41% of media buyers do not know if those with an interest in a privacy and ad-tracking strategy have a clear understanding of the implications they will face once cookies and identifiers are terminated or blocked. 

“Buyers are unsure of the full ramifications that will result from the blocking and deletion of personal identifiers and cookies,” said Sue Hogan, senior vice president of research and analytics at the IAB.

“IAB has a mission to help educate and establish collaborative efforts like Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media to further help them understand these ramifications and what they should be doing to develop a first-party led data strategy.”

Some 37% believe they need more first-party data to become successful, and 28% have not figured out cross-media measurement yet and are burning through budgets to get there. Even 17% said they do not have an antiquate ecommerce cite.

Half of buyers said they will shift strategies to improve their ecommerce capabilities, as a result of continuing societal, health and market challenges. Some 47% will increase creative testing, 41% will increase testing of placements for incremental reach, 41% will shift away from media that present upsetting/controversial and inappropriate content posted by users, and 8% will decrease advertising tactics that focus on brick-and-mortar retail sales.

Despite the amount that companies will allocate to media budgets in 2021, marketers said the number will rise and fall. Only 8% will have a firm budget for the year, with 10% saying their budget will be firm for the first half of the year and flexible for the rest.

Some 10% still have no idea about the flexibility of their budget, and 39% can only provide some sort of estimate.

What will determine a flexible ad budget other than performance? “Messaging played a huge role in driving the need for flexibility in 2020,” Hogan said. “Channels like digital display, CTV/OTT, podcasting -- that were able to pivot their messaging strategies quickly, efficiently and effectively based on market performance and current events to avoid appearing or sounding tone deaf in the current climate can expect a higher share of budget.”

Overall, traditional media spend is down by 5% in 2021 compared with 2020. Still, digital media is expected to represent 71% of total budgets, with the remainder going to traditional media.

Where will digital budgets go?

  • 16% to paid search
  • 16% to social media
  • 14% to digital display
  • 13% to digital video, including OTT and CTV
  • 05% to digital audio, excluding podcasts
  • 04% to podcasts
  • 03% to digital out-of-home

Where will traditional budgets go?

  • 15% to linear TV like broadcast and cable
  • 04% to terrestrial radio
  • 04% to traditional out-of-home
  • 03% to print like newspaper and magazines
  • 03% to traditional direct mail 

Diversity and inclusion also remain top of mind for marketers in 2021, but how will the industry take action? Half of buyers say they are looking to place more business with minority-owned media companies in 2021, although just as many buyers don’t know whether their company has a specific list of minority-owned businesses on which they can rely.

“While the number of companies is small buyers and brands will most likely look at the buy in a single entity across minority-owned content publishers,” she said. “However, similarly with other media companies, they will compare results across all media channels that address their KPIs whether that be sales, multi-touch attribution and market mix models.

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