The shift in consumer behaviour was accelerated in 2020 due to events beyond everyone’s control. From year to year we see advertising trends evolve, but this was less of an evolution and more of a pivot and an opportunity to extend ourselves creatively. So will this consumer behaviour continue throughout 2021? Creative strategies and ad formats will play a part in influencing what will stick and what will fade away. Let’s take a look at some of the shifts that brands adopted and how we think they’ll continue to make an impact.

Aligning With Consumer Behaviour

Consumers adopted existing technologies as a new way to connect in 2020—both visually and audibly. Streaming content was on the cusp of seeing significant adoption but in 2020, connected TV (CTV) grew exponentially, in part due to such a high percentage of the North American population sheltering-in-place since the spring. Brands shifted focus to connected TV to tap into the cord-cutter market, including investments into CTV ads during live events. As we start into 2021, this phase will not be exclusive to 2020. Experts expect continued growth and have estimated that by 2022, 204.1 million Americans (60.1% of the population) will have a connected TV. And as it is unlike channels to stay stagnant, what’s next? A resurgence of QR codes as part of a CTV strategy. Users aren’t able to engage with CTV ads like other video placements, but embedding a QR code in a CTV ad allows your audience to visit a landing page via their mobile device. Talk about making a Smart TV ad even smarter!

More people are tuning in, despite a reduction in commuting. Many traditional advertising formats are inspired by original mediums—linear TV to connected TV and terrestrial radio to programmatic audio. Terrestrial radio ads, similar to the linear TV commercial, are much like shouting into the void and hoping your messaging hits the right ears. With programmatic audio, your target audience will hear your message via music and podcast platforms, which are continuously growing in popularity. While brands have tapped into custom sponsored content on popular podcasts, programmatic audio provides an even more cohesive message and customer experience.

The World Outside Walled Gardens

Ad formats that increased in popularity and engagement on Instagram and Facebook were attention grabbing for several reasons—the main driver was that the audience was highly engaged in the platform. To carry that idea through to the open web, there are ways to interact with the audience to reach the same level of engagement. And it’s possible to mimic some of the successful ad formats, like the carousel unit, on the open web—but with HTML5, we are able to go well beyond that. From discovery ads, lookbook ads, and other innovative methods of improving the user experience, rich media really allows for endless possibilities for the conventional display ad.

So if you didn’t take a look at what is possible in 2020, let’s shift your focus to getting really creative in 2021, outside those walled gardens. People can only stare at their Facebook feeds for so long before they start looking for content elsewhere or they start experiencing ad fatigue. Imagine if you could actually embed a form into a creative, or enable audiences to sign petitions with a single click? These are ad format capabilities that might be available sooner than you think. And if we’re really looking into the future, we can even imagine embedding more dynamic content into ads like full product catalogues with pages you could flip through in-unit, or dynamic functionality for low-effort transitions between seasonal collections. Rich media makes a world outside of social platforms very tech-driven—if we can imagine it, we just might be able to find a way to build it.

The Rise of e-Commerce

Shopping online isn’t anything new, but much like CTV, the effects of sheltering-in-place made online shopping the new norm. Social media trends also tend to echo across the internet and into various advertising channels. With the introduction of e-commerce on platforms like Instagram, minimalist product-focused advertising is a no-brainer. This direct-to-product approach can significantly reduce friction in the lower funnel, allowing users to convert in as few as 4 clicks from ad to purchase.

This type of creative is often used in dynamic retargeting specific to products users viewed. However, e-commerce catalogues can be leveraged to advertise an entire collection rather than just individual products that have been viewed. The StackAdapt Creative Studio has started to utilize e-commerce platform integration with product feed display ads, which can randomize featured products in-unit from any collection.

Will people return to bricks and mortar stores, or will the rise of innovative ad creatives that emulate the instore shopping experience be enough to make everyone happy shopping online from home… Scratch and sniff ads anyone? Creatives can continue to influence some of the staying power of these purchase behaviours that are occurring today, well into tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how creative innovation can dictate what stays in 2021, and what new trends will emerge as they evolve.