Top 7 Predictions for the UK’s Digital Advertising Industry in 2021

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2020 was a historic year, and not in a good way. Let’s do a quick review:

  • A global health crisis
  • The sudden switch to working from home
  • Brexit looming
  • Parents having to homeschool kids alongside their jobs

And those are just the most universal of happenings.

It’s difficult to predict the long-term effects on our mental health, economy, and children’s education. But, the changes in consumer buying patterns, product supply chains, marketing budgets, and channel plans are becoming more apparent as we head further into the new year.

Here are my top nine predictions for how native advertising trends will evolve in the UK in 2021:

1. Greater Emphasis on Social Justice and Inclusion

Last year brought mass awareness of racial inequality and poor representation in our industry, further stoking the fires around all disparity.

I expect to see businesses committing to having more people of color and women on their boards and in senior management positions. I also expect to see budgets allocated for awareness and inclusion training. Investment in grass-roots programs will increase too, to bring much needed diversity into our industry and provide structured support to help under-represented groups climb the ladder.

From a marketing perspective, it will be more important than ever to have the right mix of faces in the room, as well as in the ads that hit our screens.

2. Investing in Consumer Attention and Mindset

Everyone is online all of the time and this presents a fantastic opportunity for the astute marketer. Take that opportunity seriously and offer the consumer value.

To do so, you’ll need to engage them: no irritating, disruptive ad formats. Instead, target specific people when they are in the right mindset, so you can grab their attention. Then, drive emotional impact and get them to consider your brand.

I predict that every brand and agency worth their salt will focus a lot of time, effort, and money on grabbing attention. I think we’ll see a shift in spending that supports those vendors who best fill that need.

3. The release of pent up demand

Now that the government has announced its lockdown restriction roadmap, many people are starting to plan for holidays and other activities that will send us back to face-to-face interactions. The Bank of England announced in February that private savings accounts in the UK grew by £125 billion in 2020, and at least £6.25 billion of that is expected to be spent after lockdowns are lifted.

This is going to be huge for our economy, and I expect we will see brands capitalise on this.

4. A New National Workforce

Now that a hybrid of working from home and the office is likely to come into play in many companies, it begs the question: do you really need to have all of your employees living in London, Manchester, or Leeds?

In 2021, I expect many who are tired of living in a major city to move out and take advantage of lower property prices and more space in the surrounding areas. Longer-term, this will have a considerable impact when university graduates who want to work at a brand, agency, publisher, or tech provider come to decide whether to leave their hometown or not.

That’s exciting. I think it will give our industry access to talent we never had before and open up opportunities to talent that can’t make a move to the big city.

5. Investment in the Open Web and Contextual Targeting

Marketers will go full cycle this year and put contextual targeting back on the agenda. Combined with the desire to support quality journalism and engage high-attention consumers, we’ll see budgets move to the open web.

Product innovation from publishers and the tech providers that support them drives this trend.

6. Platforms Taking Responsibility

Twitter and Facebook’s move to ban Donald Trump following the attack on Congress left many saying “about time.”

I predict we will start to see more of this, with platforms taking a firmer stance on policing content that is outright offensive, blatantly misleading, or dangerous.

7. New Leadership Styles and Hiring Priorities

A growth mindset and grit will become the fundamentals we look for when hiring talent and promoting people into leadership positions.

Willingness to fail and move ahead will be essential this year, as will the ability to recognise you don’t have all of the answers.

For more info on grit and its value, I highly recommend checking out Angela Lee Duckworth’s Ted Talk, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

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