For marketers working in digital advertising, 2019 was a year of learnings and change. Nick Morley highlights what they need to know in 2020.

Businesses are compelled to innovate to remain relevant, particularly at a time when new regulations, tools and technology converge to offer exciting opportunities, as well as new challenges.

As digital ad revenues continue to grow, marketers will increasingly have to tie their spending to real-world outcomes. In order to map that ROI and improve their business, here are six areas of change marketers need to pay attention to in 2020.

Brand suitability will be king

2020 is the year when context comes to the fore. Brand suitability and contextual targeting will help advertisers achieve scale in 2020, and that will require technology that does more than simply protect brands from risky content. Brand suitability in 2020 will help ensure ads are not placed in unsafe environments, and instead are placed in suitable contexts. What’s more, consumers are more likely to trust a brand that appears in a contextually relevant environment – and publishers will also be more supported by removing the sometimes over-protective approach to brand safety.

Sentiment analysis will grow strongly by enabling a clear understanding of the nature of webpage content with detailed granularity and greater scale. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be crucial in developing technology with near-human comprehension.

Ensuring the content and environment of where an ad appears aligns with brand values is a more positive approach than brand safety. It also presents monetisation opportunities for publishers in a cookie-less world.

Video ads will remain victorious

Video advertising was a key driver of digital ad spend in 2019, with UK display video up 27% year-on-year in the first six months, according to the IAB. Expect to see advertisers increase spend again this year as consumers adopt super-fast 5G streaming.

Video will solidify its status as the lynchpin to online campaigns, particularly within social platforms. As consumption of video content grows across all devices it is likely to become the main format used across most social platforms.

Video Player Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) will continue to depreciate despite a slow start to the industry’s adoption of the latest Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) update. VAST 4.2, released in 2019, will fix the gaps left by previous iterations.

Connected TV will play a key role in major broadcast events

The lines will continue to blur between ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’, particularly as brands increasingly invest in Connected TV (CTV) and Over the Top (OTT) ad environments. With events such as the Olympic Games and the US Presidential elections, CTV will play a key role in reaching younger audiences at scale.

Recent CTV and OTT services such as Disney+, BritBox and AppleTV+ will help shake up and cement consumers’ growing appetite for on-demand. However, the growth of ad-free services will begin to stagnate as consumers catch “subscription fatigue”. Bundling may become more common, with providers grouping together to offer better or more cost-effective deals.

Addressable advertising offers buyers more granularity and less wastage – and opens up TV to smaller advertisers, such as direct-to-consumer brands, with programmatic capabilities to follow this year. However as more ad dollars shift to this new environment, so will the attention of fraudsters.

Social still dominated by the duopoly

Google and Facebook will continue to dominate ad spend this year and, with the possible exception of Amazon outside of social, their share is likely to grow. Agencies and advertisers will continue to look for alternatives, but the duopoly will remain the most effective option despite increased scrutiny. However, as major social players started to work closer with verification companies in 2019, we can expect this to continue.

Policies surrounding political advertising will be significant as we enter a US election year. Facebook announced it will not fact-check political ads, whilst Twitter has already banned political advertising because it believes such messaging should be earned, not bought.

Mobile to steal more share-of-media time

In terms of share-of-media time, mobile will be the only medium to grow this year in many developed markets. App development will be designed for cross-platform use, meaning that programming separately in Javascript for Android and iOS for Apple will not be necessary, reducing a pain point for brands and consumers alike. However, in-app brand safety remains a challenge.

Privacy will remain top of mind for consumers, who have demanded greater transparency into the use of their data, and for regulators. App privacy will tighten, with stricter rules imposed for brands and greater transparency given to consumers about how their data is used and accessed.

Fighting fraud gets sophisticated

Rule-based deterministic techniques for catching fraud will become highly ineffective compared to sophisticated machine learning-driven models. Fraudsters will have greater access to next-gen technology and the industry will need more advanced AI/ML technology to be able to catch it.

2020 will be the year CTV goes programmatic, opening up brand-unsafe or ad fraud scenarios. The risk that fraud poses to CTV will only increase as this type of inventory becomes available on open exchanges. As a result, verification companies will continue to expand their CTV solutions to ensure brands and publishers can effectively advertise in this new environment.