Visions for 2020: Key trends shaping the digital marketing landscape

January 17, 2020 | 6 minute read
Jacel Booth
Global Brand Marketing Manager
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Digital marketing has evolved drastically over the past decade. Think back to 2010: Apple released the first iPad; Pinterest and Instagram had barely launched; and just one in four mobile subscribers used smartphones.

Today, marketers face unchartered territory, as new platforms and channels enter the market at a record rate, and mobile usage grows exponentially. With global ad spend is projected to reach more than $377 billion in 2020, digital marketing continues to be an exciting space to operate.

What factors will continue to influence this shift? Let’s break down the top trends that will shape digital marketing and the adtech industry this year.


The Experience Economy will put customers at the helm

With consumers as innovators in the “Experience Economy,” they are in charge of their brand relationships—assigning equal weight to their personal experience with a brand and the goods and services it provides. And as Gen Z enters the workforce and gains more buying power, they will continue to push this new dynamic and challenge companies to rethink and revamp the customer experience in new ways.

Data, customer intelligence, and experiences must all be united across marketing, commerce, sales, and service to win in the Experience Economy. And the numbers prove it. A third of consumers will walk away from a brand after just one bad experience, and 41% are willing to pay as much as 20% more for an exceptional customer experience.

To that point, brand storytelling will be more critical than ever. Marketers need to understand what truly influences attention, quality, and engagement. Focusing on these signals will help them better connect with their audience and make their brand advertising more effective.


Fierce competition for consumer attention

In 2000, Microsoft conducted a study measuring how long people can focus on one thing for a specific amount of time. The results showed the average person’s attention span was 12 seconds. About 15 years later, it dropped to 8 seconds.

A recent study from the Technical University of Denmark suggests our collective global attention span is narrowing because of the abundance of information presented to us. So much demands our attention that we can only focus on each new “trend” for a short time.

These dips correlate strongly to mobile phone adoption and the growth of social networks and video sharing online. The Oracle ID Graph shows that the average person has about 5 devices, which means they have endless choices about what content to consume and how. The competition to capture their attention through advertising will only grow more intense, and the most successful marketers will be able to strengthen their consumer relationships with compelling ad creatives.


Curbing ad fraud still a top priority

Although not all ad fraud is nefarious, using invalid traffic (IVT) detection methods to catch bad actors remains a primary concern for marketers. Advances in emerging technologies provide new opportunities to reach more people—and also leave room for fraudsters to wreak havoc for both advertisers and consumers.

Take the major ad fraud operation DrainerBot that Moat by Oracle Data Cloud found and dismantled last year. The software downloaded video ads to millions of consumers’ smartphones and displayed them to users of infected apps—invisibly. Not only did it waste advertising dollars, but it also affected mobile users since the software relied on data usage, potentially charging consumers data overage fees.

The ability to detect this level of fraudulent activity is grounded in accurate reporting. And that accuracy serves as the foundation for trust and transparency within the digital ad supply chain.

Ad tech industry leaders are making strides to do that with the Source initiative, a partnership between MediaMath and 16 companies, including Oracle Data Cloud. These organizations are committed to improving accountability and addressability within the digital advertising ecosystem and using artificial intelligence to better inform campaign reporting with data.


Heightened focus on consumer privacy

In 2018, we saw the persistent regulatory challenges that came with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation, as well as the ongoing limitations that major browsers set on 3rd party tracking.

This cautious approach to consumer data across platforms continues this year as the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) officially went into effect on January 1. The new law gives California residents more ownership and rights over the data that companies collect about them. This new legislation is the most sweeping in the U.S. and will set the tone for other states looking to protect consumer privacy.

For more info on the CCPA, watch this webinar.

In response to these new guidelines, brands need to heighten their attention to transparency while adjusting how to gain a holistic picture of their audience. As vigilance on the use of consumer data increases, more ad dollars will shift to alternative avenues that are less reliant on 3rd party data, like contextual intelligence.


Upcoming U.S. election will further polarize the media

The 2020 U.S. election will dominate the news and likely incite increased polarization of the media. Flashing back to the 2016 presidential race, growing concern about foreign countries influencing the election through social media shaped a strong demand for major tech companies to limit or ban political ads on their platforms.

Unfortunately, politics will be almost impossible for marketers to avoid. Political advertising is set to reach a new high of $10 billion in 2020, nearly $3 billion of which will be spent on digital ads.

Marketers should be mindful that steering clear of hard news in favor of light-hearted lifestyle content isn’t the only way to avoid election talk. There are various ways to prepare your brand safety strategy to better navigate the tumultuous political season ahead, such as positive contextual targeting to increase reach while ensuring your ads appear in suitable environments.


Connected TV and Over the Top (OTT) continues to rise

The cord-cutting trend is accelerating with 45 million Americans estimated to cancel cable subscriptions in 2020. And with more low-cost streaming services emerging, buying linear TV ads in bulk will no longer suffice.

Last year, the video streaming landscape became more saturated with the debut of Disney+ and Apple TV+. This year is no different—the playing field will become more crowded with NBCUniversal’s Peacock, HBO Max, and Quibi all set to release.

This will bring increased fragmentation across the market, so marketers need to be more creative to attain similar reach as they had with previous linear TV buys. This is especially challenging, given how many streaming services incorporate ad-free models.

Luckily, measurement providers are rising to meet the demands of the evolving market. Check out our guide on the advanced TV landscape for an in-depth look.


Audio advertising becomes more fully mainstream

Digital audio advertising will continue to boom in 2020. In fact, eMarketer predicts that more people will listen to digital audio than the radio this year thanks to the proliferation of smart speakers and increased popularity of podcasts.

And where there is a captive audience, the ad dollars follow. As digital audio becomes more mainstream and easier to purchase through programmatic, brands will allot more marketing dollars to all aspects.

Why? Listeners are engaged, platforms like Pandora and Spotify provide richer audience data for better targeting, and it’s easier to measure and scale globally. To tune in for more information on the rise of digital audio, check out this blog post.


eSports will continue to score big

From Fortnite to FIFA, the eSports industry has quickly cemented its stronghold in mainstream entertainment. And now that they see a clear path to profits, investors, brands, and media outlets are starting to play the game.

According to Deloitte, investments in the industry grew an incredible 837% from 2017 to 2018, from $490 million to $4.5 billion. Further, total eSports viewership is expected to grow to 646 million people in 2023, based on Business Insider Intelligence estimates.

As eSports becomes more mainstream, more creativity is needed to truly engage consumers through this medium. How can marketers partner with games, apps, or use emerging platforms like TikTok to weave in their brand stories in an unobtrusive way? Find out everything you need to know about eSports in our blog post.


Looking ahead

New and developing industry challenges will keep marketers on their toes this year as they navigate the complex digital marketing landscape. Consumer privacy will force marketers to change how they collect data and build customer relationships in a growing Experience Economy as global attention shrinks. Fighting ad fraud and preparing for the U.S. political election, along with the continued growth of emerging formats, will steer digital marketing in different directions.

What other trends do you think will continue to influence the ad tech space in 2020? Post your thoughts in the comments.

Jacel Booth

Global Brand Marketing Manager

Jacel Booth is a Global Brand Marketing Manager at Oracle Data Cloud. She enjoys a good pun and is an ardent supporter of the Oxford comma.

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