Five Digital Ad Trends That Will Change Everything in 2020

Fasten your seatbelt: It’s going to be a wild ride.

AR, 5G, esports … oh my! These are just a few of the major themes that will drive digital media conversations in 2020, and every one of them revolves around the untold quantities of data flooding the digital landscape. Leaders at IAB pooled their insights to discuss how this avalanche of data will manifest, what opportunities it will unlock, and how you can stay one step ahead. Here’s what to expect: 

Mixed reality is poised to go mainstream. Augmented reality is the killer app for 5G and it’s coming sooner than anyone thinks. 5G means data transmission in real-time and graphics that are faster, richer, and more astonishing. Statista estimates that the value of the AR market will explode from a mere $5.91 billion in 2018 to $198.17 billion in 2025 and it’s no coincidence that this coincides with the arrival of 5G. The best and earliest places we’ll see AR is in mobile gaming, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gartner predicts 100 million consumers will shop in AR in 2020, both online and in-store. For brands and advertisers, this is an unprecedented opportunity to reach consumers in a mobile-native environment, no special equipment required.
– Zoe Soon, VP of Mobile, IAB

Esports will begin to mirror live sports – until total domination is complete. The “FIFA-ification” of esports is well underway, with more teams, leagues, venues and large-scale regional and global events bringing a professional world to competitive gaming. Expect to see non-endemic sponsors and more mainstream and direct brands discovering this multibillion-dollar industry with its own ecosystem of technology vendors, content creators, agencies, and stadiums – and games that are streamed on Twitch and broadcast on ESPN and ABC. According to eMarketer, between now and 2023, the U.S. audience is expected to grow 52% to reach 46 million people. Meanwhile, U.S. esports digital ad revenue will reach $178.1 million this year and increase 20% to $213.8 million in 2020. As 5G rolls out and every device becomes a real-time gaming device, the esports domination will be complete – at least with younger audiences.
– Eric John, Deputy Director of Video, IAB

Cannabis brands will push the limits of what’s possible in ad targeting – and everybody wins. Cannabis, legal in a growing number of states for medicinal and recreational purposes, faces specific regulatory obstacles that programmatic advertising techniques address. Cannabis products from edibles and topicals to beverages will use data-driven targeting to the best of the programmatic ecosystem’s ability and automated buying will play an essential role in the growth of this controversial ad category. Programmatic will show advertisers how to reach the right audience at the right time while still navigating a thicket of legal peril, brand safety, ad fraud, consumer privacy rights, and regulation that surrounds this nascent and controversial ad category. For the cannabis market and community to grow, advertisers have to get it right – and the fruits of their labor will help all advertisers be better.
– Orchid Richardson, VP and Managing Director, Data Center of Excellence, IAB 

Privacy reform is a national crisis in the making – and in 2020 we’ll finally see a meaningful privacy and data bill introduced. A patchwork of privacy laws and penalties are going live that are confusing consumers and penalizing companies large and small. Tens of thousands (if not millions) of businesses that collect data about consumers online risk crushing fines if they can’t comply. In the year ahead, the costs of CCPA and GDPR will start to get real and be measured, and companies will have a real sense of what’s at stake. It will take this collective national emergency and efforts like Privacy for America to make it happen, but a comprehensive data and privacy bill will finally be drafted in 2020. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook agrees: It can’t happen fast enough.
– Dave Grimaldi, EVP for Public Policy, IAB

The election will be a turning point for accountability in media and advertising. The 2020 presidential election is being fought online at a level we’ve never seen before, eclipsing television’s traditional dominance. According to GroupM, roughly $10 billion will be spent on all political and issue ads in the 2020 campaign cycle. And yet, campaign finance laws haven’t been modernized for the digital age. In 2020, publishers, platforms, and advertisers will finally get serious about policing themselves. Regulation will continue, and in anticipation, premium content providers and advertisers will make investments to deal with it (including turning to influencers to reach younger voters). Regardless, advertisers and the media will have to hold themselves accountable or risk alienating all consumers if they don’t get it right.
Orchid Richardson, VP and Managing Director, Data Center of Excellence, IAB