IAB Member Q&A: Agency reflections on digital advertising in 2020 and what’s to come

On December 03, 2020 Research & Resources

We know 2020 has been a different and at times difficult year, as we slowly move towards the finish line we would like to look back and reflect on some of the great work that has come out of it and a look at what’s to come.

Thanks to Paykel Media, Slingshot and The Media Planning Agency for their contributions.

Ben Clift, Digital Specialist at Paykel Media

What are you personally excited to see more of in 2021 in regards to advertising and more specifically digital?

In 2021 we are looking forward to seeing how the fundamentals of the media agency shift and develop with the advent of new media planning technologies. Advancements in adtech are promising to facilitate the convergence of offline and online media planning and strategy. Until now, agency teams have been shoe-horned into two distinct teams: offline and online – a result of a fragmented agency structure held back by limited resource and antiquated tools. It’s been a challenge for the traditional media agency to overcome these barriers, although we’ve known how to break them for a while now.

We’re already seeing exciting in-market opportunities demonstrating how we do this, such as true R&F buys across linear TV and BVOD along with programmatic OOH. Sooner rather than later, our respective teams will be speaking a single language – and it will be digital. What’s most exciting is that this tech may result in a complete re-imagining of the media agency – a world where there are no more offline and online specialists, enabling us to create a more seamless and integrated work flow and, of course, result in better service for our clients. 

It would be remiss to not mention how we might manage the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Half a year at home has forced us to review the way we work and question the very foundations our industry has been built upon. We’ve learned to trust each other, work autonomously and be patient on video calls. While we may have experienced some of the hardest times we’ve ever had, we are already embracing the new world that was forced upon us and are eager to hit the reset button going into the new-year. I think we’re finally ready to make it happen.


Andrea Batista, Digital Director, Slingshot

What ad formats and creative options have you embraced more with your clients this year? Why did you recommend greater use of these options?

That darn somber piano music

Everybody had a story to tell this year. But the right creative and ad formats could make or break the intention behind the message. With audiences craving a break from News content and finding refuge in Entertainment sites during the crisis*, the time was right for testing performance across YouTube and the broader programmatic video space. At Slingshot we believe in the power of a good Test and Learn framework, and with our clients carrying on with their content strategies, we tested creative lengths (from 6 seconds to 12 minutes), sequencing and a different range of call to actions.

Being able to understand how our assets behave across several different formats and applications has been invaluable. Stepping away from the typical high demand environments in the height of the crisis and focusing on gathering learnings in a different arena gave us the room to execute efficiently and the foundation for a new round of test and learn in the new year.

*Source: Are We There Yet: What Media Consumption Can Tell Us About Recovery July 2020

What are you personally excited to see more of in 2021 in regards to advertising and more specifically digital?

I want to see more meaningful data partnerships making a difference. Enterprises coming together and using their data for good. Let us restore a little bit of faith in humanity in 2021 through data, sustainability, and social conscience.


Cathryn Irvine, Head of Strategy, The Media Planning Agency

What have you done differently this year as clients have advocated for changing strategy and tactics to succeed?

What a year it’s been. Loss of jobs, media distress rates that have been exceptional to say the least, as well as increased focus on privacy and data collection in the digital space. The only commonality has been change.

Some clients have taken advantage of great rates and seemingly sailed through the COVID crisis with products and services greatly sought-after during lockdown. Others have had to hunker down, reduce budgets and rationalise. What has been common in 2020 is the expressed request to, at least, maintain revenue expectations. Not necessarily an easy task.

In a year of little certainty, we have focused on what is accessible and highly valuable – client data. Taking a deep dive, we’ve been able to identify opportunities that may not have been uncovered if a new approach hadn’t been required. Not only has this new understanding of our client’s customers limited the potential impacts of changing privacy laws, but it has also allowed us to deliver truly appropriate and targeted media placements, often at highly discounted rates. We have set up processes for continued monitoring, expanding our knowledge and empowering our clients to make better decisions with their media dollars. Always advocates for testing and learning, our clients are now more open to trial and are less reliant on emotion or gut feel.

Data has always played a vital role in our client’s recommended media strategies, but the ability to provide clarity and new opportunities through the analysis of data already on site has been pivotal in preparation for 2021.

What are you personally excited to see more of in 2021 in regards to advertising and more specifically digital?

Over the past few years, the focus for media has been social. Everyone has wanted in – and regardless of the actual return on investment, it has been an integral part of the mix.  While COVID didn’t remove the use of social media by any means, it did bring a rationalisation of spend and media selection that was well overdue.

During 2020, excellent inventory was available at highly competitive pricing across most media. With more people at home, channels we deemed traditionally too expensive for some clients, suddenly became accessible.  Short-term distress rates were amazing and provided significant value.

The winner for me this year was catch-up TV. With more time on their hands, people found a need to escape and “catch-up” on programs, creating a cost-effective means to connect with audiences. Catch-up TV always played a large part in our media arsenal, but as part of a programmatic buy coupled with third party ad serving, the visibility it provided for campaigns has been really exciting. Let’s face it, it’s all about data. Delivering as much clarity on campaign performance as possible to our clients is vital to building and maintaining great results and long-term relationships. The capacity to now deliver almost all media programmatically (albeit only in metro areas) and provide a holistic media data view for clients is exceptional. Couple that with our client’s internal conversion data, and we start to deliver highly valuable insights for growth.

In fact, the continued growth of media now available in programmatic makes 2021 a year to watch. With increased digital outdoor coming into play, and continued innovation in the digital space, the options available to media agencies and their clients are endless. Value will come from our ability to deep dive and analyse data, achieving the right outcomes at the best possible ROI.