2021 Predictions in Life & Ad Technology

January 4, 2021

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Harry Kargman


Happy first work day of 2021 everyone! School is starting up and better days are on the horizon. Sadly, we are going into what may be one of the bleakest months for the record books. On the bright side, we will have a new President and the vaccine rollout is on the horizon. I thought it would be a great time to make a number of predictions both on a return to normalcy as well as impact in the programmatic, marketing and media world.

Hopefully 2021 will be a return to rational & respectful discourse. With that in mind, wishing you all the best in this new year!

Here we go....

  1. Vaccine distribution will be slower than expected; however between the vaccinated and Covid recovered populations, we will achieve herd immunity by Labor Day with a return to normalcy in the fall.
  2. Late 2021 and 2022 will be theNew Roaring 20’swith mass exuberance and relief as the virus abates. It will be fun and celebratory while also eliciting destructive behaviors.
  3. Travel in late summer and fall will accelerate with a massive recovery of airline travel bythe holidays.People will yearn for the freedom to travel again. Covid-driven health and safety precautions will endure, with masks and sanitizer continuing to be used as a precaution.
  4. One of the lasting, overlooked and long term detrimental effects of the Pandemic will be a decline of mental health caused by lingering fear (similar to PTSD) including nightmares, panic attacks, and excessive unfounded stress as well as the lack of physical fitness during the lockdown. This may create a great opportunity in Telehealth with high demand for remote mental health services. 
  5. There will be an uptick in lawlessness, unrelated to social justice, in the young Gen Z population. Pent up frustration, desire for social interaction, obsession with creating social media stunts combined with masked anonymity result in rebellious activity —as evidenced by the spontaneous, social media organized bike rallies.
  6. The E-Commerce revolution will accelerate with continued innovation of storefronts, products and product innovation. Online ordering and pickup in-store will roll out to smaller and medium sized businesses. Digital and bricks & mortar will continue to converge as the mobile phone is built into the shopping experience. New business models will emerge.
  7. The biggest winners will continue to be thestaple brands” in 2021 - think Tide detergent, Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Rice Krispies, Clorox Bleach, and Charmin Toilet Paper. These brands create a feeling of security and nostalgia for people in search of normalcy. 
  8. TV will continue to be disrupted with an accelerating shift to premium programming (without Advertising) — Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu and others. Marketers will chase CTV and ITV but many of the most valuable consumers will be on Ad Free TV platforms. CTV and ITV will play to lower income and younger populations on ad supported platforms such as Peacock, Discovery +, Pluto TV, Tubi and others.
  9. New product discovery methods will be investigated by marketers including a mix of paid commerce video, influencer sponsorships, social formats, and innovation in digital discovery formats such as digital catalogs, personalized email and dynamic feed based ads to drive results.
  10.  Text commerce and text based concierge services will emerge as a major new area of the economy facilitating orders of services.
  11. D2C companies will realize that their next wave of growth will be driven by building their brands, with increased investment in TV and other digital brand building media.
  12.  5G rollout will have a major impact on product innovation, including AR and computers making faster AI driven “real-world” decisioning. Major new services will be birthed leveraging the low latency of 5G to create novel consumer experiences.
  13.  Privacy regulation and the death of the Cookie will have an enormous impact on both targeting and measurement in 2021. Programmatic campaigns with layered third party data will under-serve; failing to find the intended matched audiences. Attribution by Google and Facebook for e-commerce transactions and landing page visits will start to degrade. Marketing strategies will need to bifurcate into targeting a small pool of “identified users” and massive ocean of “unidentified” contextually targeted users.
  14.  There will be a return to the office but with much more flexibility to work from home. Office time will be used to collaborate and brainstorm. Employees will enjoy flexibility, salaries will be adjusted based upon geography and it will be much harder to build corporate culture.
  15.  People will start acting on inequality and social justice and there will be a desire to invest in and support BIPOC-owned businesses that have fresh perspectives. The outcome will be new and unexplored product areas.

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