2021 Predictions: Data, Transparency and Privacy

With tougher regulations and higher consumers consciousness, data, and what companies do with it, was a key topic throughout 2020. With players across the industry working tirelessly to develop privacy-centric solutions that can provide marketers with valuable data whilst building trust amongst user, it's unlikely that this will change as we progress through 2021. 

The second article in our 2021 predictions series sees members from across ad tech share their thoughts on what's in store for data, transparency, and privacy in the year ahead.


"Circumstance"-based data will grow as advertisers look beyond contextual


This year will see an explosion of identity-free data sources, resulting in a wider, richer data marketplace than we've ever had before. As the ad industry moves toward a post-cookie future, ad buyers are looking for alternatives to the concept of identifiers. As the appetite for compliant, privacy-friendly data grows, advertisers will start to look beyond context and keywords. They will look towards other "Circumstance" based data. In addition to things like sentiment and emotion, they can think about the emotion of their users surrounding a sports score, or the stock market, or the mood of their target audience in the cold snow, or in the rain. The key hurdle will be in onboarding small data sets for advertisers to try, without major commitments from advertisers to platforms in advance.

Alex White, COO, Peer39


Consent collection will become a top priority

I foresee that, in 2021, consent and preference management will become a popular marketing priority, now that privacy and ad tech professionals have embedded it into their priorities.

In 2020, consent and preference management established itself as a fundamental part of publishers’ compliance and monetisation practices, because they acknowledge the importance of building trust with privacy to save their revenue. But only the most visionary marketers have started investing in their “customer permission” infrastructure, monitoring consent rates as KPIs and aligning their teams around it.

In 2021, we expect massive demand for such projects by brands. Marketers will heavily invest in consent collection (by customising their consent notices, for example), in making sure consented customers can be addressed properly (with 1st-party cookies or advertising IDs) on all their devices, including connected TVs, and in great preference management. Only the marketers who offer a great privacy experience from end-to-end, with an impeccable user-experience, will emerge winners in 2021.

Romain Gauthier, founder, Didomi


Increased ad spend on curated marketplaces will bolster transparency

Transparency continues to be a guiding force for the industry as we strive to ensure the programmatic supply chain is as clear as possible. More work needs to be done but we've seen huge progress over the course of the last few years and the industry is only set to build on this in 2021. The growth of curated marketplaces is playing a major role in bringing greater transparency and control to the industry and we expect to see high growth on ad spend across these bespoke supply marketplaces over the course of the next 6 months. A benefit for both the buy and the sell-side, curated marketplaces offer greater trading efficiency with high quality inventory to fully meet client demand.

Chloe Gilman, director, N. Europe, Xandr


2021 will be the year that digital marketers prioritise consumer privacy

Niall MoodyWith the much of the world's population spending more time online, it will be imperative for advertisers to prioritise the concerns of consumers, who are growing more conscious about their data and how it is being shared. With Google announcing last year it is phasing out the third party cookie, 2021 marks just one year for advertisers to find a future-proof alternative that is both effective and privacy-centric. This includes ‘live intent’ targeting, which focuses on live data signals, such as searches that bring a viewer to a page, combined with deep analysis into the underlying meaning and sentiment of that page. This offers advertisers an innovative and compliant way to reach a relevant audience when they are most receptive.

Connectivity has become more important in our lives as we continue to live with COVID-19. 2021 will be the year that digital advertisers focus on prioritising the consumer and ensure their digital campaigns are privacy-first and future-fit in the post-cookie world.

Niall Moody, UK trading director, Nano Interactive


Intermediaries won't survive the transition to stricter privacy

While most of the industry players were passionate about creating alternative identity solutions, the issues of applying the data on them faded into the background. Indeed, until the principles and mechanism of user identification are finally approved and widely adopted by industry participants, it makes no sense to talk about data distribution. However, it is obvious that only consented data received in exchange for some value for the user has a chance to stay in the game. All intermediaries from the existing distribution chain who do not have direct access to the user will be forced to leave this sphere. Also, the harsh regulation of user privacy in different countries will not give them a chance to stay. On the other hand, we already see that publishers have begun to supply their audience segments within direct deals, and the number of such deals is only increasing. Of course, the volumes of these audiences are not large and the fragmentation between publisher taxonomies is significant at this stage. Still, we have a year to bring these initiatives to a common denominator and make a convenient product for the advertiser.

Ivan Fedorov, new business director, Admixer


Building authenticated addressable solutions will be integral to fostering trust with users

Positively, digital advertising is the one area of marketing to buck the trend and show an increase in budgets for Q4. To truly thrive in the current climate however, publishers and brands still need to constantly innovate to strengthen their relationships with consumers. It’s not just the pandemic that’s impacting the industry either; we’re operating against a backdrop of increasing privacy regulation and restrictions across the board: the deadline for the deprecation of third-party cookies continues to loom, as does Apple’s restrictions to IDFA and Google’s removal of DCM logs.   

There’s a huge opportunity here, however, to build a new and better ecosystem that places trust with consumers at the core. For publishers and advertisers, the key is adopting authenticated addressable solutions, allowing them to personalise and enhance the end-to-end consumer experience, whilst ensuring the individual’s privacy is front and centre. Indeed, this consumer-first approach benefits not just the individual, as there are also tangible benefits to publishers and brands, such as improved targeting and measurement. This focus on the consumer will accelerate the ongoing trend and proliferation of people-based campaigns in 2021. Our prediction is that we’ll  see an industry-wide commitment to creating a better, open internet for all, which will weather current and future challenges it comes up against.

Zara Erismann, MD publisher Europe, LiveRamp


More marketers will recognise the value of first-party data combined with contextual

Jurgen GallerAs marketers were challenged by the dynamic shift in online consumer behaviour and the impact of the pandemic on marketing budgets, the need of implementing viable, ready to use and brand-safe solutions became critical to ensure businesses made it through an unpredictable downturn. Adding to the complexity, the third-party cookie expiry date is drawing nearer, and speculation is rising over how to address the vacuum that will be left in their wake.

In light of this, discussions around contextual targeting are growing louder as progressive marketing technologies, such as AI-driven predictive marketing intelligence, enhance targeting capabilities. We can expect more marketers and media companies to recognise the value of combining first-party data with enhanced context-based analysis, allowing them to harness in-depth consumer insights in real time. This will not only ensure they are prepared for the next era of consumer privacy, but become more agile as well and gain control over the shifting landscape.

Jürgen Galler, co-founder and CEO, 1PlusX


Increased scrutiny of antitrust practices will tech firms streamline their supply chains

Pierce Cook-AndersonMoving forward, it will be interesting to see how the new Digital Markets Unit set up within the UK Competition and Markets Authority will govern the behaviour of dominant digital platforms, like Facebook and Google. Hindsight would suggest this will have a limited impact on the business practices of these digital monopolies but, either way, industry players are undoubtedly frustrated with the growing antitrust practices of these tech giants, and are keen to shift to a more independent (and direct) business model.

This will drive further consolidation in the market, as well as supply-path optimisation – with buyers and sellers looking to deal more closely with one another and cutting out those partners that don’t prove their worth. This means that, as we move into 2021, the winners will be those companies that can maximise on the trend of market rationalisation to bring value to both supply and demand in a manner that is efficient, transparent, and which doesn’t favour monopolies.

Pierce Cook-Anderson, country manager UK, Ireland and NL, Smart AdServer