Insights to help brands maximize digital media dollars and get a leg up on the competition.

The digital landscape is constantly evolving as more consumers head to digital channels to research, shop and find product recommendations across an expanding number of platforms and formats. To meet the new demands of today’s consumers, brands must be aware of new data technologies, platforms and media formats that continue to shape the digital advertising world in 2020 and beyond.   Here are the  freshest digital marketing  trends and opportunities to  leverage in the coming year.

Digital Ad Spend Trends by Percentage of Total Budget

In 2020, paid search took the biggest portion of ad digital spend with nearly a third of the total budget (31%) going to Google and Bing, followed by social media platforms Facebook and Instagram at 28%.

 Display ads accounted for 14% of total digital spend in 2020 followed by YouTube at 16%. Other social media channels like Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter took the smallest portion of total spend at 11% of total digital spend.  

According to a new report commissioned by the IAB,  the fourth quarter of 2020 saw the highest revenue on record for digital advertising in more than 20 years. The overall shift of media dollars into digital has been attributed to multiple factors, including advanced targeting available through programmatic media buys, the pandemic-driven explosion of  e-commerce sales as consumers move shopping experiences from in-store to online, and new budget-friendly opportunities for brands to expand into television through digital in the form of Connected TV. 

 Digital Advertising Formats Driving the Greatest Response

Native Advertising

Native ads are contextually relevant content designed to seamlessly integrate into social feeds and website pages. Native ads are delivered in stream and take on the design, copy and formatting elements of the environment in which they are placed. They are featured in a way that does not impede the user’s normal behavior on that channel.  And, they are less intrusive than banners or pop-ups, which contributes to a more positive user experience. Native advertising is generally in the form of a recommended widget, in-feed ad, or search ad.

Recommendation Widgets

Such as recommended posts, article or resources are usually found underneath or on the sidebar of an article or post in the form of a widget. They are generally contextually relevant to the content on the page, but the content is from other brands and publishers. 

In-Feed / In-Content Ads

Appear within a web article or in the feed of  social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram. These ads look like the surrounding content appearing in the article or feed.

Search Ads 

Appear in stream and match the format of other entries on a search engine results page. These narrowly targeted placements are most commonly used to drive a direct response such as a sale, download, or data capture.

Paid Social Media Ads

When it comes to social media, what worked a few months ago may not get you the same good results now. Consumer habits change, platforms evolve, and new channels come into existence. Changes in social media influence how consumers interact with social media marketing, as well as how marketers are able to reach their audience. That’s why it is more important than ever to stay ahead of the curve to make the most of social media. 


If you haven’t tried promoting your brand using stories 2020 is the time to get started. Stories are posted within existing story feeds and look much like the rest of the organic content on the platform.  Research has shown that 56% of people now use Stories on three or more platforms at least once a week, and 57% of users say that Stories make them feel part of a larger community. 

Stories promote brand awareness, allow constant engagement with followers, are cost-effective in terms of ROAS, and increase website traffic. They can be optimized for Reach, Video Views, Brand Awareness, Traffic, Conversions, Lead Generation, or App Installs.

Instagram is the most popular social platform for publishing stories. Instagram Story Ads appear between organic Stories and users will not see the ad preview before clicking to watch an organic Story. hey are designed for vertical screen viewing and encourage distraction free engagement by making use of the full screen. 

According to a Facebook user survey, one third of the most viewed Instagram Stories are from businesses, and 53 percent of respondents polled said they made more online purchases based on Stories.

Some brands are leveraging stories to amplify brand engagement by encouraging customers to create and share brand centric content.  Airbnb’s consumer centric platform Stories from the Airbnb Community features content submitted by the brand’s actual customers.

Shoppable Posts 

Shoppable Posts drive traffic to online retail stores from social media. They work via native integrations between e-commerce stores sand social platforms, making it easy to tag products and shop directly from social feeds. Consumers have been shopping on social media for a few years now.  Recent polls show that 60% of Instagram users discover new products on Instagram, while 70% of Pinterest users say Pinterest helps them find new products. Digital marketers expect shoppable posts to become the norm in 2020 with widespread adoption across retailers.

Brand Actions on Social That Drive Sales

With paid social advertising options constantly expanding, it’s easy for brands to lose sight on what truly matters most – that is, what actions are driving engagement and ultimately sales. Engagement is a key behavior that influences purchasing decisions. Answering customer questions (responsiveness) tops the list of brand interactions on social that prompt consumers to purchase, while 46% are driven to convert by promotions and 42% are swayed by educational content.

While responsiveness is one of the most powerful interactions for driving customer purchases, few brands seem to get it right. The average response rate for customer messages on social is  just 12%, and the average brand response time is 11 hours. That’s significantly lower than consumer expectations. For example, 78% of people who complain to or about a brand on Twitter expect a response from the brand within one hour.

1 in 10



11 hours






Social Media Fast Facts

The average Facebook user clicks on eight advertisements per month.

1 in 4 consumers made a purchase after seeing an Instagram Story.

24% of consumers made more purchases in 2019 compared to 2018 thanks to ads on social media 

Instagram videos get 21.2% more interactions than images and 18.6% more interactions than carousels

Pinterest drives an astounding 25% of all retail website referral traffic

Interactive Voice Audio Ads

Voice dialogue ads are interactive audio ads served on  microphone enabled devices that receive verbal calls to action. Listeners can respond with verbal commands and choose how they want to interact and engage with the audio.

For example, an ad could ask the listener if they want to find out more information about the advertised product, creating a two-way conversation between audiences and voice AI technology. By following voice command prompts placed within audio ads, consumers can instantly shop for items, such as adding items to Amazon shopping list via the Alexa App / Echo Smart Speaker.

With feedback from consumers like positive response (like “sure, tell me more”), negative response (like “no thanks”) or no response, voice dialogue ads create a ton of data for brands to track on their audio ads. Even if the listener isn’t interested, the impression isn’t lost. If a negative response is given, such as “I’m not interested,” the ad can follow up and say, “Ok, ‘Brand Name’ is now taking you back to the music.” Ensuring that brand recall is sealed at the end. 

In 2019 some huge retailers started launching voice dialogue ads, including Adidas, HP, Starbucks, McDonalds, BMW, and Chevrolet. And audio streaming services Spotify and Pandora recently began to promote voice dialogue ads integration services on their platforms.

Interactive Voice Audio Ads Fast Facts

A new report by Adobe found that 39 percent of consumers who have come across voice dialogue ads said they are less intrusive and more engaging than traditional advertisements

One in four people in the US now own at least one smart speaker like an Amazon Echo or Google Home, and according to a new report by NPR and Edison Research, 57% of smart speaker owners have shopped via their devices. 

Consumers are making high-value purchases with their smart speakers, with 25% of purchases totaling more than $150. 

Mobile Device Advertising

Location-Based Advertising

Location based ads use geo-location technology to deliver messaging to smart phones based on  where their target audience lives, where they’ve recently visited, or where they are currently located. Using geo-location technology to advertise to audiences on-the-go can be especially valuable for businesses looking to drive in-store sales at brick-and-mortar locations.

Dominos Pizza launched their outdoor hotspots service in 2018, showing how location based marketing can be used to attract customers. Dominos customers began ordering pizza from beaches, parks, and other hotspots. 

Burger King’s Whopper Detour campaign used a tactic called geo-conquesting to steal customer’s from McDonald’s and promote the new Burger King app. When customers downloaded the app and were located within 600 feet of a McDonald’s, they could unlock a promotion to order a Whopper sandwich for only a penny. The app then navigated the customer away from McDonald’s to the nearest BK restaurant.

Burger King ad on phone screen targeting mobile device location with drop pin

Navigation apps offer location based advertising services to help  businesses build brand awareness and drive incremental and new store visits and transactions.  Google’s navigation app Waze can target users with navigation pins, search listings, and popup banners for businesses near their current location or destination.

The 76 gas station promoted their Tank 5 campaign to drivers on Waze using billboard-style messages promoting the TANK5 offer as a way of conditioning an audience of fuel consumers to choose 76over competing brands. The campaign drove over 10 thousand navigations to promoted locations.

Mobile Search

Call-Only Ads – Offering a click to call option on your display ads gives users the option to quickly connect with you directly from their mobile device from a single click.

Mobile Ad Extensions – mobile optimized sitelink extensions can send users directly to mobile pages rather than having to use the site’s mobile navigation menu.

Favicons – Google recently began displaying website favicons on search engine listings. Favicons help promote visual brand identity on mobile.

Mobile Advertising Fast Facts

Mobile ad campaigns are five times more effective than online advertisements.

Appearing in mobile search ad results can increase brand awareness by 46%.

80% of marketers use location targeting for their mobile ad content. 

Location-based mobile advertising spend is forecasted to reach nearly $40 billion in 2022

Location-specific digital ad campaigns are 20x more effective than traditional banner ads that are not location-based.

Video Advertising

Video is now a critical component of most marketing strategies, with technology constantly creating new ways to engage with consumers and tailor video content to specific business goals. According to Animotos’ 2019 Social Video Trends report video ads were the #1 format consumers used to discover a brand they later purchased from. 

That said, some brands are still holding back from using video in their marketing strategies. The biggest reasons marketers give for these missed opportunities? Twenty-one percent say it’s because they don’t know where to start, while 23% state they don’t have the time.

Bumper Ads

Bumper Ads are compelling, short videos that grab a consumer’s attention in a few seconds. YouTube and Google both launched 6-second bumper ads as a way to offer brands a creative way to extend brand reach in a short time frame. Shorter ads seems to be the trend, with 56% of videos published in the last year under two minutes long. (Hubspot)

TrueView Video

YouTube’s TrueView platform offers a simple, straightforward, and effective solution for marketers looking to leverage the power of streaming video. TrueView in-stream ads are cost-effective – you pay when a viewer watches 30 seconds of your video (or the duration if it’s shorter than 30 seconds) or interacts with your video, whichever comes first. 

The TrueView platform offers the flexibility needed to properly engage an audience at every stage of the sales funnel, including a post-click landing page that helps maximize ROI and conversions. TrueView has been shown to increase click-through rates over 11% from those of simple banner ads and users that click-through are 500% more likely to engage in a company’s call-to-action.

TrueView for Action is YouTube’s video format designed to drive leads and conversions with prominent calls to action and headline text overlays. They can be paired with custom intent audiences that have searched for specific keywords and terms related to what your ad is about.

YouTube Video Reach Campaigns

Youtube’s new Video Reach Campaigns harness machine learning technology to serve the most efficient combination of YouTube ads in order to maximize reach. Video Reach Campaigns don’t require marketers to manage separate campaigns for bumper ads or in-stream skippable and non-skippable ads. Instead, it distributes an optimized combination of ad  formats automatically.

Video Advertising Fast Facts

96% of marketers have placed ad spend on video.

91% of marketers are satisfied with the ROI of video marketing on social media.

93% of brands got a new customer because of a video on social media.

Facebook is the #1 platform where marketers plan to invest in the next 12 months, followed by YouTube and Instagram.

Brands that leverage video generate  41% more web traffic than those that don’t

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) may be a new concept, but it has the potential to accelerate past online, TV, and print advertising. According to a report from The Drum AR captures audience attention for an average of more than 85 seconds and improves click through rate by 33%. AR delivers an experience that other channels can’t compete with, making it very likely that more brands will soon be incorporating the format into their marketing strategies.

AR has already been used in many successful marketing campaigns. Amazon’s Augmented Reality experience allows users to view thousands of products in their homes prior to purchase by simply using the camera on their mobile devices to virtually simulate an object in any location. The technology can be found on many other furniture retailer websites such as  Target, Wayfair, and IKEA. 

Shopping for a new piece of furniture? Amazon’s Virtual Reality experience allows consumers  to simulate how a product would look in your home before you buy.

Some brands are using AR to create amazing and often unexpected user experiences. For example, Pepsi placed AR technology on a London bus shelter that made virtual objects appear real to viewers, including flying UFOs, a giant laser-shooting robot and a tiger. Check out footage of people’s reactions to the ad here.

According to research from Vibrant Media, 67% of media planners and buyers want to incorporate more AR ads into their campaigns to enhance user experience. Apart from the high demand for AR advertising, Vibrant Media discovered that 49% of media agencies believe this new approach to marketing could prevent ad blocking.

With user experience a top priority for advertisers, it is likely more brands will publish content similar to Pepsi in the near future, possibly using digital billboards instead of bus stops, with experiences tailored to the location.

Augmented Reality Ads Fast Facts

The current value of the AR market stands at $3.5 billion.

70% of consumers believe AR can help them learn new personal and professional skills.

88% of Mid-Sized Companies Are Already Using AR in Some Capacity

32 % of consumers use augmented reality, and 73% of mobile AR users reported either high or very high satisfaction with mobile AR experiences

Final Thoughts

Innovation is a constant force driving the evolution of the digital media ecosystem. Advertisers must understand the nuances and key trends impacting the market in order to capitalize on the vast opportunities available through digital advertising. Brands willing to evolve their media plans with new forms of  digital advertising that foster meaningful audience engagements will be better positioned  for growth as these new trends take hold.