a table with laptops and other electronics on it

Three Predictions for Digital Ads in 2021

By Douglas Eldridge

The indignities that mankind suffered in 2020 were atrocious. The world put us in our place and showed us that nature is a force that we have yet to conquer. Science will overcome much of what 2020 has thrown at us, but in its wake will be a new world.

One aspect of the new order is the reality of the convergence of the digital and physical world. As many were frantically figuring out how to cope without an office, the good ole' company VPN made sure that the home screen looked the same. When people couldn't leave their homes except for essential reasons, video calls allowed for a semblance of a social life.

The digital world is a place that man invented and can control. We know that the digital world is far from perfect; it's a place where a virus can be an annoyance, but even those are manmade and ours and therefore within our control.

Thanks to the multitude of people that now reside in the digital world, in one report by Twilio, the events of the year 2020 sped digital transformation by 6 years; there's a massive market for advertisers to help fund this digital reality.

It's no secret that governments across the globe are concerned with data and monopolies in the tech world. If it's meant to be a secret, it's not a very good one that platforms like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn have teams of people that can set up ads for any company (albeit at a more expensive cost per click than an expert would). However, there's more than meets the eye. Big tech trying to squeeze money from small businesses in the ad world is just one story. The truth is, we live in a golden age of online advertising if you can look beyond the curtain and really delve in.

Data laws are beginning to take effect, but so far, the effects on advertisers have not been as near as archaic as first thought. In fact, ads are more targeted and are being delivered to a more engaged audience now that advertisers have to put thought and reason into their delivery. As result, advertisers are seeing better click through rates and cheaper conversions over a multitude of platforms.

With the rise of streaming, both digitally and audibly, an audience that used to cost thousands to millions of dollars to reach are within reach for almost any advertiser, as long as they use a service that has experience in delivering to connected television (CTV) and beyond.

Like all of 2020 and the consequences of data laws, the future isn't set in stone. There's no way of knowing what the future will bring. We feel like we have some pretty good guesses though. Check out the three predictions we see for digital advertising in 2021…


Much like the Mirror of Erised, in which a fully contented person would only see him or herself looking back, a person who constantly deletes their cookies wouldn't have ads retarget them. Advertisers retarget their audience by using cookies from your browser to learn about you and subsequently serve you ads. Think of cookies as crumbs you leave behind when you visit a site. For example, if you are looking searching for a new cowboy hat and you visit a website specializing in cowboy hats, advertisers will use this information to place you into a specific audience pool and will serve you ad after ad. On the other hand, if you clear your cookies, you would essentially become invisible to your advertisers and they wouldn't be able to retarget you.

Browsers such as Safari and Chrome, with most others certainly to follow, are doing away with cookies. So, what are advertisers to do?

Advertisers will have to stop living in the past. Beyond the obvious, like collecting first party data, and advertising directly to people they've obtained permission to send ads to, they'll need to learn the consumer in real-time and be where they are. Contextual advertising will overtake cookies, with? merely learned behavior, and poorly at that.

Contextual advertising isn't as straightforward and easy as serving up an ad to someone who has merely visited a specific site. Ads are instead served based on the topic a user is interested in, determined by the websites that the user has visited. For example, if a user is searching for new cars, then he or she will likely be served ads for auto dealerships. Contextual advertising will take content and engagement to the next level; if someone veers off topic, they could be off to an entirely different industry that will be working just as hard to engage them.


We're already working in an age where companies assume that tracking a sale is as easy as jumping into Google Analytics and connecting the dots. Anyone with a minute of marketing experience knows that it's not that simple, yet… it's not that hard either. Of course, what you get in Google Analytics is a) only the tip of the iceberg and b) what's happened in the past, not what's going to happen in the future.

One way to measure both the past and predict the future is to attribute actual sales to online activity. After all, advertisers are in this game to sell, not for clicks and form submissions. By understanding not only a person's path to purchase but also who the person is and the characteristics of a real-life buyer rather than a dreamed-up persona, analytics can be used to target exactly the right people.

Silverback Advertising partners with expert teams that can accurately tie the sale of a product back to the first time they were served an ad. From there we can understand the timeline, gauge the interest - when, where and how, then ultimately use the final data to better target the next person.

While this isn't the final frontier of online advertising, it is a logical step that is great for both consumers and advertisers. Better efficiency and spend for the latter and a better consumer experience for the former.


Display banners have been a ubiquitous part of the internet for as long as an industrious advertiser decided that they could reach people online. While the heinous banners of the 1990s have evolved into something a bit easier on the eyes, advertisers are still often shooting from the hip hoping to land in front of the right audience. With cost per mil, or cost per 1,000 impressions, typically less than $5 across all platforms, they can afford to spray a bit and hope for the best.

The reality is advertisers that do their homework and know their audience are able to hone their message to the right people. Based on the same foundation and principles above that allow Silverback Advertising to attribute sales to online actions, we already have a grasp on who to target before a campaign begins.

Using data to begin a campaign allows us to create ads that change based on a user's search queries and actions. These ads are called dynamic ads. As more and more data are used appropriately and the technology to use it properly continues to trickle down the use of dynamic ads will likely overtake the traditional banners that we've grown accustomed to.

2021 will undoubtedly not be "back to normal" and in digital media there never is any going back, only forward. Going forward means leveraging data and audiences like never before. Should you want to discuss more insights contact any one of our data scientists at SilverBack Advertising.