The Year Of The Pivot: How Agencies Adapted Their Strategies In 2020

Larson Banilower, VP, Head of Agency at Criteo discusses the shifts agencies had to make in 2020 and how they'll continue to evolve in 2021.
Updated on December 2, 2022

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As brands have reevaluated how they communicate in unprecedented times, agencies have spent the better part of 2020 adapting their strategies to fit into this new reality. Understanding changes in consumer behavior, improving the consumer experience, and fostering industrywide collaboration have each emerged as key initiatives in service of this larger mission.

Over the past several months, powerful insights across these categories have crystallized into new best practices that promise to live on long after the coronavirus is gone. Here are a few of the ways forward-thinking agencies have adapted this year – and how they plan to continue evolving as we head into 2021.

Navigating shifting consumer trends

It’s no secret that consumers have shifted their daily routines since the onset of the global pandemic – everything from how they eat, shop, and connect with loved ones has changed. Based on data from 856 of Criteo’s retailers, ecommerce transactions in October saw a 28% year-over-year increase in the United States. Additionally, according to Nielsen, in-streaming consumption across all video has increased 74% amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Jason Crawford, VP, head of display, US, iProspect, these changes are necessitating new methods to target the right consumers and drive demand.

“In an increasingly dynamic and competitive ecommerce market, as we’ve seen over the last few months, using sophisticated data signals and message personalization has been key for us to accelerate demand and sales for our clients in 2020,” Crawford said. “By partnering with Criteo, the iProspect team has been able to provide our clients with better insights regarding relevant shopping behaviors leading to more informed targeting and ultimately, tailored creative that is optimized to drive the desired consumer behavior.

“We look forward to seeing what new behaviors consumers will adopt as we head into 2021, and how we can help our clients succeed in reaching them within relevant content and brand-safe environment that drives performance.”

Prioritizing the consumer experience  

In response to COVID health concerns, shelter-in-place orders and other factors, consumers have rapidly shifted their lives online. To keep up with these trends, the ad tech space has shifted as well. Now, as consumers become savvier, vendors and marketers are expected to deliver a more personalized experience than ever before. Marketers need to stay connected at every step of the consumer journey to remain relevant and avoid the risk of being forgotten.

“The rapid acceleration of the commerce industry has blurred more lines and opened up possibilities for new collaborations, activations and connection points with the consumer,” said Amy Lanzi, EVP, North America Practice Lead, Publicis Commerce. “Our goal as marketers and agencies is to maximize these opportunities and super serve the consumer at every part of their journey – adding value along the way. Putting consumers at the center has always been a priority for Publicis Commerce and leveraging the right data can help us ultimately build and nurture the unique relationships our clients have with their customers.”

Collaborating to find a new identity solution

At the beginning of this year, Google announced that it will begin deprecating third-party cookies on Chrome in 2022 – instantly starting an industrywide countdown. While this presents the ecosystem with the challenge of finding an alternative to third-party cookies to ensure advertisers reach their target audiences, it also presents an opportunity to create an even better solution that benefits consumers – as well as advertising players. To do this, the industry is coming together in ways it never has before to discuss various options and promote testing and adoption to advertisers and publishers.

According to Kolin Kleveno, SVP, Addressable Audiences at Tinuiti: “As the industry looks to an alternative to third-party cookies, it’s been incredibly encouraging to see the collaborative nature between brands, agencies, ad tech vendors and publishers in finding a new solution for identity. There will likely be a handful of solutions that will end up being adopted, so it’s critical that all sectors of the ecosystem join forces to collectively reimagine digital advertising. At Tinuiti, we’ve committed to preparing our clients with the right information and tools to help them effectively reach consumers online.”

In practice, collaboration has taken different forms – including technology consolidation. For example, Criteo’s recent collaboration with The Trade Desk centered on an agreement to join Unified ID 2.0, an industrywide initiative that will create a streamlined and scalable identity solution across the ecosystem. This identity solution puts consumers in control with a proposed transparency portal, enabling them to define and manage their advertising rights and preferences and data privacy. This makes it obvious how and why people are being advertised to. For example, if they said yes to personalization, they know why the site that they’re on is allowing a personalized ad to be delivered.

In many cases, it is still early on in the solution-building phase. Next year is positioned to become a year of action, as vendors and agencies take the things they have learned this year and continue to adapt them into strategies that will delight customers and drive success.

Ann Pyle

Ann revels in finding the simplest and clearest way to convey a thought. Her favorite word is 'moxie', which she tries to embody whenever possible. She's been developing content strategies and writing for the tech and B2B space for more than a decade. This, along with her SEO and advertising agency ...

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