Even if we all wish we would never see it again, 2020 remains a year that is hard to forget. In addition to a global pandemic (just that), which has been in the news all year, there have been several important events and announcements in the digital arena this year. Whether it’s Google announcing major technological changes, or Facebook and its great influence on our society and the humans that make it up, the digital world is still a constantly evolving universe and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Let’s take a last look at 2020 and the key moments that have marked it in order to better prepare ourselves for what’s coming.
Remember at the beginning of 2020, when Google made their tepid announcement that the end of cookies was coming in 2022? We still don’t have a clear picture of what the full impact of that announcement will be, but one thing is certain, it’s a topic that should be, increasingly, on everyone’s minds for the year ahead, because the change will have major repercussions for a multitude of industries connected to digital. In terms of digital advertising, it’s a safe bet that Google will be further tightening its grasp on the data available for advertisers to activate.
It’s a change that will penalize many, and some whose activities were closely linked to the activation of third-party data will even be forced to close up shop. Still others in the industry have already made moves to announce alternative solutions to advertisers looking to use their products. In short, we haven’t heard the last of this announcement. Rather, this is just the beginning.
The years go by and nothing changes for Mark Zuckerberg’s indomitable beast. After a series of scandals in recent years, Facebook was preparing to use the US election year to demonstrate that the company had fixed the failings exposed during the 2016 election. However, multiple incidents in the United States last spring demonstrated once again that Facebook was incapable of controlling the hate content that’s shared all too often on its platform. This led to a massive boycott by a multitude of advertisers last July, in protest of Facebook’s failure to take action.
Like it or not, we cannot deny that Facebook is and will remain a must for the vast majority of advertisers. Yet, the winds of change seem to be blowing for the platform, recently accused of violating American antitrust laws through the acquisition of any potential competition. Primarily targeting the WhatsApp and Instagram platforms, this is just one of multiple attacks the US government is carrying out in an attempt to diminish the power of GAFAM over the economy and society in general. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the year to come, because while I hold out little hope that these accusations will have a real impact in the end, the proceedings will have an impact on how we talk about our relationship, as users, to these tech giants.
The past year has also brought about a kind of collective awakening to the importance of buying local. Whether it’s the purchases we make as individuals or the government’s desire to develop food autonomy in Quebec, we are all more aware of the importance of stimulating our local economy. The same holds in our approach to media buying. Really, the concept is the same whether we’re talking about a local product or local media. Yes, the cost tends to be slightly higher, but in exchange we get a higher quality product while stimulating the local economy. The Quebec media has grown significantly in recent years, and their offering is becoming more and more competitive.
The impact of the death of cookies on programmatic media buying by audience will likely allow contextual programmatic buying (targeting environments/sites) to reclaim its place at the head of the pack. More and more advertisers attribute value to well-positioned banners and the potential disappearance of conversions attributed to banner views means that far more value will be given to the types of ad placements that respond to different, but equally important goals. That’s why it’s part of our role as an agency and advertiser to work closely with Quebec and Canadian media outlets to develop a media ecosystem that’s closely linked to a relevant and competitive ad offering.
In short, 2020 was a year of surprises, but also a year of realizations. Whether it was about our relationship to GAFAM as users and consumers or the importance of having a strong local media ecosystem, our habits are changing and we are having to adapt accordingly. The ball is now in our court: as industry players, it is up to us to consolidate the beneficial habits that have emerged from the adversity encountered over the past year. New habits that, in the end, will have had a positive impact both on our approach to digital media and on our individual relationship to digital.