Advertising Around The World: American Ad Industry in 2020

As much as we may want to cast 2020 from our memories, the years’ troubles came with just as many important trends, and the advertising industry would be wise to keep them in mind as this year unfolds. Now that the dust has mostly settled on our now out of date calendars, let’s take a look at what 2020 did to the advertising industry, the consumer, and how its influence may stretch far into this decade. We cant forget the wild year America, as well as the rest of the world had, and we would be wise to recognize the great change, odd trends, and cultural shifts that we experienced. Like they say, hindsight really is… (too soon? I’ll skip that one for now). Onward!

First, Stop!

The first intense shift in the advertising industry was at the onset of the pandemic. Brands had to react to a completely changed world and consumer-base. Many brands pulled campaigns they were running, drastically cutting ad spend as sales evaporated. Relevancy and profits hung in the balance as Search, Display and TV advertising spend all took nosedives in the billions of dollars. Heartfelt, warm yet repetitive messages about togetherness, “alone, together” and “we are here to serve you” themed ads were everywhere. But this is what the people needed. Frightened and anxious, having their beloved brands share messages of hope, encouragement and camaraderie was taken well. 

Despite the dip, advertising spend is expected to bounce back, and as we have seen at the end of 2020 and into the new year, brands are being more innovative and creative than ever, taking a healthy advantage of the times and making fun, powerful content to reach their audience at home….

Home (not)Alone

For most consumers, there was no place like home. Mostly as there was no place else to go. This triggered a massive shift in media consumption, shopping habits and spending patterns. Consumers were no longer exposed to billboards, guerilla tactics, and in-person shopping. In turn, digital advertising became absolutely critical for brands, with profit and relevancy in check. People need to stay connected, and when it can’t be with people, a TV suffices. Streaming skyrocketed in popularity, online shopping platforms became second nature, and this led to large shifts in consumer buying habits. Brands recognized that their advertising strategy needed to recognize this shift to online and at home, and the importance of a good website, app, delivery and other touchless, virtual tools cannot be overstated. WFH (work from home) became the normal, and another blog could be written on the fate of the in-person workplace, and if the advertising industry will generally remain WFH once the COVID threat has subsided, or if the removal of The Office from Netflix was an omen…

Where it Matters Most

One cannot ignore the social and political movements that swept through the nation, and neither could brands. Rather than blocking out the news and focusing on their brand’s message, brands decided to come alongside the news and social issues, deciding “to appear alongside content that aligned with their values”, writes the IAS Team from their article about 2020 ad trends. Rather than ignoring what was going on, brands quickly saw that to remain relevant, they had to address the issues going on, many times coming alongside their audience in the fight against racism. Brand transparency, representation and diversity rose in importance (rightfully so), and we can expect this trend to continue as the national fight against system racism continues through the decade. 

Brands learned to adapt, fast. 2020 proved a great struggle for all of us, and maintaining relevance, brand love and sales was no small feat for many brands. Yet we are resilient creations, with a knack for making do, learning, and pushing through when times get tough. 

These large trends of online shopping, social justice and streaming are a few of many trends that 2020 started, and accelerated into 2021. As this year develops, take care to notice the broad themes and movements across the industry, society, current events, and how they all mingle. Let’s make foresight 2021.

By Micah Hill


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