Media planning implications for 2021 and beyond

Media planning implications for 2021 and beyond

The five big areas of change, issues and trends that will impact media planning in 2021

By Carl Carter, Marketing Strategy & Effectiveness Director, IRI

After a year of unpredictable change, it’s no surprise that many businesses are looking for a bit more stability and the ability to plan in 2021. But, following news of the removal of third-party cookies, the coming iOS IDFA privacy changes and the rise of 5G, as well as changing behaviours, media planners still have a lot to consider for smooth future planning.

Discover what’s changing in the world of media buying, the new media formats to follow, incoming legislation and the changing audience behaviours you need to be aware of in 2021 and beyond.

To help media teams plan for the future in a still uncertain climate, I’ve laid out the top issues, that will impact the world of media planning in five key areas this year. Each one includes my recommendation for brands to help them respond to the changes and maximise growth.



Google’s announcement that it will phase out the use of third-party cookies on Chrome browsers by 2022 due to GDPR legislation has changed the nature of ad targeting forever. Their removal will prove a challenge as media partners struggle to target, track and re-track in as detailed a way as previously possible.

First-party data is one element of the answer to this problem because it’s permissioned and likely to be good quality. However, on its own, first-party data has its limitations, such as difficulties of achieving scale and reach. The gold comes from overlaying that first-party data with contextual data sources to help brands develop purchase-based planning and targeting to determine opportunity areas.

Read more: Find out how to develop growth beyond the cookie

Media and technology

Media and technology

Walled garden walls get higher. A Walled Garden is a closed digital ecosystem in which all the operations are controlled by the owner, such as Facebook or Google. And it’s something that usually brings advertisers out in a sweat. Both those technology providers keep data from their systems within their business walls, giving them full control over the use of that data, targeting and measurement. Privacy changes are often a catalyst to support further data sharing with walled gardens.

And with Google phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome, it’s an issue that is likely to only grow. Therefore, unless you work with a partner who has a relationship with a Walled Garden organisation, understanding the impact of their media offering will be a challenge. To do that, we recommend choosing an independent commissioned measurement partner who understands the channels and can provide data at a granular level.

In early 2021 we will see Apple’s iOS 14 and IDFA privacy update implications, leading to limits on tracking to device opportunities. In particular, Apple is introducing a stricter opt-in policy where users can choose whether to share their unique IFDA (Identifier for Advertisers) within individual apps where they are served advertising. By default, advertisers will not be able to target by IDFA until the user opts in. This will actually impact one of the largest walled gardens, Facebook who rely on IDFA to target users in-app. This lack of data means they will likely move from deterministic to probabilistic ways to identify and target users, a theme we will see growing in the industry. Deterministic measures are a true known one-to-one match whereas probabilistic relies on data signals and proxies to determine a user or group of users.

Due to growing privacy issues mentioned above, consistency and scale will be more difficult when matching use-level data in 2021. This will particularly become a challenge for FMCG brands who need to sell a lot of products for incremental growth and penetration. However, just as with the iOS issue, IRI has developed a number of alternative ways to leverage retail sales and media partner data with a goal to drive sales rather than just ad exposure. We advise our clients to discuss their objectives with our media team so we can work out how best to drive those growth outcomes.

The growth of 5G data is set to revolutionise how we engage with the internet, media and advertising from this year, providing high-speed mobile internet up to 200Mbps. This will be a game changer for opportunities to embrace 4K video, augmented reality, real-time data feeds, and app gamification. It’s currently too early to be factoring 5G into existing media plans but it’s a good idea to test it out on digital channels which will be likely to leverage 5G in the future, such as video formats like YouTube, Amazon , Unruly and Teads as well as more experiential Augmented Reality tests.

Customer Behaviour

Customer Behaviour

Digital usage was already growing but COVID-19 accelerated digital adoption, the speed of which makes estimating audience size difficult for future media planning and investment decisions. To get ahead of this, IRI recommends testing digital channels to understand their impact and be ready for upcoming shifts and penetration opportunities in the future.

Since the first lockdown, brands have become increasingly focused on Direct to Consumer (D2C) channels. Kraft Heinz launched their Heinz to Home offer, Roberts Bakery spent just four weeks getting its website, which sells Get Baking kits, up and running and there are many more examples. We’ve also seen impressive growth in delivery apps. In 2020, Morrisons, Waitrose, Co-op, Aldi and M&S/BP all partnered with Deliveroo to bring groceries to customers’ homes. Brands should consider whether this will work as an alternative for them. A partnership with a delivery brand like Deliveroo can be a viable alternative for many as well as subscription services. These new and growing arrangements support one-to-one consumer relationships and are an opportunity to build those first- party data sets.

Despite spending so much time at home, traditional TV may not be as prominent as it once was across audiences, making way for the growth of connected TV services. Paid TV broadcasters and streaming services may limit opportunities for traditional advertising. To combat this, it is vital to have a framework for measurement, optimisation and simulation. Regular monitoring will maximise share of voice and deliver against business objectives.

Personalisation comes in many forms, but typically refers to content, offers and interactions that are highly tailored to shoppers based on specific data about that individual. Manufacturers need to consider how they can appeal to this need with varying levels of personalisation. By working with retail and channel partners, to align offers to high value, or new penetration opportunity shoppers to create a sustainable growth platform for your brand based on identifying and understanding your customer.

Unsurprisingly we’ve seen a massive boost in online shopping, which is set to account for 22% of total UK grocery sales by 2025. The growth of E-Commerce requires a different approach and means ensuring that media is optimised for both online and offline sales and considering how your budget will reflect this. We recommend holistic media and shopper activation planning to ensure every pound is working as hard as it can.

Exploration and evaluation to understand how shoppers go through their purchase journey is vital. But, as Brand Architects and Google research notes, the way that people make decisions when shopping online is messy. To combat this, testing various iterations of the purchase funnel has become commonplace to answer investment questions and optimise media - something IRI has examples of to guide you.

Media Buying

Media Buying

Standard buying metrics are slowly being left behind; instead, there is a focus on attention. In turn, we see attention-based ad buying increase. Attention is created from data generated over time from digital media models, such as  Adelaide who quantify media quality through the lens of attention metrics to aid optimal advertising. The focus on this type of buying is an excellent opportunity to increase ROI. However, it’s worth noting these metrics have not been fully proven from a sales outcome perspective. 

Amazon advertising continues to grow, boasting a more than £4 billion publishing business and one of the richest data centres online. They offer media targeting for FMCG clients and cross-platform advertising using first-party data. IRI has partnered with Amazon Advertising in the US and three European markets for years. It might surprise some to know that the results suggest it is an impactful channel for both online and offline sales. The offering is undoubtedly something to be tested and considered for many manufacturers. 

Similarly, video sharing service TikTok is going nowhere after seeing continual growth in 2020 and we’ve already seen many FMCG advertisers investing in the network. TikTok users spend an average of 46 minutes a day on the app, more than users of Facebook, presenting an opportunity to engage with the audience in a rich and salient way. Although our analysis is still early, and data options are limited, our media team see TikTok as an excellent opportunity for brands focused on younger audiences and families. 

Additionally, given the growth of radio, music and podcast streaming means digital audio advertising shouldn’t be forgotten. Digital Audio Exchange (DAX, formerly Global Media) allows brands to maximise messaging in a medium where content can be consumed anywhere, allowing for localised targeting and ads targeted to the customer journey. 

IRI recently partnered with Pepsi Max on an award-winning campaign to test the power of DAX in relation to sales uplift. The pilot campaign tracked three Pepsi Max audio creative assets shared on DAX audio in a one-mile sample region of the North-East.

Using IRI analysis of POS data from the geo-fenced convenience stores, we were able to determine a 4.6% sales increase in Pepsi Max large bottles, along with 12% increased footfall to convenience stores as a result of exposure to the DAX campaign. In terms of awareness, it also delivered a 70% increase in consumers who agree that Pepsi Max is the brand they would choose first.
To get started, brands should carry out a test like this to unlock digital audio potential in many retail channels.

Social Impact

Social Impact

Brands now need to genuinely reflect their values and show their beliefs and ‘brandstanding’ has grown in its popularity in opposition to grandstanding, where brands and influencers are seen as fake or opportunistic. Brands must take a stand to remain relevant in the marketplace; today’s consumers are conditioned to sniff out virtue signalling in a heartbeat.

Defining your values is essential, as is representing them from the inside out. To do so, stakeholders should be part of the creative process and the latest data and trends should be analysed to influence messaging and prevent adverse social reactions. When used right, this can create a sense of community among your customer base and grow engagement. 

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