2019 was another dizzying year, with most of us having to work ever “smarter” in order to keep up with the quickening evolution of technology, industries and working environments. And it’s no great surprise, given the accelerating pace of technological change.

Last year, we offered up a list of advertising trends to look out for in 2019. Though we didn’t hit every nail squarely on the head, our predictions weren’t too far from the mark. But what’s in store for 2020? Well, here are the trends we think will come to define advertising in 2020.

Paid Search Stays #1

There’s no sign of PPC losing its crown in 2020. Google’s innovation is strong, with its AI formats, targeting and attribution unsurpassed. That said, search is being challenged in younger audiences who get so much from social, messaging and video that search is almost unnecessary.

Voice search (currently circa 20% of search) on mobile, as well as assistants, is also challenging for the advertising industry; watch for the rise of image-based creative on increasingly large assistant screens.

Amazon Hits Its Stride

2019 was huge for Amazon, and 2020 will only be bigger still as more advertisers and agencies comprehend the beast-like power of Amazon’s ad ecosystem. Across the Amazon business (search, ecommerce, digital assistants, video etc...) there are emerging head to heads with Google.

This convergence is most clearly expressed in a recently heard stat; Google has 6 times Amazon’s ecommerce intent search, but the search on Amazon is 6 times more likely to convert. Both 6x numbers are unsourced but the parity and convergence is compelling.

eCommerce Advertising

Ecommerce firms who traditionally built their brands offline and ran performance advertising online are increasingly using digital advertising across the funnel and customer journey.

The emerging video, social and native ad formats find and engage their shoppers, moving them from consideration to conversion. 2020 will see the winning brands with growth mindsets using far less siloed and more integrated media strategies.

AI & Machine Learning

Across 2019, Machine Learning and AI have allowed marketers to deliver increasingly relevant and engaging ads with ever lower production costs. When combined with ROI targeted automated bidding strategies, performance efficiency becomes a table-stake.

The real value-add increasingly sits in the strategy, deployment across channel, analytics, conversion optimisation and attribution.

Critical to AI and Machine Learning is correct Tag Manager and Analytics setups to gather data and segment audiences. Ultimately, we’ll achieve truly personalised ads but expect far more advanced segmentation and near-personalisation in 2020

Video is the New TV

Everyone with teenagers knows the dominance of Youtube and the readers of this probably watch far more Netflix and Amazon Prime than they do linear TV. When did you last turn to the RadioTimes to find out what was on the box tonight?

Ad spend still lags behind the consumer with a distrust of digital video still present. We believe that this distrust will be overcome in 2020 as advertisers finally follow their customers.

Creative has been a barrier for many clients in 2019 but, again, AI may offer the remedy with some snazzy creative tools due in Q1 from Google. If you are interested in these creative betas, reach out to the friendly SeachStar team.

Global, Cross-Channel Measurement

Brands have been demanding greater clarity on their media investments for years and finally there are solutions for cross-media/platform measurement on the horizon. Now, a movement is building towards new standards in global media management, which only looks set to gain momentum as 2020 progresses.

P&G and Unilever have teamed up with a host of other high-profile brands, including Mastercard and EA, on a global initiative with the goal of “real transparency of media performance, assessing unduplicated reach and impact across publishers”. Watch this space.

The Screw Turns Ever Tighter on Big Tech

With Amazon, Google and Facebook all facing calls for greater regulation, the independent future of ‘Big Tech’ hangs in the balance. How this plays out at geopolitical level is far above our pay grade, but the tectonic plates are moving.

Speaking of tectonic shifts, we may also start seeing the Chinese giants flex their muscles. Tiktok, WeChat, TenCent. All rival Silicon Valley’s finest and may be downloaded into our smartphones across 2020 (if you haven't already).

That’s it for predictions. Many thanks to all our friends and partners for a truly fantastic 2019 - best wishes for a happy and healthy 2020 to all. See you this time in 2021 when we’ll reflect on how accurate our predictions have been.