2021 Global State of the State

By Jennifer Ziman, Senior Global Media Director

2020 will be remembered as one of the most notorious years in history globally.  COVID-19 left its mark on every nation, and in the media landscape.  New strategies and trends developed with the move to working from home, and already rising and declining channel trends accelerated.  Life – and media – will forge ahead, adapting to “new normal”.  Global media spend is expected to continue growing to hit $865B by 2024.  However, media is not thriving as fast as it had been in previous years. While we continue to see development, it is at a 4.5% declining rate of growth YoY (expected to reach $614B in 2020).  Due to the pandemic, almost all markets will see a decline in growth in media spend, with Spain, Italy and India being hit the hardest.  Interestingly, China is the only market forecasted to be flat with ~0.3% YoY growth.

Here are a few global trends, and how we are using them to help our clients be successful in these unpredictable times.


Global Mobile Internet Use is Increasing
Despite an increase of users online, the ownership of desktop computers and/or tablets continues to fall in many countries.  Mobile smartphones are the primary device – and in some cases the only digital device – people use worldwide.  As seen in the eMarketer chart below,  this is even more prominent in APAC.  Developing countries, such as Brazil, China, Egypt and India, have long been heavy mobile users.  However, we are now starting to see this same trend in France, Russia, Sweden and the US. 

The World is Tuning in to Digital Audio
On average, more than 40% of advertising campaigns included digital audio.
As seen with Spotify’s Musical Map of the World, digital audio platforms have extensive reach, and leveraging services like Spotify or Pandora for advertising has global implications.  Advertisers can take advantage of the popularity of these platforms by targeting specific audiences or even sponsoring custom playlists that align to audience behaviors and a brand’s personality.

Podcasts are also growing in popularity and crossing global borders with their influence. The top growing countries for podcasting are Chile, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, and China, and the country that listens to podcasts the most is South Korea, at 58% of the population (compared to 50% in the U.S.).  Sponsoring podcasts whose content aligns to your target audience is a great way to generate awareness as well as position your brand as a thought leader in a given category. 

Contextual Advertising is Surging
The rollout of regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU, followed by the recently enacted California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), has influenced marketers worldwide to rethink the ways in which they reach audiences across borders and deliver better ad experiences.

Led largely in part by Google’s and Apple’s privacy initiatives, the industry is moving quickly to a cookieless environment, forcing many businesses to shift their strategies to focus more on contextual and keyword/content-based approaches.  

The important differentiator for contextual advertising is that it uses page-level data instead of cookie-based or audience data. Cookie data tracks devices based on browsing history, and audience data is developed through 1st, 2nd, and 3rd party sources, also largely tied back to cookies. However, contextual advertising focuses solely on the information available on the page.

Some of the most efficient programmatic strategies involve contextual targeting. Building distinct targeting strategies around brand, competitor, interests, or other keywords drives some of the best performance around advertiser KPIs, as the targeting is timely and relevant based on the content being consumed.. 


Accelerated Growth in OTT Streaming and Digital Video
The rise of streaming services, smart TVs, and digital video all contribute to the growing trend of cord-cutting and expanding the popularity of what is referred to as over-the-top (OTT). OTT is an exciting medium for advertisers, as it provides more transparency and accuracy for reaching and measuring audiences than traditional linear television advertising.  B2B marketers can leverage data segments as well as targeted account lists on OTT, although data may still be limited in some regions.

In many countries, especially in NAM and LATAM, and parts of APAC, streaming service usage is starting to equal that of live TV.  In Brazil, 86.2% of internet users watched streaming services, compared to 89.8% watching live TV. 

OTT can be difficult and expensive to execute globally – from a media and creative perspective.  However, brands with compelling videos can be distributed via programmatic and social platforms.  If you design your creative with global distribution in mind and can simply translate subtitles as overlays, it makes it a more affordable proposition, adding depth and awareness layers to your media campaign.


Adoption Rate on Smart Home Technology is Slow
Although other digital platforms are seeing significant growth YoY, especially due to the pandemic, smart home devices are still slow to be adopted.

If the pandemic continues on much longer, this may change as users look for more and more ways to improve their home/work environment.

There are many ways to take advantage of smart home technology, especially through smart speakers.  For one B2B tech client, we worked with Harvard Business Review to sponsor their “management tip of the day”.  This was an integrated campaign that ran in conjunction with display banners on HBR.org, as well as content sponsorships and native placements to generate optimal visibility and thought leadership.  Many people also listen to podcasts and music through their smart speakers, so by advertising with audio partners such as Pandora and Spotify you can reach large audiences.

The Pandemic is Expediting the Decline of Print
It is understandable that OOH and events would see a huge year-over-year decline in spend due to COVID-19.  However, the already waning print channel has also been greatly affected.

For quite some time we’ve seen the decline of print readership.  While print isn’t declining in all markets, overall we have seen print newspapers and magazines have huge decreases in media engagement in 2020.  Some of the largest declines have been seen in South Africa, Colombia, Hong Kong and Romania.

Looking Forward
2020 has injured an arm in the media landscape, but like anyone with an arm injury, we use our other arm and tools to help us while we recover.  2021 and 2022 are going to be times to find new developments as growth channels evolve and expand.  We are already seeing these changes with people looking for new ways to connect with others through social audio platforms like Clubhouse.  

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that resonates with me during these times… “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”  It’s time to find those windmills.


UK-based media and entertainment group Global. July 2019

Buzzsprout April 2019

Digital TV Research

eMarketer April, 2020

eMarketer June, 2020

eMarketer September, 2020

eMarketer October 28,2020

Global Web Index August 2020