Media Landscape Predictions 2021

By Mathieu Yarak, Digital Research Director, Choueiri Group
3min read

2021: With the media world standing at a turning point, the unprecedented nature of this year has made it even harder to predict the future. 

In 2020, we set aside everything we had known, became agile and did our best to become extremely reactive and creative about the solutions which we provided for our clients. Our 2021 Predictions are therefore guiding steps, aimed at helping you sustain business growth in the coming year, by reaching and connecting with your audiences, clients and stakeholders in more meaningful ways.

1. Ad spend - Industry

a. Overall industry’s ad spending will flatten

Ad spend will be maintained if a Covid-19 vaccine is distributed in early 2021. Digital will gain the greater share (48% of the total industry).

TV ad spending will flatten in 2021 after a recovery in 2020

After a continuous decline (pre-Covid19), TV recovered and soared in 2020 due to an increase in stay-at-home TV consumption. Regaining its audience attachment, while attracting new viewers, TV’s spend and share will remain stable in 2021.

eCommerce will continue to hold significant weight

i. MENA retail eCommerce sales will reach a new high in the coming 2 years

With the digital transformation of the region’s retail sector, eCommerce sales will rise by 80% (From $26.9 billion in 2018 to 48.6 billion in 2022). The pandemic has played a major role in shaping digital shoppers: 25% of current Saudi online shoppers are new to online. 75% have increased their buying frequency.

ii. eCommerce ad revenue will become the ‘real threat’ to the digital duopoly

In 2020, Amazon’s U.S. Ad Spend surged and grew by 41% to reach $14.55 billion (Compared to 1.4% for Google and 12.4% for Facebook). The pandemic accelerated this growth as consumers shifted towards online shopping and  performance became “the” KPI for brands’ survival. Amazon is growing across the region and recently opened their Saudi hub, agency and marketplace consultancy “Podean”.

2. Data and Measurement

a. An accelerated shift towards 1st Party Ad Economy

With the GDPR, CCPA, APPI in Japan, and Google planning to phase-out support for 3rd party cookies, plus Apple’s IDFA opt-in overhaul; a new digital era where consumers own their data and decide who gets to use it has begun. Moving forward, we forsee two scenarios:

i. Targeting: More solutions will emerge

Current solutions are still works-in-progress trying to increase their accuracy and scale. The move to next-gen DMPs, along with multiple identity solutions which are vital yet have their own challenges (driven by consent independent of 3rd party cookies and where the main challenge is scale) will become essential for cross-device tracking.

ii. Measurement: More pressure on measurement solutions to cope with a cookie-less world.

Without 3rd party cookies (Vital for accurate attribution models enabling brands to assess the impact of every touchpoint on campaign performance), marketers and publishers will seek new hybrid measurement solutions, while advertisers will begin incorporating incrementality models into their overall analysis. With Apple’s latest announcement, we will witness this transition taking shape in 2021.

3. Consumer Behaviour

Audience behaviours will be more complex and difficult to decipher in 2021

a. Facing a new audience (The periodical media consumer)

The audience which brands were communicating with during the pandemic will change post-pandemic. “The periodical media consumer” had non-linear consumption habits, based on seeking entertainment at home. With increased time spent on every single video content platform (TV, VOD, Video, etc.) they also became content selection experts in a fragmented media scene. How long will their habits sustain and what implications will they have on media hubs and brands?

b. The new hybrid shopper

Consumers expressed their willingness to continue online shopping (with the exception of a few categories) without dropping offline shopping (Part of their culture and daily lives).

Luxury: the rise of the hybrid shopper: Traditionally driven by ‘brick-and-mortar’ sales, owing to high product values and personalized shopping experiences [78%-22%], luxury consumers’ are now shifting to online. The share of dual luxury buyers is predicted (post-covid) to increase from 8% to 18% in the UAE and from 9% to 22% in KSA, where offline purchases are forecasted to dip down to 47% from 80%.

c. User Experience [UX]: The lungs which sustain digital shoppers

Digitally transformed brands must create a human connection online to survive. Today’s experienced shoppers will not tolerate any bumps and seek a seamless experience, from search to receiving the product. Within our fragmented landscape, the user experience defines success and retention.

In 2021, will consumers continue with their newly acquired habits? How will their behaviors and priorities change once a vaccine is introduced and the next new normal is defined? While we’ve done our best to predict what 2021 might bring, there’s really no actual telling, since we’re not fortunetellers.