Digital Advertising Trends to Watch in 2020


Yes, it is a Competition 

Sometimes the best way to move ahead is by looking back.  At MNI, we’ve taken the pulse of what digital advertising trends moved business in 2019 and thought about how brands can build on these capabilities to create their own momentum.  What follows isn’t a definitive list, but it’s a solid snapshot of the top 10 capabilities in the marketplace that we think are uniquely poised to move the needle for businesses large and small.  This is a work in progress so be forewarned—we may come back with more.

1.     DOOH – Digital Out of Home

Billboards are cool again. They’re dynamic and creative, and part of a growing technology that puts high visibility, targeted advertising in places where there’s constant traffic.  From gas stations, malls and airports to gyms, train stations, and doctors’ offices—Digital Out of Home (DOOH) ads are everywhere, and brands and agencies are all in.

The D in DOOH stands for digital, and that makes all the difference. It means DOOH ads are versatile and interactive, pulling consumers in with real-time offers and touchscreens to personalize messaging. And the technology shows no signs of slowing. 5G will enable near-instant connectivity and data transfer, and AI will take customization and engagement to the next level.

2.    CTV/OTT - Connected TV and Over-the-Top

The number of cord nevers and cord cutters continues to grow.  It’s not just a generational happening but rather a testament to the bronze age of television.  From “McMillions” to Barry to the weather and daily headlines, more and more people get news and entertainment online. 

That’s why more and more brands are tapping into powerful targeting technology—including geo, demo, audience, and contextual—combined with eye-catching creative to reach cord cutters, cord nevers, and everyone in between.

3.    Native

One of the things I want to do in 2020 is go to Japan.  You know why?  Because when I was on the Travel + Leisure website, I viewed a native ad highlighting the delish food served inflight by Japan Airlines.  Native ads have a way of doing that.  By integrating sponsored messaging into curated editorial environments, a halo effect is evoked. 

That’s the power of native and why, in 2020, more and more brands will be tapping into ways to employ this custom content into their media plans. Native ads can be found everywhere, from your favorite publisher sites to your favorite social channels. 

Move consumer from awareness to action.

As a digital advertisement that fits seamlessly into the user experience, native ads are more contextual than other forms of digital adverting.  Instead of appearing off to the side or across the top the page, native ads mimic the look, feel, and function of a medium’s content, making it more likely that your audience will trust them.

Targeted environments. Seamless integration.

Native advertising is a proven winner when it comes to reaching relevant and engaged audiences in targeted environments.

4.    Cover Wraps

Who doesn’t love being on the cover of a magazine?  Clearly John Legend loved his bragging rights of being the Sexiest Man Alive.  So, while you or I may not achieve this coveted status (maybe we will!), brands can. Now, I know you’re going to say, “Cover Wraps are print, Silly, and this is a piece on digital technology.”  Of course, you’re right—but so am I.  These two mediums are seamlessly integrated, and the more advertisers leverage the power of two the stronger their return will be.  One medium gets you in the moment, maybe it catches you.  The other medium invites you in to imagine and seek more information.  Can you guess which is which? 


5.    Social Listening

How are you feeling today? Social knows your mood.  It knows what you’re feeling and posting and thinking of buying.  For example, I’m served a lot of ads for furniture and dog food—what does that say about me, and is it accurate? By leveraging data, social gives advertisers a powerful way to serve highly relevant messaging, in real time, to drive greater engagement.

      • Prospects are identified in real-time, so you can make messaging relevant and targeted.
      • Messaging is highly targeted and served to highly qualified audiences who are actively responding to content related to your brand.


6.    In-App Video Game Ads

Ever notice that person on the subway totally immersed in their phone? Chances are they’re playing Candy Crush, it’s an obsession.  Users are spending more and more time in their apps, and not just social. Video games—from Pokémon GO (yes, it’s still huge) and Minecraft to Candy Crush and Call of Duty—provide a highly targeted platform for brands and advertisers to reach a very specific consumer.

And their mobile nature is ideal for geo-location targeting.  That’s why in-app advertising is one of the fastest-growing forms of mobile advertising. It’s a powerful way to reach and convert engaged users and exclusive audiences, boosting ROI.


7.    Geo-Fencing + Foot Traffic

Precise geo-fencing technology reaches consumers inside stores (including competitors) and at events, dealerships, the gym, doctors’ offices, and more. It targets on-the-go consumers—then retargets them later, across devices.

It helps connect with people in a personal way, serving them messaging that includes information and special offers that are based on their location. And since it’s all mobile and GPS based, it’s an efficient and effective way to drive local foot traffic.

8.    Conquesting

Competitive conquesting allows you to disrupt a competitor’s client base and advertising schedule, so you can capitalize on their consumers. This also educates prospective consumers and elevates perceptions about your brand. Competitive conquesting actively targets competitor customers or sales prospects with your brand’s own advertising messages.

There are many ways to competitive conquest:

      • App Conquesting: Proprietary, deterministic solutions, like MNI’s DataMatch, allow brands to uncover SDK data so we can target mobile device owners who are using specific competitive apps.
      • Geo-Fencing Locations: Create perimeters around specific competitor store and event locations, showcasing your brand once consumers enter and for up to 30 days after they leave.
      • TV Listening: Serve video messages to those who have frequently seen competitor television messages.

9.    TV Listening

Target mobile phones and desktop computers with pre-roll videos in real-time, as consumers are watching your TV commercial or a competitor’s. It’s a powerful way to encourage them down the funnel to convert on their handheld devices.

Comprehensive SDK data delivers valuable insights about what people are watching, by pulling data from people’s smartphones. Then, live TV retargeting extends your TV buy to digital, reaching users who have just been exposed to your TV ads and retargeting them across digital devices.

      • A deterministic connection between TV and digital is made, guaranteeing they are reaching and measuring the same exact viewers of their TV ads, their competitors' TV ads, or any TV content.


        • Real-Time Sync. Retarget your audience immediately during or after TV ad exposure.
        • Multiple Data Sources. Automate Content Recognition (ACR) tech in mobile apps, Smart TVs, living room devices, and OTT apps provide a complete view of what your desired audience is watching.

10.  Augmented Reality

Seeing is believing and Augmented Reality (AR) gets it done.  When someone talks about AR, they are referring to technology that overlays information and virtual objects on real-world screens in real-time.  Many developers are creating AR apps, and this has opened the technology to many applications and a broader audience.

Earlier we referenced that Cover Wraps work together with digital tactics—same with AR.  AR is an amazing way to give a print ad more play.  It provides a nimbleness and versatility that makes the page come alive.  Imagine you’re targeting a new homeowner or young family who wants to ready a baby’s room.  Great.  They have a newborn, so chances are they don’t want to physically go to Ikea. But a well-executed creative ad on a parenting or home-remolding magazine will bring the store to them.  AR allows users to try out a shade of paint or see digital images of a room with crib and dresser.  It’s fast, interactive, and gives the user an immersive experience they own and can share. 

5 Cutting Edge Ways to Leverage Augmented and Virtual Reality, according to AdAge:

  1. 3D visualization
  2. Teasing product launces
  3. Adding dimension to a critical touchpoint
  4. Employee training
  5. Excitement about products and purchases

Successful ad campaigns start here.