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Advertising is changing: All the trends you need to survive and thrive

Traditional advertising is undergoing a transformation in the sense that the players are becoming different, where small is trumping big. Also, digital advertising will have a new face in 2021

Remote work environments have been a boon to winning advertising clients There is an uptick in the number of people tuning into live-streams Websites that support visual and voice search will increase their digital commerce revenue by 30%

Traditional advertising is undergoing a transformation in the sense that the players are becoming different, where small is trumping big.

Also, digital advertising will have a new face in 2021.

Both present opportunities for growth.

Traditional advertising

The advertising industry which today is rolled up into five major holding companies, mainly WPP, Omnicom, IPG, Dentsu, and Publicis, is changing. 

The system where all marketing and advertising capabilities lied under one roof for creative, research, PR, media buying and planning, digital production, and social media functions is today bloated. 

There is a correction in the ad business, a rise in a new crop of small, independent creative agencies founded by vets of holding companies that are competing directly with their former employers and landing more work from major brands. 

Another thing leading big brands to smaller agencies is that a lot of advertising work is now being parceled out on a project by project basis, as opposed to the legacy Agency of Record model. 

Many brands are thus choosing to maintain a number of different relationships over monogamy.

Also, remote work environments have been a boon to winning business. 

When on Zoom, no one is looking at how big your agency building is. You’re just engaging with the people on that call, making size almost irrelevant.

This has also enabled smaller shops to recruit and work with great creative talent wherever they may be, instead of just the folks who can commute into the office.

Read: Digital is finally winning the advertising battle for market share globally and regionally

Read: Why advertising with micro-influencers is still an effective marketing strategy

Winning digital advertising tactics

According to Statista, ad spending in the digital advertising market is projected to reach $398 billion in 2021 and the market’s largest segment is Search Advertising with a projected market volume of $172 bn in 2021. 

Here’s a targeted collection of ideas and trends that could create the most impact on your digital advertising.

Speaking out on social issues

Being silent on social misbehavior and inequities is no longer an option, and marketers need to develop a corporate voice across internal and external social channels. 

A study by Accenture shows that the cultural shift towards inclusivity is also impacting purchase behavior, with 41% of shoppers shifting away from retailers that don’t reflect their views on identity and diversity and 29% are willing to switch brands completely if they don’t show enough diversity.


Microcontent will continue to gain prominence. TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Snapchat Spotlight have redefined the way many consumers are digesting content. 

Marketers must adapt and find ways to generate content that may be indirectly associated with their brand but still captivating enough to provide the entertainment factor that these platforms demand.  


Stay at home orders meant events were canceled, and consumers were unable to attend in-person events. They weren’t even able to socialize with their friends and family. 

This led to an uptick in the number of people tuning into live-streams, whether it was a branded live-stream, a live video from their favorite celebrity, or an online workshop. 

On Facebook, live viewings spiked by 50% during lockdown periods, while viewings on Instagram surged 70%.

Amazon Live really got going during the pandemic. Influencers took to the platform to promote their favorite products during live events. What’s more, viewers could make purchases while they were watching. 

User-generated content (UGC) 

Consumers crave enjoyable experiences with brands that are easy and memorable. They want proof before they buy and they want to be reassured.  

UGC has long been an effective way for brands to forge relationships with their customers and provide social proof, and this will be a common theme in 2021 as well. 

Brands that are seen to be non-inclusive, or who don’t appear to be a part of the inclusivity conversation, will likely see impacts in 2021. 

Voice and visual search optimization

An increasing number of consumers are searching via voice-activated tools like Alexa.   

And we can also expect other creative search methods to rise to the top, like visual search.

Tools like Google Lens enable consumers to search for whatever they can see. This means marketers will need to focus even more on image alt-text and sitemaps for images.  

It’s going to be profitable too: Retail Customer Experience estimates that by 2021, “Early adopters that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase their digital commerce revenue by 30%.” 

Top UAE brands that advertised and created awareness  

The five UAE brands that have experienced the highest increases in advertising awareness in 2020 are,, Lifebuoy, Colgate, and Visa, according to YouGov and registered the highest levels of advertising awareness among the five brands, standing at 42.2% and 37.7%, up from 31% and 29.6% respectively. The two large e-commerce platforms have understandably increased their marketing outlay with the pandemic accelerating the shift towards a more digital world.  

For Lifebuoy, the Unilever soap brand, a high-profile handwashing campaign that ran across social media platforms meant an 8.1% increase in awareness on top of the initial 11.8% during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Visa, a global payments technology company experienced a steady increase in awareness across the year, up 8.1% from January 2020.