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Considering 2021 Channel Trends Into the New Year

As of this post’s writing on December 17, 2020, five states in the US have seen more than 89.6 average daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people tested in the last seven days according to the CDC. In recent weeks, many cities have re-imposed restrictions on business hours to help curb the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, some countries, including the US, are authorizing vaccines for use. Consequently, there is an increase in consumers’ and businesses’ expectations to see an economic recovery in the US in 2021.

This economic recovery, and the days, weeks, and months leading up to it will influence shifts in consumer behavior as people who have been working from home, or not working, transition to in-office work schedules. This may lead to shifts in out-of-home (OOH), digital out-of-home (DOOH), digital audio, video and over-the-top (OTT) consumption, which will affect advertisers’ 2021 spend plans.

Video & Over-The-Top (OTT)

Video is ready to pick up diverted audio consumption, which already accounts for a significant share of advertising spend and is a force to be reckoned with in programmatic display advertising. Thirty-nine percent of consumers reported consuming more online video (Youtube, TikTok) since the outbreak began, and 38% reported consuming more online TV / streaming. Not only are there more viewers, but time spent streaming has increased 96% - 100% on internet-connected devices. As companies are increasingly extending their work-from-home (WFH) or remote-work policies, it is expected that video consumption will remain strong throughout 2020 and 2021. It remains to be seen whether stagnation in OTT viewership growth will be affected by decreased content output as a result of COVID-19 shutdowns. However, some platforms like Netflix and Amazon are ramping up their regional OTT content creation during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of increased global viewership.

Digital Audio

Digital audio has seen slow but steady growth in listenership, but lags in measurability compared with other digital channels. With fewer people commuting to an office, which used to be commonly dedicated time for digital audio consumption, the channel has seen a 1% decrease in average time spent per day this year.

Spotify, however, has seen a light at the end of the tunnel and is making moves to conquer the podcast advertising market through its acquisition of podcast hosting company Megaphone. This acquisition means that Spotify can use its proprietary ad placement tech for all podcasts on Megaphone, not just podcasts on the platform that are hosted by Spotify, which opens up a world of new potential ad placements for advertisers who find their consumers through this channel.

As a channel that is already criticized for its limited reporting and measurement, and knowing that an economic recovery is on the horizon but not at the doorstep, digital audio listenership in 2021 may remain low. However, the effects of Spotify’s programmatic ad placement technology into its podcasts may help grow the ad market.


Out-of-home (OOH) advertising has been evolving for a long time as it adapts to the expansion of technology & measurability in advertising. Creativity in storytelling and micro-moments are defining success in non-digital OOH, with increasingly purchase-conscious consumers.

Measurability is greater in the digital out-of-home (DOOH) space, which is simply OOH advertising augmented with ad tech. This year, DOOH has driven nearly 30% of OOH revenue globally. As businesses safely open their doors to consumers, DOOH will play an important role in engaging consumers in dynamic new ways. Trends like curbside pickup means consumers will engage with DOOH on the way to the store’s parking lot, but may never interact with micro-DOOH in-store. This advertising medium is a great brand-safe advertising option that will likely reach more consumers in 2021 than 2020.

Advertisers have seen that during the pandemic, user behavior has shifted away from audio, leading some to question what the platform’s growth will look like in 2021. Video has shown its strength, but the question remains as to whether video consumption will continue to grow at comparable rates year- over-year, especially as people spend more time out of home (presumably, after an efficacious vaccine is introduced and widely administered). OOH and DOOH face the same uncertainty as audio – many believe that in-store shopping trends have changed forever, frequently referred to as the “new normal” of consumer behavior.

As consumer-readiness increases in 2021, a full-funnel media strategy is more crucial than ever to stay connected to consumers on their terms. These media channels are not the only channels that have seen disruption in 2020. Check out more of our media blog posts here.