Stay ahead of the curve with these key trends set to shape the programmatic advertising landscape in 2024.
2024 is shaping up to be a dynamic year in programmatic advertising.
Signal loss is top of mind throughout the industry as third-party cookie deprecation in Google’s Chrome browser becomes a reality: Cookies will be disabled for 1% of users in Q1 of 2024, and the rest appear set to be disabled by year’s end.
Then, there are all the mixed economic indicators and similarly complex consumer behaviors. The US is not in a recession, despite several years of warnings that one was imminent, and unemployment remains low. Still, consumers’ sentiments about the economy and their own financial outlook are souring, federal student loan payments resumed in October, and consumer spending has begun to slow. It’s all increasing advertisers’ need to be more nimble, agile, and creative as they strive to reach consumers on the channels where they’re spending time—and to do so with messages that resonate within the larger economic context.
As if that wasn't enough, there’s also the fact that 2024 is a presidential election year in the US, with forecasts calling for record-setting political ad spend that will have significant impacts on programmatic inventory in the months ahead for political and non-political advertisers alike.
All this to say that 2024 will likely be a wild ride for digital advertisers. And though many things are uncertain in advertising, there’s one constant that has proven reliable year in and year out for the past decade: programmatic advertising. Programmatic digital display ad spending is forecast to grow by 15.9% YoY in 2024, and programmatic digital video by a whopping 20.9% (outpacing the projected 13.6% anticipated for digital ad spending overall).
To take advantage of this growth, especially in context of all the aforementioned complexity, digital advertisers will need to have a pulse on key trends within the programmatic landscape. To that end, we’re digging into how advertisers can make the most of seven key programmatic advertising trends to level up their campaigns in the year ahead.
For the last 20 years, much of programmatic advertising—specifically, cross-domain tracking, targeting, and attribution—has relied upon third-party cookies. But cookies are soon to be a relic of history: Browsers like Firefox and Safari have long since bid them adieu, and Google Chrome’s gradual phase-out has begun. Couple this with data privacy regulations such as CPRA, CCPA, and GDPR, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency on iPhone, and increased privacy demands from consumers, and it’s clear that adapting to signal loss and embracing privacy-friendly alternatives will be key for programmatic advertisers in 2024.
Unfortunately, as of mid-2023, most industries had not embraced cookieless alternatives for programmatic buying. As advertisers adapt to signal loss in 2024, they will have to implement and fine-tune privacy-friendly targeting and attribution strategies within their programmatic campaigns. These tactics could include leaning more heavily on first-party data, leveraging contextual targeting and geotargeting, bidding on premium inventory, using anonymized data sources, targeting using individual platforms’ proprietary data (ex. on social platforms like LinkedIn or through retail media networks), embracing alternative identifiers such as LiveRamp’s RampID, and using audience profiling to create lookalike audience segments.
Since its dramatic public debut in late 2022, generative AI has made waves in the world of digital advertising, and it will continue to shape the programmatic landscape in 2024. The emerging technology will all but certainly present new opportunities as well as pose key challenges—and advertisers will need to navigate its usage with care.
Generative AI could exacerbate problems like made-for-advertising sites (MFAs), since it allows users to produce content rapidly and with minimal human oversight. In other words: Generative AI could end up leading to a lot more low-quality ad inventory. To avoid bidding on this inventory in their campaigns, programmatic media buyers should seek out solutions that allow them to use dynamic MFA blocklists to avoid serving ads on those sites, thus ensuring ad spend isn’t being wasted on low-quality inventory.
GenAI will also continue to transform the paid search landscape, as more and more people turn to AI-powered search engines or simply chat with bots instead of searching at all. Though search ads will continue to be an effective way to connect with consumers in 2024, advertisers should keep an eye on audience behaviors to ensure they’re placing ads where people are searching for information and taking advantage of new opportunities that AI presents as it evolves.
Despite these challenges, advertisers also shouldn’t simply ignore generative AI or the ways it can simplify certain aspects of their programmatic campaigns. For instance, AI can help streamline parts of the content creation process, so long as a human is always reviewing for accuracy and brand voice alignment. In particular, it can help with generating variations of creative for specific audiences, to create more personalized advertising experiences.
We live in an age of instant gratification and sensory overload. Engaging content and entertainment live right at our fingertips, a single scroll or swipe away. And marketing teams? They’re all vying for that precious, and increasingly fleeting, attention.
To better capture attention in the year ahead, advertisers will benefit from focusing less on the quantity of people viewing their ads and instead selecting KPIs that gauge the quality of those views. By focusing on the quality of their ad impressions, teams can determine not only if their ads are being seen, but more importantly, if they’re garnering enough attention to be remembered.
Additionally, advertisers should take the time to prioritize crafting compelling creative and to focus on placing that creative in front of the right audiences to capture attention, build broad awareness, and drive action. By obsessively seeking their target audiences’ attention—rather than chasing cheap impressions that may or may not drive action—advertising teams can break through the noise and build successful campaigns that resonate in the year ahead.
Awareness-building and fundraising efforts for the 2024 election cycle are already underway. But as advertisers head into 2024, teams in all industries—political and non-political alike—should prepare to adapt to the complexities of the election year itself.
With a landmark $12 billion in ad spend projected for the campaign season ahead, it’s important for advertising teams to be aware and plan in advance for times when programmatic inventory becomes more limited and CPMs skyrocket as political advertisers make major ad buys during the most critical stretches of their campaigns. Key days to keep in mind are those leading up to primaries, as well as the weeks and days right before Election Day (especially in swing states).
For advertisers outside of the political realm, one way to approach this challenge is to focus on channels like programmatic digital out-of-home and audio, which political advertisers have been slower to adopt. Another is to focus on environments that don’t allow political ads, including streaming video services like Disney+ and Netflix.
Beyond the 2024 election cycle’s impact to inventory and budgets, there’s another layer of complexity for advertisers to contend with: the inevitable spike in mis- and disinformation. Thanks to generative AI, it’s easier than ever for false information to be created and circulated. This is especially pressing given the contentious presidential race at the top of the ticket, as well as a highly partisan and emotionally charged electorate.
To break through the noise, advertisers should keep brand safety at the forefront as they build and execute their programmatic campaigns in 2024. By leveraging tools like alllowlists and blocklists, leaning on offerings from partners like NOBL, Comscore, Grapeshot, and Peer39, and steering clear of low-quality inventory, advertisers across industries can ensure their ads are appearing in suitable environments that align with their values and voice.
In 2023, more than two in every five new programmatic ad dollars went to connected TV (CTV). And this year, US CTV programmatic video ad spend is projected to grow by nearly 18%—with programmatic accounting for 88% of total CTV video ad spending.
Given viewership trends, digital video’s popularity amongst advertisers makes plenty of sense: Traditional TV viewership is plummeting, and the number of people tuning into ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) content is skyrocketing. Platforms like Netflix, Disney+, and Max have ad-supported tiers in place that are demonstrating consistent growth, and new opportunities are on the horizon with Amazon’s plan to launch an ad tier for Prime Video.
Additionally, CTV is a particularly appealing channel for advertisers in the context of third-party cookie deprecation, since it is already cookieless. As such, teams will be able to continue to utilize it as they have in the past to reach engaged audiences.
By leveraging different video channels and placements—social media, CTV and streaming, DOOH, display—digital video advertisers can make the most of their digital video advertising efforts by crafting an omnichannel experience and connecting with people when and where they’re consuming content.
From the rise of #deinfluencing, to the shift towards smaller and simpler homes (buh-bye, McMansions), the past few years have seen a push towards cutting down on waste. And with advertisers concerned about made-for-advertising sites (MFAs), bot traffic, ad fraud, domain spoofing and more—not to mention the increased focus on digital advertising’s carbon impact—it feels like an appropriate time for the programmatic ecosystem to prioritize minimizing waste as well.
In 2024, teams should focus on value over volume and proactively steer clear of low-quality inventory like MFAs. Exploring inventory opportunities beyond the open marketplace—such as programmatic guaranteed and private marketplace (PMP) deals—can help ensure high quality placements and access to premium inventory. Further, teams can better capture their audiences’ attention by focusing on placing the right creative on the right channels by removing impressions below set thresholds.
By taking these steps, advertising teams can make the most of their ad spend and reduce the amount of their campaign budget that gets wasted on low-quality placements and/or impressions. And as if that wasn’t enough, it’s also good for the environment: A recent study found that an ad viewed for twice as long produces two-thirds fewer emissions. And given that programmatic advertising produces more than 215,000 tons of carbon emissions in a single month, minimizing the number of low-quality impressions served will have positive impacts that extend far beyond a campaign itself.
In the realm of social media advertising, the last several years have been more than a bit turbulent—and 2024 is shaping up to be yet another chapter in that seemingly unending book.
The latest: X is proving itself to be an environment unsuitable and unsafe for many brands, with many major brands pulling their ads from the channel as a result. Reddit, on the other hand, is seeing new levels of interest, TikTok is wildly popular and continuing to gain traction (especially since threats of a ban are still on pause), and old standby Meta is slowly evolving and has a lot of targeting opportunities despite ongoing regulatory threats.
Advertisers also have to contend with the stagnating social media growth in the US, as users are joining platforms at a much slower pace than in recent years. Amidst these shifts, advertisers will have to be nimble and adaptable with their social campaigns this year. The focus on attention that will help teams minimize waste and maximize impact will also prove useful for these channels, where users tend to have particularly short attention spans, and using new formats (such as social search ads) will help advertisers bolster impressions.
As new opportunities arise, marketers should look to their audiences to identify the social platform(s) where they can forge the most meaningful connections.
Digital advertisers will be awfully busy this year as they navigate the complexities of Google’s third-party cookie deprecation, the 2024 election cycle, heightened consumer privacy demands, economic turbulence, and more. By leaning into key programmatic trends, advertisers can ensure they are meeting consumers where they’re at and making the most of their programmatic ad investment.
Looking for even more insights into the trends that will shape digital advertising in 2024? Our report, Future in Focus: 2024 Digital Advertising Trends, covers the most critical trends advertisers should have top-of-mind as they plan and execute their campaigns.