A Look Ahead to 2021

David Kohl, President and CEO, TRUSTX
January 5, 2021

2020 in Perspective

We built TRUSTX four years ago to restore trust, transparency and safety to programmatic advertising. We’ve been steadfastly focused on this mission since launch, and it would be an understatement to say that 2020 had been anything short of a wild ride.

The COVID pandemic disrupted business in many ways. As we look back on this unprecedented year in history, two things jump out as shifts in the market and in our priorities, namely:

  • A far greater focus on supply path optimization (SPO): In 2020, we and our clients became much more serious about supply-chain cost efficiency, largely because media buyers and brands needed to stretch COVID-constrained ad budgets as far as possible. Their goals were straightforward: minimizing waste from tech taxes and maximizing working media value. When budgets tightened in Q2, many buyers doubled down on their SPO efforts, which meant that we needed to elevate our story with proof points on transparency and cost-efficiency. The efforts have paid off, for sure. 2020 was definitely a tipping point for media agencies who stepped up to find the clearest paths through the ad tech maze.
  • A new level of dedication to sustaining trusted, professional news: 2020 may very well go down as the most destructive year on record for America’s trust in the news. We’re honored to represent many iconic news brands and energized to see so many advertisers and agencies stepping up to invest in the face of unprecedented “truth decay.” In 2019, we started working with the 4As Advertising Protection Bureau (APB) to define new approaches to brand suitability in news. We activated many of the APB's principles in 2020 by launching a group of "Responsible News" PMPs to make it easier for brands to place their ads exclusively with 100% brand-safe professional journalism. We and our clients collaborated with The Ad Council and AdTech Cares to support trustworthy reporting on COVID health safety, and we plan to continue to prioritize our focus on sustaining journalism well into 2021.

A Look Ahead

Most certainly, 2021 is going to be the year when our industry figures out how to ween itself from third-party cookies and mobile device IDs. In some ways, the 2021 ID revolution will make the digital advertising market of 2020 look tame. Beyond the future of digital identity, our bets are that:

  1. Agency media buyers will continue to focus on programmatic cost-efficiency and supply path optimization (SPO), and by necessity, supply-chain transparency. Transparency and accountability are table-stakes; we’re pleased to see this getting the attention it deserves.
  2. More advertisers are recognizing the effectiveness of advertising in news, and they will focus more of their media spend toward sustaining professional journalism in 2021. The demand for news will continue to push the brand safety and ad tech communities to deliver more nuanced approaches to brand suitability, and we’ll see a healthier level of ad spend with trusted news publishers.
  3. The decade-long practice of audience buying above context will finally evolve in 2021. As brands put more value on trusted partners, this will force a move towards contextual buying in quality environments. The deprecation of third-party IDs will accelerate this trend.
  4. And for TRUSTX, we are unwavering in our mission to deliver a better programmatic experience to advertisers, agencies and premium content publishers. We anticipate, with the industry’s more discerning view of how and where they spend, companies that promise transparency and safety will be well-positioned. 

Navigating the “New Normal” for 2021

As we consider priorities for 2021, it’s clear that flexibility and adaptability are going to be the name of the game. We’re anticipating that our clients will continue to invest more heavily in quality, and the industry’s attention on “post-cookie” ad targeting, measurement and attribution will become a more dominant theme in the coming months. These are both areas in which we are investing.

To us, the “new normal” is the “new nimble.”  We’re proceeding with optimism that programmatic advertising will remain strong into 2021, and that the economic value we were able to deliver in 2020 helps us build an even more diverse client base in the coming year.


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