How Advert Tech's id was shattered in 2020

2020 – what a year – one that many will be happy to see the back of. But it's also one that will haunt the ad tech sector well into 2021 and possibly well beyond.

The upcoming revision of data protection in Apple's iOS 14 and (later) Google Chrome kept Adweek readers busy in 2020, a trend that is expected to continue into 2021.

The reason? Apple and Google's internet gatekeepers confirmed their intentions to shatter Ad Tech's value proposition, the ability to track, track, and refocus without user consent.

The goalkeeper's stranglehold

The fact is, these two companies are so large that with the stroke of a pen their privacy policies can become more powerful than those of governments around the world, precisely for the reason that such bodies review them.

The announcement of the redesign of Google Chrome in 2022 sparked a spate of "identity initiatives" from ad tech independents with The Trade Desk's UDID 2.0, apparently the talisman of this sector of the industry.

That being said, if you want a hint of how unprecedented a year 2020 has been, The Trade Desk has grown more valuable than Ford over the past 12 months.

Yes, that's right, 2020 was a year that a DSP surpassed the value of Ford, a company that actually makes things.

Facebook as "the little guy"?

Apple's blockade of ad tech companies that can access their valuable IDFA is due in the first quarter of 2021. Facebook's activities in this area have resulted in a great sacrifice. This is not counted as a catastrophic blow to the social network or its 2020 nadir. So little concerned the content guidelines that an advertiser boycott was triggered.

What it does show, however, is the potential stranglehold such players have over the programmatic landscape. Just look at how Facebook masquerades as "the little guy" in comparison.

The CTV bright spot

Adweek's year-end discussions with market leaders explained the extent of the challenges Ad-Tech will face in 2021. A source noted that the industry is “paralyzed” when buyers believe that things will get tougher before they get better.

That said, it's not all doom and gloom with connected TV that has given many ad tech gamers the opportunity to settle into new domains (and advertisers' media plans) in the past 12 months. For example, well-known names like Disney now grace the programmatic pages of Adweek.

See you in 2021?

Multiple sources told Adweek that the programmatic sector was (relatively) unscathed from the Covid-19 pandemic when it came to excessive advertising spending in 2020.

However, live events – the prime opportunity to close these deals – are still up in the air. And even if vaccines are slow to introduce, these business trips need planning. A source told Adweek, "You can't just start this event in two weeks or even two months if you know the right guidance is in place (to host the event)."

While there is an appetite to meet again in person, many companies are likely to be more cautious with their spending. The question is whether Cannes Lions or Dmexco will continue to occupy the calendar (and marketing budgets) of the ad tech sector.

While Ad-Tech may have escaped from Covid-19 relatively unscathed by 2020, it is probably fair to say that the sector's problems predated the pandemic and could potentially linger.

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