In 2022 and beyond, brands will build meaningful stories and connections on individuals, relationships and an authentic narrative.

Rickey Bijlani. senior director, marketing, AudienceX

Predicting the unpredictable is a tricky business. And the digital media world has been nothing if not unpredictable this year. But there are some things we know for sure: The digital advertising ecosystem is on fire and predicted to generate over $200 billion in revenue by 2025.

As an independent programmatic trading desk, we have a unique view of the digital ad world through the lens of hundreds of terabytes of data that flow through our system. It gives us a pretty good picture of what’s ahead for 2022:

The metaverse is not all hype

Put another way, mixed reality is poised to go mainstream. The arrival of 5G means data transmission in real-time and graphics that are faster, richer, and more astonishing. Next year there will be more emphasis on virtual worlds and immersive technology as a thriving home to Gen Z and Millennial consumers and the progressive brands which serve them.

The global augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) market is forecast to reach $30.7 billion in 2021, rising to close to $300 billion by 2024. While this trend is especially true for APAC, it’s already taking hold in the U.S. as well. Brands such as Gucci, Nike, Disney, and Snap are creating virtual communities, content, assets, fashion, art, experiences, and worlds—and yes, preparing for the metaverse. Facebook rebranded itself to Meta to stake the claim that it’s a metaverse company, not a social platform. Fans’ appetite for esports will also accelerate the move to mixed reality.

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To be successful, brands must rethink their narratives in three dimensions and marketers will need to embrace emerging technology faster. In the metaverse, everyone is a world builder, including brands.

Teens will be harder and harder to find online 

No, they’re not putting down their phones and screens—they’re living more and more of their life online. But expanded restrictions and limitations on targeting teens with marketing are intensifying, and they’re about to get much harder to reach in a meaningful and targeted way. In July, Facebook announced it would no longer allow advertisers to layer affinity targeting on users under 18. Facebook automatically removes audience segments that include minors.

This policy is likely to extend to other social platforms in 2022 to protect minors’ data better—and preemptively head off costly litigation and regulation for the platforms. Innovative brands should consider new strategies like lookalike audiences to find teens, not just rely on social platforms.

TikTok will come of age for mainstream advertisers

In 2021, TikTok introduced a limited keyword targeting alpha that allowed advertisers to reach audiences based on keyword and hashtag use. While this is currently limited to seasonal/holiday-themed keywords (think terms like Halloween, winter holidays, and New Year), expect this to expand into more nuanced options and be publicly available to all advertisers in 2022.

Smart brands should be ready to experiment early on this crucial global platform.

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Auction media will get worse before it gets better.

As more and more advertisers enter the digital space, breaking through and driving visibility will become increasingly difficult. The magic bullet for brands here will be artificial intelligence. Brands and marketers will move toward AI-powered audience solutions. Marketers need to find more innovative alternatives to cookies fast. While identity-based solutions are gaining momentum, many publishers still take issue with their lack of transparency in using behavioral data.

Savvy marketers should vote with their dollars on platforms and placements that use AI for speed and accuracy and guarantee visibility. It will become an increasingly valuable tool to get your message through all the noise.

AI is essential to the digital ad market, but algorithms are under fire

A bipartisan group of U.S. House lawmakers introduced the “Filter Bubble Transparency Act,” which could force social media platforms to allow users to use their services without algorithms that filter or prioritize the content users see.

This legislation could mean significant changes for marketers who rely on algorithms to target consumers. A change this drastic would require a full pivot of an advertiser’s strategy—and AI to keep up. Smart brands should work with agencies preparing for this potential reality now.

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Audience modeling is poised to see breakthroughs in 2022

The silver lining of the coming deprecation of third-party cookies is that audience modeling will take some quantum leaps forward in 2022. There are already far more useful audience modeling options available, including AI-powered solutions. By using digital signals such as opt-in consumer tracking panels, location and time of day, contextual insights and more, AI can now help predict audiences and performance. First-party data will also play a huge role moving forward.

An increased focus on leveraging data at all stages of the journey will be essential in the year ahead, letting marketers reach individuals across platforms and devices to deliver a truly rich end-to-end customer and brand journey.

Any way you look at it, 2021 was something else. But as we look to 2022 and beyond, we see a lot of hope for a more meaningful consumer journey that will benefit both customers and brands alike. The table is set for brands to build meaningful stories and connections on individuals, relationships and an authentic narrative. We can’t wait.

AudienceX provides technology that allows retailers to generate programmatic, or automated, ads tailored to online platforms and their audiences. 

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