December 16, 2019

4 Trends That Will Dominate Ad, Marketing Talk in 2020

By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.

Better internet connectivity via 5G, a presidential-election year, a gathering of summer Olympians in Tokyo and protecting data privacy: Expect all of these subjects to reap much chatter around the water cooler in the ad and marketing worlds in 2020.

Here are status reports on each subject, and what we might expect from each as another new year unfolds:

Continued and Accelerated Deployment of 5G

The next generation of wireless technology has been in the works for several years, but most consumers have yet to witness its effects because of the limited number of cellular networks and devices available.

Once a transition from 4G LTE to 5G is fully in place, smartphone users will benefit from faster speeds, lower latency (data-speed delays) and increased support for their devices. The new technology promises speeds that will be up to 100 times faster, with response times up to 20 times faster.

Verizon started 2019 with 5G in a handful of cities and has said it will expand that coverage to 30-plus cities this year. AT&T offers the new tech in a variety of cities, too, though its initial users need a 5G hotspot to enjoy it. T-Mobile and Sprint will roll out 5G service soon, but their pending merger is a partial cause for their delays thus far.

This past summer, AT&T President Kevin Petersen said that the slow progression toward 5G was mostly related to physical manpower and community logistics.

“There are certainly those physical elements of going out and deploying the network by climbing the towers and so forth,” Petersen said.

“We’ve got one advantage in that we won a bid from the government to create a network exclusively for first responders, so, as we go out to update the towers to create our First Net network, we’re taking advantage of that to bring in the 5G capability.”

Ad Spending for the 2020 Election and Summer Olympics

A recent study by Advertising Analytics, a nonpartisan firm that tracks the ad industry, predicts that spending on political ads in the 2020 presidential year will near $6 billion.

The firm estimates that campaigns will spend nearly twice as much on broadcast and cable TV ads as they spent in 2016, with a new emphasis on digital advertising — designed for those who watch little to no conventional television — likely to add another $1.6 billion to the spending total.

Increased abilities to target ads to specific segments of the voting populace will be a key tool for candidates in 2020, notes Kyle Roberts, president and CEO of Advertising Analytics.

“A lot of the digital targeting, you can use first-party data, which makes it really valuable,” he says. “I can take my voter list and match it against IP addresses on mobile devices and desktops and deliver video directly to the people I want to communicate with.

“The impression base is so large you can spend a lot of money reaching your very specific audience.”

Such “machine learning” and programmatic ad buys also are expected to abound in ad spending for the 2020 Summer Olympics, set to unfold in Tokyo from July 24 to Aug. 9. (The games, ironically, will occur just after the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, July 13-16, and just before the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, Aug. 24-27.)

NBCUniversal reported last week that it has received more than $1 billion in national advertising commitments for this next summer’s games, with the company expecting to surpass the $1.2 billion that was spent on ads for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

Election-Year Ad Oversight

With social media’s influence already a hot topic because of the 2016 election, Democrats are decrying Facebook’s recent decision not to fact-check political speech, including ads. Twitter, meanwhile, announced recently that it won’t accept political ads at all in 2020. (In 2018, political ads during mid-term elections amounted to only $3 million of the company’s total $3 billion in revenue that year).

However, policing of the 2020 election may be at a standstill of sorts, because the Federal Election Commission has gone several months without a quorum following the resignation of its vice president, leaving it with but three of six members. Two other members have left the past couple of years and have not been replaced.

That leaves the FEC one member shy of a quorum that would allow it to exercise its most basic functions, including conducting meetings, starting audits, making new rules and levying fines for campaign finance violations.

“Voters should be extremely concerned,” said Ann M. Ravel, a Democrat and former FEC chairwoman who stepped down in 2017.

“If you do not have the ability to do any kind of enforcement, then there isn’t any kind of respect for the law,” she told The New York Times.

“It could end up being the Wild West.”

The National Privacy Law Debate

With California’s new Consumer Privacy Act set to take effect Jan. 1, there’s continued concern that no national privacy act is in place. Similar to the European Union’s privacy act, California’s law gives online users the right to know what information companies are collecting about them, why the companies are collecting that data and with whom the data is shared.

Congress had hoped to debate and tackle national legislation in 2019, but they continue to bicker over details. Following the most recent meeting of the Senate Commerce Committee on Dec. 4, such issues as whether a national law should pre-empt state bills and whether individuals should be allowed to sue companies they believe have violated their rights still loom.

A national privacy protection act may still be elusive going into 2021. “People are angry and scared more than ever before and they don’t care whether it’s a federal law or a state law,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, at the Dec. 4 hearing.

“They want a law. And you will see state laws all around the country; hopefully they won’t create too much inconsistency, but that’s where we’re going if we fail to act.”

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