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6 ways to improve your digital marketing in 2021

Why advertisers should shift budgets to native advertising on the open web and how social justice can grow your brand

6 ways to improve your digital marketing in 2021

Last year was a catalyst for digital marketing and there is no going back. As the world moved online, old advertising models were hugely compromised. Ad buying and planning teams were consolidated and forced to reform into agile, innovative cross-channel outfits. Throw the impending demise of the third-party cookie into the mix and you have a turbulent marketing environment full of challenge but also opportunity.

“If there’s anything we’ve learned from 2020, it’s to expect the unexpected,” said David Kostman, co-CEO of Outbrain, the world’s leading native ad platform. “Last year was like a technology time machine – trends that we saw developing slowly through the years became a reality almost overnight.” Kostman was speaking at Outbrain’s recent Unveil event which explored predictions for the digital space in 2021

1. “Facts matter more than ever”
Trusted news publishers enjoyed a 60% increase in page views during the time of the pandemic but precision marketing at scale requires real focus on meaningful content and meaningful context.

Yaron Galai, co-CEO of Outbrain, said: “For me 2020 also highlighted the need for free and open press. With the crazy speed of global events, we’ve become even more reliant on trustworthy publishers and news sources. Facts matter more than ever.

“Outbrain is committed to helping publishers engage their audience and grow revenues while creating an advertising alternative to Google and Facebook that actually supports journalism, not undermines it.”

Kostman added: “With so much user generated content, it can be challenging to distinguish real news, fake news or simply opinions.”

In mid-2020, dozens of companies, including global giants like Diageo, Coca-Cola and Adidas, left Facebook because of concerns about unfettered misinformation and hate speech on the social platform. The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic highlighted more than ever the need for trusted news sources to provide credible answers to all manner of burning questions about the virus, the merits of lockdowns and to debunk the various conspiracy theories doing the rounds.

2. Move beyond search and social – go native
Impactful results come from an engaging customer experience. “We believe great advertising is not just about counting impressions and reach,” said Galai. “It’s also about how customers experience your brand.”

Kostman added: “And this is where native advertising comes in, and why it is the biggest growth category in digital advertising today.”

Outbrain’s new product, Native Awareness+ “supports any creative you have” and “delivers a beautiful rich experience”, according to Faye Liddle-Moore, the company’s commercial director.

Native Awareness+ gives marketers a powerful way to build their brand across the open web, with exclusive In-Article placements, zero brand adjacency, large-format, vertical creatives with logo and CTA.

Brands have already started to leverage Outbrain’s new Native Awareness+ solution to help build premium brand awareness across the open web. Samsung was able to reach a more qualified and interested audience for its AirDresser™ – Samsung‘s intelligent cabinet steamer. The results exceeded Samsung’s expectations with +75% viewability in media and +240% click-through-rate (CTR) vs. standard native placements.

3. New experiences
Click-to-watch video, carousels, call-to-actions buttons are just some of the innovations that can drive engagement.

“We get it,” said Lauren Pica, Outbrain’s head of marketing, “most consumers simply do not like advertising, but it’s not because they don’t like ads. It’s often because of how ads are actually delivered. It’s the interruption of your online experience. Click-to-watch video is a consumer-first video experience that drives 100% viewability because the viewer chooses to play the video.”

4. Get smarter
With human and financial resources increasingly at a premium, the use of machine learning to manage campaigns is set to increase. Automation, such as Outbrain’s Conversion Bid Strategy, can constantly adjust cost per click, set return on ad spend goals or predict app downloads, sales and registrations.

5. Be bold with your brand
Despite the wave of major news events in 2020 – Covid-19, Black Lives Matter and the US presidential election – many brands were shy of advertising around coverage of those stories. But those that aligned themselves to BLM and the discussions around social justice – such as the NBA, Coca-Cola and Nike – emerged with reputations intact.

Salma Echahly, Outbrain’s diversity, equity and inclusion officer, said: “I hope to see more brands take an even bigger stand to support important social movements.

These stories demonstrate the potential for curative advertising content to meaningfully and memorably influence cultural conversation.”

6. Cookie cutter
Solutions are being sought to manage the death of the third-party cookie in 2022. Contextual and behavioural advertising is key, but many brands have lots of first-party data so the future is expected to be a hybrid fix. Outbrain is already shifting current methods to prepare for a post-cookie world.

To learn more about how Outbrain Native Advertising solutions can help you succeed in 2021, visit

If you missed the event, you can catch the on-demand version here to get to grips with never-before-seen product previews and predictions for the year ahead.