The anti-predictions: Here’s what won’t happen in advertising in 2024

This article is part of a series exploring trends in marketing, media and media buying for 2024. More from the series →

We know it’s that time of the year when everyone starts making predictions. But let’s face it, most of those guesses are either way too cautious or way off the mark. Well, at Digiday, we’re doing something different. Take a look at our take on what’s not in the picture as we welcome in the new year.

Esports won’t die — but 2023’s esports winter might become an ice age in 2024

For the past year, competitive gaming has been surrounded by a narrative of doom and gloom. As some brands pull away from spending in the space, esports teams’ over-reliance on brand partnerships has become glaringly apparent, making it increasingly urgent for esports companies to carve out more sustainable revenue streams.

In spite of these stumbling blocks, however, the core product of competitive gaming remains incredibly popular. Viewership is continuing to rise, and the esports companies that survive the inevitable consolidation of 2024 could reap the rewards as esports and gaming fandom becomes truly mainstream. — Alexander Lee

Publishers won’t see any big, immediate gains from the collapse of third-party tracking

Publishers had high hopes that the end of widespread tracking would put them back in the driver’s seat, finally allowing them to profit from their audiences. However, it turns out this isn’t a guaranteed win – at least not yet. There are numerous hurdles to overcome before publishers can truly seize control. Most importantly, the industry needs to agree on what tracking without third-party cookies will actually look like. Right now, it seems like it will involve a variety of identity solutions, not just one. Authenticated IDs, based on user consent within a publisher’s domain, are promising, but their true value in the market remains uncertain. So, while publishers had dreams of immediate gains, they may have to wait a bit longer for the reality to catch up. — Seb Joseph

A U.S. federal privacy law won’t arrive in 2024; the delivery of Privacy Sandbox looks tenuous (even if Google says it’s business as usual)

In 2024, the long-awaited U.S. federal privacy law and Google’s Privacy Sandbox are unlikely to materialize, creating frustration within the industry. Privacy concerns have loomed large in the online advertising sector throughout the 2020s, initially triggered by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations in 2016. These regulations forced the industry to seek explicit user consent for targeting and tracking, a departure from the earlier era of unchecked data collection.

Subsequently, individual U.S. states introduced their privacy laws, most notably the California Consumer Privacy Act in 2018. Apple also played a significant role by implementing privacy measures, starting with Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari in late 2017.

As we approach the mid-2020s, the landscape becomes even more tumultuous, with platforms and politicians exerting influence. Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome (initially scheduled for 2022) is a major contributor to this upheaval. Privacy Sandbox, Google’s experimental platform, aims to replace third-party cookies but has faced opposition from various industry stakeholders. Despite concerns, Google intends to proceed with its timeline, but publishers find it challenging to meet the proposed integration deadline, potentially leading to a delay. 

Additionally, the 2024 U.S. general election makes bipartisan support for national privacy legislation unlikely, meaning lobbying efforts may continue into 2025. — Ronan Shields

Marketers won’t walk the talk on media transparency 

This year, marketers have been all about media quality and journalism, nary missing a moment to sound off on the matter in interviews and industry events. But when things got real, like digging into how much money is squandered on programmatic advertising, it was crickets. Look at the fuss about ad-centric sites or the ANA’s peek into the programmatic supply chain — almost total radio silence from the marketing crowd. The thing is, marketers seem to either be turning a blind eye to these issues or they’re just not in the know enough to realize their impact. Whatever it is, change isn’t coming any time soon. Marketers have too many other things to worry about, from keeping ahead of third-party cookies being clipped to the emergence of AI. Media transparency always plays second fiddle to the latest trend. — Seb Joseph

Amazon won’t be the be-all end-all of retail media

For a long time, when you heard “retail media,” you immediately thought of Amazon. It’s been the undisputed leader in this growing market. But things started to shift in 2023, and 2024 will really reemphasize the change. More advertising dollars will be pouring into competitors like Walmart, Kroger, Instacart, and others. This shift will have significant ripple effects, including labor implications, how companies allocate their portfolios, a growing need for expertise, changes in media spending, and even uncertainty about who will come out on top in this evolving landscape. Interestingly, part of this change is due to bureaucratic shifts. The Amazon budget, once handled by the e-commerce team, is now merging with the digital budget. This reflects a trend of ecommerce and marketing teams working more closely together or even merging entirely. So, Amazon won’t monopolize retail media like it used to. — Seb Joseph

Netflix won’t gobble up TV ad dollars  

Remember when Netflix said it would start running ads? There was this big buzz that ad cash would flood in. Well, surprise, surprise — it didn’t. The first year of Netflix ads was arguably underwhelming. It played it safe, and had a limited audience to pitch to advertisers. And guess what? That’s likely how it will be for their second round in the ad game too.

Sure, Netflix probably gets more subscribers willing to watch ads. But honestly, it might not be enough to match the jaw-dropping prices it’s asking for. And that’s despite the fact that the streamer plans to add more bells and whistles to its ads business over the coming months, from private marketplaces for its programmatic ad inventory to new formats. No, if anything, next year’s ad scene on Netflix will probably be a repeat of the cautious tone from the first one.  — Seb Joseph

Big advertisers won’t return to X

Since billionaire Elon Musk acquired then-Twitter in October 2022, advertisers have been pulled from pillar to post. Sure he’s always been transparent about his dislike for advertising, which is why hiring NBCU’s Linda Yaccarino to smooth out those relationships, seemed like a smart idea.

However, after 13 months under Musk’s ownership, the relationships have been completely severed. Musk’s controversial actions and statements have made it untenable for big advertisers to maintain their connections, regardless of Yaccarino’s involvement. She no longer serves as a bridge for them to feel comfortable investing their ad dollars. Particularly, concerns regarding brand safety, antisemitism and misinformation on the platform are mounting. — Krystal Scanlon

Apple won’t launch a DSP 

Sorry to break it to you ad tech pals. But Apple’s not dropping its much-awaited demand-supply platform next year. Why the hold-up? Well, it would be risky to spin it up while there’s a cloud of uncertainty over whether regulators will be able to wrangle Google’s own ad tech play. And let’s face it, Apple doesn’t have to rush into the ad world like Netflix did. Look at its slow moves into search ads — slow and steady. True, Apple has assembled teams and developed technology to try and exert more control over search ad dollars should the opportunity present itself.  But don’t count on it becoming a certified competitor to search anytime soon. Maybe later, though. If regulators shake up Google’s search ad game, Apple might have to react, given they’ll lose a truckload of cash. Same goes for ad tech — Apple’s more about necessity than greed. — Seb Joseph

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