Online Ad Revenue Statistics To Know for 2021

by Matt Peck, on Jul 29, 2021 9:00:00 AM

2021 will see three years of projected changes in the ad ops industry squeezed into one. 

Online time jumped 20% with consumers while lock-downs were implemented. But even with restrictions being lifted, many of these trends are expected to stick around. In many cases, COVID accelerated many trends we were already seeing, and while they may begin to die down, we will continue to see these trends as we move forward.

Here are some of what we found will become some of the most important trends for publishers as we continue through 2021.

Programmatic Continues to Grow

Programmatic advertising is going to account for 86.5% of all digital ad spend in 2021, according to eMarketer, a 1% rise from 2020 but with a 25% increase in total dollars spent.


U.S. Programmatic Digital Ad Spending 2019-2022


It is expected that the areas that will help drive this growth will be social media, video (thanks to 5G connectivity), and mobile devices.

But along with these, connected TV devices like Amazon Fire TV and Roku are expected to become major battlegrounds for advertisers and publishers. Roughly 67% of homes with WiFi have subscriptions to streaming services like Amazon Video and Netflix, and ads served over these kinds of services and devices yield extremely high completion rates, around 98% in fact.

Ad spend changes by channel


While the market share of CTV/OTT ads isn’t changing much, 60% of advertisers that do use the platforms are expected to have increased their investments in 2021, increasing the value of these kinds of ads in their overall media plan.

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AD Blockers Still Taking a Bite Out of Publishers’ Ad Revenue

Ad blockers have long been an enemy of savvy publishers, and the fight is far from over. 

Surveys have shown that 42.7% of internet users worldwide have ad blockers installed on their browsers, and 27% of users in the United States, growing 12% since 2014 according to Statista.

Other studies have predicted that these extensions will have cost the ad publishing industry $35 billion in revenue in 2020 alone.

Users consistently rank page load times, intrusive ads, and website browsing manageability as their top reasons for installing ad blockers. 

Meaning that the quality of your content and user experience is crucial to maintaining viewability and serving your user’s ads.

Setting up pop-ups to ask users to turn off ad blockers on your site can be an effective strategy, but only after you have considered :


  • Will my ad experience frustrate users and drive them away?
  • Is my content worth the amount of ads users will experience?
  • Am I offering content/an experience users can’t get somewhere else, ad-free?


Offering users an ad lite option can also help alleviate their anxieties about irritating advertisements while still allowing you to bring in some revenue.

Another option is asking users to subscribe through regular payments to remove ads from their browsing experience, but usually, only the most loyal users will select this option. 

But as a reminder, these kinds of pop-ups and programs may lead users to turn somewhere else for their content. 

The best approach then is to create content users can’t find anywhere else and remind them that revenue from ads is what makes it possible. This way they can feel they are contributing to the work they love by turning off their ad-blocker.


Target Super Users

According to Activate Consulting's latest study, educated users between 18 and 34 with household incomes over 100k have greater access to and spend more time consuming (roughly 4 hours more), media than all other users.

Super Users data

Super Users data


This single group of power users not only spend more time using digital media but are also more likely to pay for it, with 57% having 3 or more digital subscriptions per household.

Because these users make up such a powerful percentage of your potential audience, it will be essential in 2021 for the advertising industry to focus on ad efficiency.

This means delivering more relevant ads at the right moment to the right audience to boost your revenue through highly engaged users.


Super Users are exposed to more ads


Focusing on automation and machine learning will increase ad quality and relevance and decrease ad fraud risk. All trends discussed are going to present both publishers and advertisers with new opportunities.

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Year of Mobile, Video, and Native Ads 

In 2020, mobile device usage increased by 93 million unique users, while time per session increased by 20%. This trend continues to push mobile as the dominant digital device, as in the U.S. 8 in every 10 (79%) are spent on mobile devices.


2020 mobile landscape at a glance



So it is no surprise that this year it is predicted that mobile ad spend will reach $156.38 billion.

Having your site up to display not only desktop but also mobile-friendly content will continue to be one of the most lucrative aspects of your publishing strategy.   

Along with this, video consumption skyrocketed through the pandemic by 43% and is expected to continue to grow by 8% once the restrictions are lifted, leading many marketers and publishers to increasingly adopt video content and video ads as a major piece of their strategies. 


Video Consumption Rises in COVID



Not only this, but an Outbrain survey found the click-to-play video to be the preferred ad format, with 97% of survey respondents saying they prefer this ad type, which also results in 7% more purchase intent than traditional ads. 

In fact, with both these markets increasing more than 9 in 10 marketers plan on investing in online video and mobile this year, with a majority planning to invest more in each of these channels than they did in 2020.

TikTok, the video-based social media app, has also become the fastest growing social media platform through the pandemic, with its user base growing 75% over just nine months. 

WARC reports that 44% of advertisers are expected to increase their TikTok ad spend in 2021.

Lastly, native ads, which can get a 20-60% higher engagement rate than standard banners ads, are expected to increase ad spend in the US by 21% in 2021 to a value of 57 billion (Outbrain).

These engagement rates, plus the fact that these ads will still reach users with ad blockers installed, make some of the most lucrative ways to engage users and boost your ad revenue.

But be wary, users can be turned off by clickbaity titles and fraudulent tactics these kinds of ads usually implement. Along with this, offensive or shocking images or titles are also possible issues that can ruin the user experience and push eyes away from your site.

Altogether, these trends pave the way for the new direction of digital advertising post-COVID. Mobile devices will grow to dominate how users spend their time online, while video and native ads will continue to be the most lucrative ways of reaching users and boosting your ad yield. 


The Death of Cookies and The Rise of First-Party Data

While slightly delayed, the end of cookies and third-party data tracking is still on the way. This means advertisers and publishers alike are going to have discovered a way to collect data and track users on their own.

Contextual advertising is likely to see a resurgence, so tracking your site metrics and understanding your audience will become more important than ever.

And while programmatic advertising has been on the rise over the last few years, the end of third-party tracking is likely to stunt this growth as advertisers are forced to return to direct buy opportunities to properly target customers.

There are a number of publishing groups working to build their own tracking methods, like CafeMedia’s four steps, as well as a number of open source identity tracking solutions like ID5’s Universal ID, but the full effects of this drastic shift in the digital advertising industry are yet to be seen. 

Preparing and building a database of your customers will be vital to your success once these cookies disappear, but so will keeping your ear to the ground and staying up to date with new and growing industry solutions.


Wrapping Up

Digital advertising and online publishing are facing some massive shifts. Mostly due to the pandemic, but also natural trends we are seeing accelerate. Things may look very different by the end of the year, so keep your ear to the ground and watch your own metrics to see where the market is heading so you can learn how to stay ahead of the curve.

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Topics:AdOps StrategyAd Revenue

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