Great design is timeless, but that doesn’t mean design stands still. Quite the opposite—design is continually evolving—driven by changes in things like music to art to politics, and everything in-between. For digital ad design, those changes plus an ever-growing list of platforms, devices, browsers and more bring new opportunities to connect with customers.
In case you couldn’t tell, we’re excited about the future of digital ad design. We’re taking out our exceptionally well-designed tarot cards to make some predictions on what changes you might see in digital ad design in 2021.
Zoom fatigue isn’t the only digital burnout we’re experiencing. Working from home means more time in front of our phones, tablets and laptops. If you were worried it was just you, a Canadian study on the impact of COVID on families reported increased screen time of 74% in mothers and 61% in fathers. We see more digital ads than we did before COVID—and we’re more susceptible to ad fatigue at faster rates.
That’s not the only thing driving the need to refresh ad creative more often. Facebook and Google want to own targeting on their platforms, and their algorithms incentivize refreshed advertising content to ensure their users are engaged.
Prediction: As competition for online attention during the pandemic grows throughout the winter and beyond, we predict that digital marketers will have no choice but to refresh their ad creative more frequently.
According to HubSpot, 85% of businesses were using video in their marketing in 2020. With remote work and work-from-home continuing to be the ways to work in 2021, the use of video marketing will continue to be one of the best ways to catch customers’ attention. Whether it’s professionally filmed on set, user generated clips from apps like TikTok and Snapchat or animated illustrations, the key will be in the medium—video.
While YouTube and Facebook will continue to dominate in the video ad space, there’s more demand to find younger audiences and cut through the noise. Instagram has adopted TikTok’s short video format with Reels and Twitter with Fleets—so we expect more requests for ad designers who can catch a customer’s eye before they swipe up.
Prediction: Short, punchy videos with an immediate hook will be a prerequisite in the advertising space. Much of the world has become accustomed to consuming these zippy videos, and users will demand the same from advertisers in turn for their attention.
It’s not just robots on assembly lines. Advances in artificial intelligence could be making paid ad specialists obsolete. Maybe. But definitely not in 2021. While innovations like GPT-3 are indications that AI could soon write compelling ad copy, we haven’t seen the same level of innovation in generating visual ad campaigns. Human beings still have the edge in creating ad designs that capture an audience’s attention.
AI ad agencies like Pattern89 can make some reliable recommendations on images based on past performance analyses at scale. For example, in a Q4 2020 report, Pattern89 states that in September 2020, images of people working in offices were trending up in performance—perhaps a nostalgic longing for a time before the pandemic made people click.
While data on image performance is useful to inform production, we’re still staring down a vast chasm between human-powered originality and AI’s ability to produce original ads at scale.
Prediction: Though artificial intelligence is continuing to evolve in the advertising space, we won’t see much of an impact on AI generated creative in 2021. What we are more likely to experience is the role of AI in helping dictate what type of creative and messaging will be more likely to succeed, therefore helping shape the overall ad design.
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If you’ve been trying to rework last year’s photos for a new campaign, you’re not alone. The pandemic put a quick stop to photoshoots, and that won’t change any time soon. Extensive, large-scale photoshoots won’t be back on the schedule for a while until it’s deemed safe. In 2021, it’s likely that illustration-based advertising will surge, and brands will feel the pressure to figure out new ways to scale what can be a more expensive medium.
Prediction: With the move away from traditional photoshoots to illustrations, we’ll need to find ways to grab customers’ attention. That’s why we also think that the “less is more” approach to illustration will become even more pronounced. To make illustration more scalable, we’ll see more sparse detail, bold lettering and a resurgence in typography creativity.
Saatchi&Saatchi Russia via Bored Panda
Capturing attention these days takes more than your standard static ad. Advertising agencies are building interactive ads using technologies like HTML5 to create engaging experiences. But these Interactive ads are for more than just B2C use cases. In a SnapApp report, 45% of B2B buyers said that interactive content is one of their top three preferred content types. The increase in B2B solutions and services due to remote work means there’s more need than ever to design an ad experience that captures and holds your lead’s attention.
Prediction: With increased competition and shorter attention periods, there will be more adoption of interactive ad design in 2021. Interactive ads can include quizzes, polls, and 3D content that engages the viewer more than traditional static content. Augmented reality ads will be another way to bring your beautifully designed ad into the almost-real world.
Even without the pandemic, 2020 was already shaping up to be a challenging year for design. Consumer attention availability has been a growing battleground, and the best tools in this fight are eye-catching memorable ads. Well that, and solid advertising copy.
We’d love to predict when things will “go back to normal,” but until that happens, designers will need to do more than keep up with trends. They will need to jump headfirst into new technologies.
We wish we could know the future. For now, these are just a few predictions that we came up with while researching for our new ad design guide. It’s coming out this winter. Sign up for updates to get notified when it’s released!
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