#RoadTo2021: 5 Trends that will influence Native Advertising in India 2021

Sandeep Balani Outbrain

Leveraging experience of working with digital brands and publishers, Outbrain’s Sandeep Balani predicts Native Advertising trends for 2021.

2020 was a challenging year for the advertising industry, around the globe. We have survived a noteworthy time in history, one that will influence every one of us for quite a long time to come.  

The COVID-19 pandemic, strict lockdowns, and a 23.9% contraction in the GDP in Q1 2020 only amplified the challenges in our region. Subsequent quarters saw a sharp bounce-back for India as the economy slowly opened to pent-up demand. Numerous government initiatives, such as enrollment of lower stamp duty and lower tax collection, did help, yet India will expect a perpetual loss in GDP of close to 12% and the economic recovery could take longer than anticipated.

In 2021, India expects GDP growth of 10%, mainly due to lower base impact and the economy returning to a state of stability. Several media industries, including print media, are in difficult straits, with expectations of permanent disruption as users adopt digital media more than ever before. This is a trend that was set in motion a few years ago and has only gotten stronger due to the pandemic. 

At Outbrain, we have spotted user growth on the publisher front this year, however, it is not yet seen on the advertisers’ side. Trends are pointing to this changing in 2021, with strong growth forecasts for native advertising among brands and advertisers.

There are several fuels adding to the fire and turning up the heat for native advertising in 2021. Here are the shifts and trends that will strengthen the impact of native in the Indian market in the year ahead.

Current Consumer Behaviour Will Continue

Users will continue to find ways to consume content on digital platforms and in turn help the native, open-web ecosystem to grow. In 2020, Outbrain publishers saw record growth in page views, regular traffic, and readership. This growth is proving to be sustainable, enabling our publishers to retain users over time. This development is further driven by advances in ad-tech innovation that engage and attract consumer attention. In addition, the fast-changing internet landscape created a storm of misleading information and fake news. Readers are evaluating content more carefully and turning to trustworthy and credible sources and platforms, such as Outbrain, for the information they need.

The Impact of Macro-Economics on Native Advertising Trends 2021

Demand for native content will continue to uplift in 2021 as more advertisers open up to spend on digital and adopt native as part of their digital marketing strategy. Right now, both publishers and advertisers are fully capitalizing on the digital wave. Digitalisation is at the nucleus of the current turn of financial events, and a 10% uplift in the GDP is expected to rapidly scale up digital advertising growth as well. 

Also Read: #RoadTo2021: Influencer Marketing Trends for 2021

Businesses & Brands go Digital

In 2020, digital was not quite regarded as essential for many brands and retailers, but the COVID crisis had an irrevocable impact on budget planning across industries. Today, traditionally offline companies and brands have started building an equivalent digital ecosystem, hiring entire teams that can service digital sales and marketing operations. Advertisers have made the shift from print and television to online, and this will further fuel the growth for native advertising. Continued innovation has opened the door to e-commerce for new categories too. For example, automobile companies, such as Cars24, are generating billion-dollar valuations and digital revenue via adopting a virtual sales model.

The Trend Towards Video Continues Apace

The adoption of OTT platforms during the pandemic has had a strong impact on the industry. Online video streaming proved to increase audience engagement with significant development in numbers: 300 million and 60 million active users on players like Hotstar and Zee5, respectively. With the current pattern of OTT consumption in India, our region will become a leading revenue generator in digital and OTT content by 2022. If this revolution succeeds, advertisers will move towards a digital-only strategy, and we can see a good proportion of this shift happening on native.

Native Grows Beyond Traditional Media

As user growth moves towards consumption of OTT and next-generation platforms, we will see a rapid scale-up of native discovery. COVID-19 has brought accelerated growth for the industry as a whole. It has opened doors for advertisers to capture consumer attention and increase brand engagement in different ways. This growth is evident beyond traditional publishers to more innovative platforms that support even more advanced, stimulating and engaging ad formats, including native video and others.

Going into 2021, it would be unrealistic not to expect volatility as the pandemic runs its course and the situation on the ground shifts in response. However, noting the clear, positive bias for digital platforms, we can be assured that growth in digital advertising, and native, in particular, will continue in 2021 and in the coming years. 

This piece has been authored by Sandeep Balani, Head of India at Outbrain.