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Paid media fast forward top trends of 2023.

SEO and content marketing aren’t the only two landscapes set to see massive shifts in 2023 and beyond. SEM is going to change rapidly, too. If you’re not on top of these fast-surging trends, you’ll be left in the dust by your competitors—and the industry itself.

Whether it’s the impact of privacy expectations on ad targeting and delivery or the increased use of machine learning and AI to build ad copy, paid media advertisers can expect to experience some disruptive changes in the back half of the year.

Just as our Search Engine Rewind took stock of the state of SEO, let’s look at some of the biggest paid media trends of 2023.

Methodology: Paid Media Trends of 2023 According to Marketers

So how do we confidently predict what’s going to happen in paid media in the back half of the year? For this topic specifically, my team at NP Digital has two major resources at our disposal:

  • We talked to several industry-leading professionals at the agency, many of whom have years of experience in paid search and social advertising.
  • We surveyed 1,000 paid search marketers from all over the U.S. to gain insights into what’s happening across the paid search landscape.

We asked both groups about various topics, from AI to optimized targeting in Google campaigns. While not all of our surveyed marketers agree on the importance of trends, they all have unique insights into what’s happening in 2023.

Privacy Expectations Shake Up Ad Targeting

If there’s one item that’s completely changed the game with paid search, it’s how consumer privacy expectations are shifting ad targeting.

From industry leaders to smaller players, advertisers don’t have as much flexibility when creating hyper-specific targeting for campaigns.


On one hand, companies like Google are shifting away from third-party cookies as a tool to collect consumer data. The other part of this issue stems from new privacy features pushed by device makers like Apple, which, in 2021, created new rules for how much information apps can glean from users. Because of Apple’s new privacy rules, apps must proactively gain permission to collect and use customer data. There are also strict guidelines for how companies can use this information, especially regarding advertising.

For you—or your PPC agency—targeting audiences for your ads requires more creativity and nuance than ever before.

Google Removes YouTube Content Targeting and Similar Audiences

Google’s response to changing privacy rules has been to discontinue YouTube content targeting for conversion campaigns and sunset similar audiences/similar segments targeting tools. This means that content targeting options like keywords, topics, and specific video placements aren’t available to marketers.

Does this have negative consequences for marketers? Potentially.

Advertisers might need to rely more heavily on other targeting tools like remarketing lists and demographics. With content targeting disappearing, marketers can’t reach audiences who watch specific videos, channels, or content categories. That means less precise ad targeting and possible dips in engagement and conversion rates as Google shows ads to less relevant audiences.

It’s not all bad, however.

Sometimes constraints can lead to creativity. For example, Play-Doh wasn’t always a toy. The original use case for the product was to clean coal heating soot off walls. As gas heating became popular, the company went through a sales decline. When the company discovered a teacher had been using it as an arts and crafts tool, they decided to lean into it. Today, Play-Doh is a Hasbro product that millions of kids play with every day.

If anything, the changes to targeting options make relying on hyper-specific targeting less valuable. Your ad creative needs to sing to earn those clicks, especially as campaigns reach broader audiences.

Google has already given marketers a recommendation to make up for the changes: optimized targeting and audience expansion.

Shift to Google Optimized Targeting and Audience Expansion

Let’s first note that optimized targeting and audience expansion aren’t the same. If you take Google’s word for it (and you probably should), there are key differences.

Audience expansion seeks additional conversions by expanding to segments that look like your manual selections. Optimized targeting seeks out more conversions by targeting people most likely to convert. Your manual audience segments influence the process as an informed starting point.

What does this look like in the wild?

Audience expansion includes similar segments to the initial manual selection. Google offers the following example: An athletic shoe company that targets audience segments based on keywords like “running shoe sale” and “athletic footwear” turns on audience expansion. They notice additional targeting for “trainers sale” or “sporting goods” in-market segments.

With optimized targeting, Google creates a profile based on real-time conversion data. That includes Google searches for specific shoe brands or popular sportswear websites. The manually selected audience segments are a starting point.

Why is this shift to optimized targeting and audience expansion significant?

On the one hand, you might balk at the idea of losing even more control over your target options with these recent updates. But for some of the marketers we surveyed, optimized targeting and audience expansion are intriguing innovations. Eighteen percent of our surveyed group viewed these changes as one of the top three paid search trends to dominate the next three years.

3 paid media trends that will rule the next 3 years.

Google wants to give marketers the tools they need to reach their intended audiences, but it doesn’t want to run afoul of consumer privacy concerns. The best way for the search giant to do that is to turn their powerful automation tools to using marketers’ first-party data to optimize their campaigns.

The switch to optimized targeting and audience expansion will give marketers some improved ad performance, thanks to the machine learning algorithms that identify opportunities. Audience expansion should allow for expanded reach. In addition, both techniques should reduce the time you spend manually segmenting your audiences and optimizing campaigns.

We’ve experimented with both techniques at NP Digital. Jason Vitelli, Director of Paid Search, explains:

“Optimized targeting has not produced the same level of performance as similar audience segments in Google Ads campaigns. However, the results still yield enough compelling results to justify its effectiveness. NPD has successfully tested first-party audience segments coupled with optimized targeting to help influence the model by providing an effective starting point for machine learning.”

It’s not all sunshine and roses, however. There will always be trade-offs and hurdles. Adopting these new methods brings a learning curve for implementation and analysis. You’ll also have to stay up to date on data privacy concerns and regulations. Finally, broader audiences often lead to higher budgets. Adjust your allocation and bidding strategies to make sure you’re not overspending.

If you’ve got eligible campaigns, it’s a good idea to swap to optimized targeting now to learn the ins and outs before the widespread adoption makes it a “sink or swim” situation for everyone in the industry.

Benefits of Machine Learning in Advertising

Optimized targeting and audience expansion are examples of an increased reliance on machine learning in advertising, but they’re far from the only ones. Machine learning gives marketers powerful tools for automation. Vitelli explains:

Quote from Jason Vitelli from NPD.

If there’s a downside to abundant data, it’s that you often lack the time to analyze it. Machine learning simplifies the process.

Take customer segmentation. Machine learning can automatically group your customers based on age, sex, income, hobbies, etc. It can also combine characteristics you may not have considered to automate wholly new audiences. This expansion of ad targeting could lead to better ROI as you hit new customer segments with ads. This expansion of ad targeting could lead to better ROI as you hit new customer segments with ads.

Speaking of ads, machine learning also helps with ad personalization. AI-powered platforms can use machine learning to analyze how customers interact with your app or website and use that information to create real-time reader profiles—and deliver personalized ads to reach those users.

Since machine learning takes on most of the hard lifting of targeting and automation, it has some of the same drawbacks: a need for more nuanced control over your marketing efforts and the potential for privacy concerns as customer data becomes more critical. But the benefits, like decreased costs, higher personalization, and powerful audience segmentation, outweigh those negatives.

If you’re a marketer who hasn’t jumped on the machine learning bandwagon, there’s no time like the present. Research the tools available and see how they can smooth out the wrinkles in your advertising strategy.

Resurgence of Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting is a powerful marketing tool, and it’s coming back in a big way. Contextual targeting allows advertisers to use keywords, topics, and categories to identify websites with content that matches their ads’ themes or messages. Think ads for sports equipment on a fitness website or a brand-new celebrity makeup line on a beauty blog.

The idea around contextual targeting is that the content of the page and the ad are relevant to one another. This helps drive ad relevance and brand safety for advertisers, and it’s also a privacy-friendly way to reach people who might convert. This is a must as major advertisers like Google and Meta shift away from third-party cookies.

Marketers experiment with contextual advertising.

Fifty-eight percent of our survey respondents said they are either experimenting with contextual advertising or planning to use it in the future. Thirty percent say they already use it in their daily marketing practices.

What are the benefits? Improved ad relevance, for starters.

Ads are also more likely to be related to the user’s interests, which can lead to better engagement and higher click-through rates (CTRs). They’re also more in tune with recent attitudes about consumer privacy. This is especially the case as advertisers and publishers rely on affirmative consent from users to use their first-party data, such as email addresses, cookies to help sites load faster, and even voluntary sign-up forms.

Leaning into Performance Creative

Effective advertising is about more than just ad targeting and machine learning. Ads with bad creative won’t have the same impact. And in 2023, marketers will have more tools than ever to help build engaging creative.

Our survey respondents and internal subject matter experts (SMEs) were enthusiastic about the opportunities to improve their ads across the board, including:

  • Using AI copywriting to craft ad copy and optimize creative assets
  • Using dynamic creative optimization (DCO) to build hyper-personalized ads
  • Embracing user-generated content (UGC) for paid campaigns
  • Using gamification to drive engagement
  • Enhancing the ad experience on TikTok and Snapchat with context cards

Growing Use of AI for Copy and Creative Optimization

Ever since the widespread open release of ChatGPT, marketers have been experimenting with using AI-written ad copy in campaigns. That includes our 1,000 survey respondents, 26 percent of whom have used AI for copy or creative optimizations within the past three months. Of this group, over a third of the surveyed marketers use it often, and an overwhelming 78 percent majority of them said the time and money invested was worth it.

Marketers say AI is worth the investmenet.

That doesn’t mean the other marketers surveyed view it as a fad. Among those who haven’t recently used AI, 24 percent said they plan to test or implement it within the next six months.

AI presents an exciting wrinkle for marketers of all types. While AI can speed the writing process, autogenerated copy tends to feel formulaic and often fails to stand out when held up to human-crafted examples. AI-written copy and illustrated visual elements also inherit the biases and prejudices of training datasets, including racial bias. And that doesn’t even touch on the ethical questions of whether AI-produced content is subject to copyright.

If you plan to use AI-drafted copy for your paid campaigns, consider using it to discover keyword opportunities instead of writing your ad copy out of whole cloth. Competitive analyses can help you see what’s working for your competitors and give you an idea of what not to write (or have the AI write). Focus on using it for things like ad descriptions or even headlines. As NP Digital’s Sr. Director of User Acquisition Eddie Yoon explains, the possibilities are infinite:

“Creative AI tools provide the opportunity to enhance the creative process by providing nearly unlimited suggestions during the storyboarding and development phases. If used correctly, high fidelity creatives can be continuously produced at scale. The brand leaders of the future will incorporate AI tools into their existing workflows to efficiently produce hundreds of personalized ads to laser targeted audiences across all platforms.”

It’s impossible to ignore AI. Use it as a partner instead of a replacement for creativity.

Use of Dynamic Creative Optimization to Create Hyper-Personalized Ads

DCO describes programmatic advertising that advertisers use to optimize the performance of their creative assets in real time. DCO uses AI to optimize ads with a personal touch. The idea is to match the message to the audience. DCO can be highly responsive and flexible because of how it uses data.

DCO works because it serves hyper-relevant ads to its audiences. It’s also fully automated and cost-effective because the DCO process occurs each time an ad impression gets delivered. DCO tests images, layouts, calls to action (CTAs), and offers to serve users the best ads. It’s a less time-intensive way to test ad collateral than traditional methods.

When it comes to implementing DCO, 23 percent of our surveyed marketers say they’ve used it in the past three months. Of that group, just over a third confirm they’ll continue to use it more.

Part of this could be its advantages over static ads, like enhanced personalization and reduced creative fatigue. DCO ads are also highly scalable and offer better performance measurements for all variations.

If there’s a downside to using DCO, it requires a lot of data to perform well. It’s also highly complex to initially set up. And that doesn’t even touch on privacy concerns from relying on so much data. Any marketer using DCO needs to stay updated on privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Ready to launch DCO for your paid campaigns? Consider the following initial steps:

  1. Create buyer personas.
  2. Identify where your buyers spend their time online.
  3. Outline any required geographic targeting.
  4. Confirm messaging for all stages of the buyer journey.
  5. Connect your ads platform to your data management platform.
  6. Create a decision matrix to help serve ads.
  7. Combine your creative assets with actions in the matrix.

DCO is complex, but its benefits outweigh the cons, especially if you take the time to implement it correctly.

Increased Use of UGC in Paid Campaigns

User-generated content has long been a valuable part of any organic social media marketing strategy. It also works for paid campaigns.

GoPro’s a brand that leverages UGC well across the spectrum. The video equipment company’s top three videos were filmed by customers using its products. It costs nothing for GoPro to produce, but it’s reaped enormous benefits from the exposure.

A screenshot of a person from a cliff

That’s the kind of marketing effort that makes building ad creative as easy as it gets.

Yoon explains:

User-generated content amplifies brand loyalty, social proof, and ad relevance. It also attracts potential customers who are encouraged to take immediate action because they experience the satisfaction from existing fans and customers.”

If there’s a drawback to UGC, it’s how brands should take care of how they encourage users to make it. After all, brand image is essential. UGC that hurts the brand does no good whatsoever. It also requires brands to explicitly ask for permission before using that content.

Of our surveyed marketers, 62 percent of the ones who’ve used UGC in the past three months plan to continue or use it even more. Just over two-thirds say it’s a strategy worth the investment.

Marketers report high satisfaction with UGC.

If you haven’t explored UGC as a paid asset, it’s time to consider doing so. Just be sure always to credit those who make that content for you!

Growing Popularity of Gamification

What’s better than promoting your products with stellar marketing campaigns? Making customers think they’re winning something by helping you with promotion.

Companies that use gamification to boost user engagement and drive conversions do it by giving their users points, progress levels, or virtual currency. It kindles the fire of competition and helps promote your products.

Gamification takes many forms, from website games and loyalty programs to completion meters and virtual badges. Some of the most popular gamification strategies come from companies like Starbucks (rewards program), Duolingo (gamified education), and Wordle (the streak counter).

Starbucks account.

Our survey respondents had mixed feelings about gamification. Seventy-two percent of those who used it for paid ads said it was worth it, but it fell just outside of the top 10 trends our marketers used in the past three months.

Part of that may be the drawbacks that come with gamification.

These campaigns usually require more design complexity than straight marketing efforts. That makes them more expensive. Additionally, keeping users engaged often means you rely a lot on extrinsic motivation. If the rewards lose their appeal, the campaign might fall apart. It’s also challenging to measure success while keeping the campaign sustainable.

If you plan on including gamification as part of your strategy, focus on the right audience at the right time. It should be a tool to surprise and delight your customers, and it shouldn’t be the only thing you do to attract a new audience. Yoon explains how to make it work:

Quote from Eddie Yoon from NPD.

TikTok Display and Snap Context Cards to Enhance the Ad Experience

TikTok Display and Snap Context Cards aren’t new elements for these video-heavy platforms, but they’re increasingly helpful as video ads see explosive growth on these platforms. TikTok has seen ad revenue grow from $3.9 billion in 2021 to $13.2 billion in 2023. That means you need to use these essential tools to provide more context to users and show off eye-catching visuals that align with your brand.

Use Display Cards to share offers or drive traffic to your website. They’re also great for highlighting messages.

Tik tok video from Tik Tok.

TikTok Display Card

Snapchat Context Cards are non-invasive add-ons that allow you to show users reviews, directions, hours of operation, and other essential information.

Snapchat profile for Top golf.

Snap Context Card

At the time of our survey, marketers identified these cards as a tactic they planned to use for the first time for upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday ad campaigns, and for good reason.

Marketers plan to try new tactics for BFCM.

TikTok claims that people who’ve shared, liked, or commented on TikTok brand videos are 150 percent more likely to buy products or services. That’s a pretty good return for something that requires minimal effort. Display cards are bridge social content similar to UGC that can help drive visitors to your website.

If you plan to add these elements to your TikTok and Snapchat ads, ensure the information you display is helpful to viewers. No one wants to click on an element of a video that leads them nowhere or wastes their time. That’s especially true for these apps, where attention is always at a premium.

Yoon explains it this way:

“Display cards often outperform motion or static-only creatives because they serve as additional reference points for the prospects to better understand the products or services. We recommend brands to test display cards that feature simple messaging, such as PR quotes, alongside their top performing UGC concepts.”

Increased Synergy Between Paid and Organic

Brands that want to level up their marketing efforts need to pay better attention to the synergy between their paid and organic social efforts in 2023.

We’ve known how vital both elements have been for years. Still, powerful tools available as part of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and the Google Ads platform make using organic information for powerful insights even better.

As organic social media reach continues to shrink, leveraging a good mix of paid promotion and engaging material should become more of a priority. In this section, we’ll outline some great reasons to pay attention to both components.

Integrating GA4 Audience Insights

GA4 is a powerful tool for SEO-minded marketers, but it’s also been a cornerstone of paid advertising. Integrating GA4 with your existing Google Ads profile simplifies audience creation for your campaigns. You can use organic results to uncover new, valuable keywords.

Using organic keywords and data to inform paid search tactics isn’t new, but GA4 is. As our surveyed marketers switch over to GA4, many are leveraging tactics they haven’t in the past. For the 24 percent of our surveyed marketers using GA4 audience insights to inform their paid campaigns, over a third plan on using it more often.

It has no major downsides, but if didn’t switch to GA4 before July 1, 2023, you’ve missed out on great data. The sooner you made the change, the better.

As Vitelli explains:

“Although the GA4 audience builder that enables audience creation directly within the Google Ads platform will not be available until later this year, NPD regularly imports GA4 conversion events into Google Ads to optimize campaigns based on desired KPIs and outcomes ranging from engagement and session duration metrics to bottom-funnel conversion events. GA4 continues to roll out new dimensions and metrics this year which will help provide more granular data optimizations to search campaign performance.”

Combining Paid and Organic Social Strategies

Organic social reach is declining across all platforms—to the tune of 0.07 percent of a page’s fans engaging with the average organic post—which makes adopting a paid social approach even more of a necessity for marketers.

But pivoting all the way to exclusively paid isn’t the answer, especially if you’ve got a budget to maintain. Integrating your paid and organic social strategies leverages your existing organic audience and provides free promotional tools. It stretches your marketing dollars and provides the opportunity to harvest UGC with little investment.

So long as you don’t bombard your audience with sales-focused posts, both methods have their place.

Growth of Popular Media Tactics

In addition to traditional digital ad spaces like search engines and social media, there’s a real opportunity to insert ads into media sources like culture or hobbyist news sites and streaming platforms.

If you want written content to live next to popular articles or to sandwich your audio ads between music or podcast streams, don’t miss these trends.

Use of Native Advertising to Drive Performance

What’s more effective than ads with compelling visual content and attention-grabbing headlines?

Sometimes, it’s an ad that doesn’t look like an ad. It’s one that matches the look and feel of the platform where it shows up.

For example, this advertorial content from The Telegraph and Flight Centre showcases destinations around Australia and promotes Flight Centre to its audience.

Article from the Telegraph.

This is native advertising, a tactic marketers use to fight the trend of users ignoring content that looks like ads. It includes sponsored content, in-feed social media ads, branded or sponsored playlists on streaming platforms, and widgets at the end of articles or blog posts.

Companies are increasing their use of native advertising. In fact, experts estimate that native display ad spending in the U.S. is expected to reach $98.59 billion in 2023. That’s especially true on mobile: almost 90 percent of all native ads in the United States were delivered on mobile devices in 2020.

NP Digital’s Director of Programmatic Dana Heins explains:

“Native advertising spend in the US increased 37% in 2021 and is expected to reach ~$100 billion in 2023 according to eMarketer. Advertisers are gravitating towards native ad formats because consumers arebased on an eye-tracking study, consumers look at native ads 53% more often than standard banner ads, and recent studies have found that 70% of consumers would rather learn about products through content than traditional advertisements, which aligns well for native advertisement.”

Of those marketers we surveyed who’ve relied on native advertising in the last three months, over half plan on using it more, and 29 percent already use it often.

Like all marketing tools, native advertising has its pros and cons. It offers more flexibility and higher engagement than standard banner ads and display ads, but it’s often more expensive to produce.

There are plenty of ethical hangups, too. Native ads blur the line between editorial and commercial content. They could be deceptive at worst or violate editorial independence.

If you’re a brand that wants to dip your toes into the native advertising waters, you’ll want to be careful to tread the line between sales-focused and genuinely informative. Provide value to users and align with their interests—but stay transparent about the fact that you’re serving an ad to them. They’ll appreciate the honesty.

Continued Growth of Video Advertising

Video’s still an essential piece of the marketing puzzle for organizations of all sizes, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Research from the folks at HubSpot and Wyzowl shows it will only get more popular. OTT (over-the-top) advertising refers to video ads displayed over the internet. Instead of using broadcast, cable, or satellite services to advertise, companies are instead focusing on platforms like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube TV. OTT video market revenue is expected to reach over $323 billion in 2023.

Many of our surveyed marketers say they’re using video often—to the tune of 66 percent.

OTT ads are attractive for advertisers because they allow audience targeting based on demographics or interests. They’re also a great fit because they have higher engagement and measurable results. Ads can be cost-effective, too, because they use programmatic ad buying.

OTT video advertising isn’t perfect, however.

The landscape’s pretty fragmented, with lots of platforms and devices. The high demand also makes it difficult for marketers to secure ad spots. As with all paid campaigns, there’s also some scrutiny around data privacy. You may face restrictions in collecting user data to help target your campaigns.

That doesn’t mean entering the OTT segment is hopeless. As Heins explains:

Dana Heins quote from NPD.

If you want to use video ads (including OTT ones) to market your products or services, make sure you’re personalizing ads for your intended audience. It should be relevant to the surrounding content, not stick out like a sore thumb. Finally, don’t forget to choose the right video type and include a strong CTA.

Growing Popularity of Audio Advertising

If you’re someone who listens to the radio, you’re familiar with audio ads. Well, they’re still a thing. The landscape looks a little different, though, with podcast and streaming ads on platforms like Spotify making up a growing part of the landscape.

More marketing companies are spending on these platforms to reach their customers because they offer some flexibility that video and display don’t. Of surveyed marketers already using audio advertising, 77 percent said it was worth the time and budget investment.

Marketers say audio advertising is worth the investment.

Audio ads don’t require visual engagement, and they work great to reach customers while doing other things like driving, commuting, or working out in the gym. It’s great for reaching people who multitask.

They’re also extremely effective. The listen-through rates on these ads are close to 98 percent. Even though listeners may not catch the whole ad, audio content also boasts a 24 percent higher recall rate than traditional display ads.

Unlike some ads on YouTube, these ads aren’t easy to skip and have great recall rates. Podcasts and streaming sites also cater to specific demographics, which makes them excellent for targeting. You can even tailor your ads to particular genres of music or podcasts.

Moreover, programmatic advertising lets you target geography, weather, website browsing history, and device type. This engagement gets measured in real-time, too, so you can tweak performance as necessary.

What drawbacks do you face with advertising on streaming? Like radio, streaming services do come with required minimum advertising spend—sometimes in the thousands of dollars. That makes it inaccessible for some smaller businesses.

But if you have the budget and the knowledge to focus on the platforms your users listen to the most, you can increase brand awareness and sales through audio ads.

Greater Use of Programmatic Digital Out-of-Home Advertising

Even with the rise of remote work, we don’t spend all our time at home. We commute, head to the grocery store, and spend time outdoors. Programmatic digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising reaches audiences when they’re out in the real world. It targets locations your audience visits throughout the day. Common DOOH placements include:

  • Digital billboards
  • Bus-stop DOOH advertising
  • Car-top DOOH ads
  • Elevator DOOH screens
  • Gas station digital ads

Programmatic DOOH features capabilities like targeting audiences based on the locations they visit or using your first-party data to create an audience for real-world targeting. This data can help inform dynamic creative preferences like images, ad copy, and taglines.

A large digital billboard shows an advertisement that reads, Free Home Delivery

One of the benefits of programmatic DOOH is that it intelligently uses your data. You can understand how your audience moves around during the day and reach them where they are. You can activate media when and where you need it.

That doesn’t mean programmatic DOOH doesn’t have its drawbacks. Measuring performance can be a hassle because there are no standardized reporting guidelines.

You also don’t get the benefit of granular targeting that you’d find with other advertising techniques. Coupling that with a fragmented landscape can cause trouble for marketers who want to build a cohesive strategy.

If programmatic DOOH looks attractive to you and your team, keep the following advice in mind:

  • Define clear objectives.
  • Choose the right platforms and ad inventory.
  • Leverage any available data for targeting.
  • Make your ad content engaging and relevant.
  • Collaborate with your industry partners.

Increased Investment in Programmatic

When brands and marketers get skittish about the economic climate, they return to what works. And there’s a compelling argument to be made for programmatic digital display ads.

Programmatic ads refer to banner ads that are placed on specially designated areas of websites or apps.

Programmatic advertising example from The Economist

Example of programmatic display advertising from The Economist/WebFX

Experts predict programmatic ads to make up 91 percent of all digital display ad spend in 2023. Heins explains it this way:

“As brands cope with ongoing economic concerns, marketers prioritize spending on areas they have more control, like programmatic. eMarketer predicts that programmatic ad spend will grow 16.9 percent in the U.S. this year. Additionally, dollars are being shifted to programmatic advertising as more media types can be purchased through a DSP like OTT, PDOOH, Pub Direct, etc.”

A quote from Dana Heins of NPD.

Programmatic ads offer marketers the benefits of high efficiency and fantastic ad revenue. Combine that with greater reach and increased flexibility, and there’s a good reason brands like them.

On the other hand, programmatic advertising does miss out on the granular human control that makes other ad models attractive. They’re also not an excellent fit for companies that don’t have a good grasp of technology. Finally, programmatic advertising can be expensive. While CPMs typically range between $0.50 and $2.00, brands with niche audiences might expect to pay more.

If you want to jump on the trend of programmatic ads, embrace data and use reporting to inform your campaigns. It’ll help you create personalized ads to serve your audience better. Finally, work with technology partners who understand and can help you reach your goals.

Growth of YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels

In addition to TikTok, more advertisers are embracing short-form video platforms like YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels. This is one of the hottest trends in marketing over the next three years, and it’s one you should be enthusiastic about embracing.

Short-form video is fantastic because the content surrounding the ads is typically free to access. In addition, videos encourage creator and viewer participation. Creating content for these platforms is simple, which is a big driver of adoption. It’s a firehose of content, too: There’s almost no shortage of things to watch.

Youtube shorts from Neil Patel.

YouTube Shorts

Youtube Shorts from Neil Patel.

Instagram Reels

If there’s a hurdle to pivoting to YouTube Shorts and IG Reels, it’s still the elephant in the room: TikTok. While TikTok has the highest number of users, Instagram Reels viewers have the higher watch rate.

Short-form videos are necessary if your marketing campaign features a social media component. Put them on your content calendar as soon as possible and start planning them today.

Pick the right platform that aligns with your goals: If you want a higher watch rate, focus on Reels. If you want better engagement, go for TikTok. If you want to cover all your bases (and help your YouTube SEO), create YouTube Shorts.

Use of Chat Advertising in Paid Search

Chat services aren’t just limited to customer service queries. Microsoft’s plan to introduce ads in its Bing chat disrupts the previously ad-free experience but provides a new way for advertisers to reach their audience.

It turns out that many of our marketing pros think this will disrupt the industry. Over half of our surveyed marketers believe chat-based advertising is likely to disrupt traditional modes of search advertising, with 24 percent saying it “definitely will.”

Marketers anticipate effective chat advertising in pad search.

Moreover, over 50 percent of our surveyed group says they are vested in doing so because they believe it’ll be an effective way to reach potential customers.

What’s interesting about the Bing approach is that it’s part of a three-fold attack to make the platform more usable. Other ideas they’re considering include offering more information as a hover state on links to encourage user engagement. The third potential option includes rich captions for Microsoft Start partners alongside chat answers.

If you’re interested in using chat ads on Bing (or other platforms), contact technology and agency partners to get in on the ground floor. Microsoft wants to work closely with publishers to shape the tool. Being part of those discussions has the potential to be a lucrative proposition.

Changes to Shopping and Marketplaces

Paid media trends and ads don’t just live in search engines or on social media. They’re prominent in the places you shop, too. The rise of ads and ad content on marketplaces means paid media professionals must also pay attention to what’s happening there.

Continued Rise of Shoppable Ads and Social Commerce

Social media companies want their users to stay on the site. Advertisers want consumers to buy their products as quickly as possible. You’d think that these two ideals would crash against each other. That’s no longer the case. Shoppable ads and social commerce make buying things on your favorite platforms a much smoother process than ever.

Jcrew ecommerce.

According to Yoon, being unique is one of the most important assets you can have.

“The key to dominating the social commerce and shoppable media is to have a unique presence on every major social platform. The essence of the brand should be similar across all platforms, but the best performing performance creatives will be unique to each platform. We recommend constantly testing new creative angles to capture the attention of shoppers in your evolving target audience pools.”

Shoppable ads let consumers buy products directly through the ad format with the help of an embedded storefront. Social commerce does the same thing. One-fifth of our surveyed audience already uses shoppable ads as part of their marketing efforts, and half of those marketers say they want to use it more in the future. A third is already using it quite often.

Marketers experiment with shoppable ads.

Before you jump into using shoppable ads or social commerce, be mindful of user preferences and priorities to ensure a seamless experience.

Your customers likely have privacy concerns, especially when giving payment information. To fight this, do your best to build trust before selling on social media. In addition, be prepared to see some fall-off when tracking attribution. Sometimes it’s hard to see results because tracking performance across multiple platforms and devices is complex.

Focus on optimizing the user experience to ensure data privacy and security. As always, keeping a close eye on your campaign performance is a close second. If you address these challenges, shoppable ads and social commerce are potent tools.

Increase of Marketplace Advertising for Non-Endemics

Amazon’s always been a great advertising platform for brands that sell their physical products there. But even brands that don’t sell goods there can have a slice of the advertising pie. This non-endemic advertising in the Amazon marketplace has a new home thanks to Amazon’s Sponsored Display advertising service. These self-serve ads don’t require a minimum spend and have simple setup processes.

Moreover, it removes the barriers for non-endemic brands like manufacturers, healthcare providers, and insurance companies to advertise on Amazon.

If you want to start advertising on the platform, keep a few things in mind. This will lead to increased ad competition—including for endemic brands. There are other concerns, too. David Hutchinson, NP Digital’s VP of marketplaces, explains:

Quote from David Hutchinson from NPD.


What are the paid media trends for 2023?

According to our survey of 1,000 marketers, the 10 biggest paid media trends include:
Use of YouTube Shorts or Instagram Reels in paid campaigns
Use of AI for copy or creative optimization 
Use of organic keywords in paid campaigns
Use of user-generated content in paid campaigns
Use of Google’s optimized targeting or audience expansion 
Use of GA4 audience insights to inform paid campaigns
Use of dynamic creative optimization
Use of chat advertising in paid search
Use of shoppable ads
Use of OTT advertising

What are SEM trends for 2023?

Some of the biggest paid search trends for 2023 include leaning more on first-party data, using AI to draft creative, and targeting customers with expanded audiences and machine-learning optimized segments.


Even though they may not pan out, there’s always a new batch of marketing trends each year for you to test.

Whether or not you put them to work largely depends on a few things, like your first-hand experience with the trend and case studies that show results. On the other hand, you might be enthusiastic about something your clients are terrified of. That’s just how marketing works.

Digital marketing—including paid media—will always be an evolving business. How you deal with the shifts in culture, tactics, and tools is up to you. Before you say no to something—or invest in a new tactic—stop and consider what your peers are doing in the space. And remember that some trends—like audio advertising or native advertising—may not make sense for your brand at all.

What paid search or social trends are you must excited about to close out the year? What do you see coming for 2024?

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