One Year Later: How Covid Hit Ad Tech and How It’s Recovering

Covid bludgeoned ad spend, cut budgets, and forced ad tech providers to get crafty to survive.

On top of that, 2021 is throwing its own curveballs, especially related to privacy, as Apple and Google downgrade tracking.

I checked in with leaders at Adswerve to get some perspective on how ad tech responded to the pandemic and where the industry goes from here.

How ad tech responded

“The ad industry is relatively strong” a year after Covid struck, said Pete Crofut, director of partner relationships at Adswerve. Digital advertising was the bright spot in a tough year for ads as consumers turned to e-commerce and digital channels in record numbers.

But players made all sorts of moves to stay afloat, he said. Some folded, some joined forces to weather the storm, and others pivoted.

“Some have evolved into what the changing industry calls on them to be,” Crofut said. For example, “DMPs have been pivoting, leaning on their identity resolution features and partnerships reemerging as CDPs.”

Moving money around: one company’s approach

In order to avoid layoffs amid the Covid recession, Adswerve executives took a “significant pay decrease,” while more junior members received a temporary reduction in pay.

“From there, we evaluated our revenue on a weekly basis to determine whether or not we could reinstate salaries,” said Tiffany Tasset, the company’s chief of corporate operations. “Despite the continued uncertainties with the pandemic, in the fall of 2020 we felt comfortable to fully reinstate salaries with backpay to make up for the cuts and ensured a complete bonus payout for 2020.”

Ad tech’s recovery in the months ahead

Identity and privacy are top of mind for Adswerve, as for the rest of the advertising and customer data industry.

“Businesses will be forced to prioritize privacy in all of their operations or be faced with fines and eventually backlash by their customers, who are demanding their privacy be taken seriously,” said Chief Solutions Officer Matt Fiskness.

Fiskness predicted that the deprecation of third-party cookies and Apple’s IDFA, along with privacy regulation, will shift marketing KPIs and drive advertisers toward first-party data.

“First-party data opens the door to contextual campaigns and machine learning priorities,” he said. “These first-party insights will allow advertisers to target their audiences more directly and help them to acquire new customers.”

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018 and compiled the daily newsletter since 2016. Joe is a journalist who has written widely about technology, business, and politics. You can contact him at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.