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2021: A Year of Recovery for Digital Branded Content

Recovery was really the only option after the year-to-forget that was 2020, but how has 2021 played out and where is the rebound strongest?
Chart of % year-on-year change in digital branded content volume.

Tracking digital branded content volumes across Jan-Nov this year tells us a lot about how the industry (advertisers, agencies and publishers) first suffered then adapted last year, and how quickly.

Following the WHO pandemic declaration on March 11th 2020, branded content volumes (number of content items, i.e. discrete URLs featuring branded content) plummeted and reached their nadir the following month. This year's data clearly reflects last year's COVID trauma with a stunning 96% yr-on-yr increase in April. After the initial shock, and once content creators adapted to remote working, the campaign tally started creeping up.

Emergence from the first lockdown in much of Europe and the US in May was followed by renewed pessimism and the realisation that further lockdowns were inevitable. However, by late Q3 we recorded a surge in campaign volume that looked and felt like the regular end-of-year / holiday season bonanza. This year's data (flat yr-on-yr in Oct and +4% in Nov) confirms that the recovery was fully baked in by Q4 last year, and that not even a 2nd or 3rd lockdown could change the trajectory.

Digital Branded Content Volume

Yr-on-Yr Change (Jan-Nov 2021)







Source: Contalto

B2B targeted content shows stronger growth than B2C, not because it was harder hit last year (we saw almost no decline in B2B campaign activity during 2020), but because the medium is so well suited to conveying a brand's take on today's complex subjects like digital transformation, decarbonisation or ESG.

All the above is a broad generalisation, of course, as once again this year's data reveals how some sectors had a much more desperate 2020, which is reflected in their stellar rebounds.

Bar chart of yr-on-yr growth in digital branded content volume by sector for Jan-Nov 2021

The sectors most negatively impacted by the pandemic have rebounded in a big way this year, led by Trade Development & Foreign Direct Investment, which more than doubled. Luxury, Automotive, Travel & Tourism all enjoyed at least 40% higher campaign volumes.

Content Volumes for Selected Sub-Sectors

Yr-onYr % Change (Jan-Nov 2021)

Car Manufacturers


National Trade & Investment Promotion




City Tourism Promotion


Regional Tourism Promotion


National Tourism Promotion


Source: Contalto

Stand-out sub-sectors include Car Manufacturers (overall brand promotion as opposed to specific models), Jewellery and all levels of Tourism Promotion: national, regional and city. This contrasts sharply with other travel sub-sectors, whose volumes are still in decline: Travel Agents & Tour Operators, Airlines and Cruise Lines & Ferries.

For more analysis like this, or any other aspect of digital branded content, Contalto users will soon be able to experience our new Analysis module. This builds on Contalto's existing toolkit of content feeds, custom dashboards, campaign collections and more.

Get in touch to find out more...


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