9 mins

There are a number of new and up and coming media platforms – and underutilised ones too – which have the potential to transform your advertising strategy as we get stuck into 2021. Dynamic Search Ads, Programmatic, Spotify Podcast Advertising and Quora – you might have heard of them, but what exactly are they and how can you make the most out of them?


Launched in 2018 for beta-testing, before becoming available to all advertisers in late 2019, Google Discovery Ads are the biggest new launch from Google in terms of ad-products. We’ve written a more in-depth blog about them which you can read by clicking here.

Google Discovery Ads were born from a mission to move towards three fundamental shifts for the next chapter of Google – those shifts being:

  • A shift from Answers to Journeys
  • A shift from Queries to the Queryless
  • The shift from text to a more visual way of finding information

Discovery Ads tick all of those boxes.

In terms of where Discovery Ads appear, there are three placements – Google’s Discover Feed in the Google App, YouTube’s Homepage and Watch-Next feed, and within the Social and Promotion tabs in Gmail. You’ll notice that all of these placements are within apps, and this is Google’s way of capitalising on the mobile-first and scroll-heavy nature of not only the way that users are consuming content these days, but also the successes that the likes of Facebook have enjoyed from this model.

In terms of the anatomy of a Google Discovery ad, we have the main image (or images for carousel ads), a headline, description, CTA button, and the Brand Name – very similar to that of Facebook Newsfeed ads.

What are the benefits of Google Discovery Ads?

In terms of specs, they’re near-identical to that of Facebook, which means they’re super easy to launch if you’re already using Facebook ads, with decreased entry costs – you can use the creative and copy they already have.

They’re visual-first, meaning that they’re great for telling stories – whether that be a brand story, testimonials, or showcasing products / services / courses – especially with Carousel Ads.

The three placements that Discovery Ads can appear in have a combined global reach of 2.9 billion, rivalling Facebook’s reach which is 2.1 billion. And they have a native look and feel – the Discovery Ad cards are identical in format to the organic content above and below, making them feel like an extension of what the user is browsing rather than a disruption.

Machine learning

One of the key features of Discovery Ads is that they’re driven by machine-learning at multiple levels. In terms of targeting, Google boasts about the power of its Intent Signals in order to deliver ads to highly relevant audiences, utilising data it holds on users from what websites they’re browsing, what videos they’re watching, which apps they’ve downloaded, their search history, and map usage. On the right, you can see a breakdown of the intent signals Google is using to create a profile of me.

A study from Google found that Ads served with intent signals alone have 30% higher consideration lift and 40% higher purchase intent lift than when they’re served using demographic signals alone.

Another use of Machine Learning in Discovery Ads is in the build. Instead of creating individual ads, we load all of our copy (which is formed of 5 headlines, and 5 descriptions) with our images of various sizes, and Google will dynamically create and optimise the best performing combinations, based on the user and which feed they’re browsing.

We know this responsive ad serving works well from Google Search, where we’ve found that CTRs are, on average, 19% higher than that of Expanded Text Ads, where we manually specify combinations of headlines and descriptions.


Across campaigns that utilise Discovery Ads, we’ve achieved an average CPC of £0.25, a CTR of 1.30%, and a CPM of £3.25. Performance does tend to be comparable to that of Facebook, but that it’s much cheaper to reach our audience, meaning more clicks from our client’s budgets and more opportunities to convert.

Lead Generation

Finally, on Google Discovery Ads, an optional feature is to integrate a lead-form instead of sending users to your website – which is an attractive option if lead generation is a key goal.


Moving on to Programmatic, let’s cover some of the key benefits afforded to advertisers by their DSP (or demand side platform).

One of the USPs that our DSP provides is the option to target and report on View Duration – in essence, how long are users actually spending time with the ads that you’re serving? This differs from the IAB and MRC standard metric of measurement, which is Viewability. Viewability is defined as an ad being at least 50% visible on a page for a minimum of one second for display ads, and two seconds for video ads. The industry benchmark is that ads should be viewable around 80-90% of the time.

View Duration allows you to target users using our DSP’s prediction engine, allowing advertisers to reach users who are more likely to actually see their ads, and you can specify the amount of time that you’d like this to be, although the average is around 4 seconds. This measure seeks to increase the quality of every impression served and looks to avoid wastage.


Another key feature our DSP provides is incrementality testing – the concept of incrementality describes the measurement of conversion lift that advertising spend provides.

A user may convert through an ad, but incrementality measurement tells us if that ad was the true cause of the conversion, rather than reaching a user who would have converted anyway. It helps dispel any doubt between correlation and causation, and the insight this offers us is really helpful when we’re deciding where to spend our budget.

How does this work? Our audience is split into two defined groups – a test and control. The test group sees our ads as normal, whereas the control group is simulated in something our DSP describes as a ‘ghost audience’. This measures the sales or conversion outcome between the two groups and compares performance, giving us a lift metric that we can confidently assign to our advertising.

Unique audiences

A final note on programmatic is the unique audiences that we can access or build. By placing a pixel on your website, you can create affinity whitelists of sites that your audience browse which is particularly helpful for those new to programmatic advertising.

Through a third-party, you can also use Twitter data to target your audience using their ‘Twitter User Tribes’ feature – especially efficient if you’re running Twitter alongside programmatic. You can also use keyword targeting to ensure that your ads are shown contextually among articles or content relating to your ads, which is super useful for very niche products or courses if you work in education marketing.

And finally, our DSP partners with a company called Lumen for eye-tracking capabilities.

We’re excited by this partnership and the intelligence it provides and in the words of our DSP: “For the past two years, we have been running the world’s largest continuous eye-tracking study: 500 households across the UK, all equipped with sensitive eye-tracking cameras that passively monitor what people actually look at when they go online – and what they ignore. This data set gives us a unique insight into the reality of attention to advertising.

These are all features that aren’t necessarily available with other Programmatic DSPs and if you choose to use these features, you can gain a competitive edge against your rivals whilst giving your prospects the best experience of your brand.


Brand new for 2021, Spotify Podcast Ads are now available in the UK. Spotify now has over 70 million podcast listeners and consumption is growing at huge rates every year. In the UK alone, there was an 11.4% increase in podcast listeners across all platforms in 2020, with that number expected to grow another 10% in 2021. This is a very exciting opportunity for advertisers to reach a huge audience.

The ad inventory is being powered by Spotify’s proprietary Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) technology, and reports on confirmed ad impressions rather than podcast downloads, as well as reach and frequency. The company says this enables advertisers to make even more data-driven decisions for their podcast campaigns. Advertisers can buy Spotify Podcast Ads on a title-by-title basis and run creative across pre-roll, midroll, or post-roll ad placements within the show’s episodes. Spotify also offers a service in which they can offer advertisers select podcast hosts and a network of professional voice talent to help with the creative process.

In Spotify’s own words: “With Spotify Podcast Ads we aim to take podcast advertising to the next level, offering brands unique insights into their audiences and creative solutions that can truly capture consumer attention. We’re really excited about what’s to come.” This is one to watch in 2021.


People go to Quora to ask questions, and to read and share insightful answers. Besides questions about how, users are also looking for reliable information about your organisation, products, competitors, and industry. This provides a pretty unique opportunity to influence people during the consideration phase of their purchase process.

Quora has 300m monthly unique active users globally, and you can reach those people based on their interests, behaviours, location, what they’re reading and much more.

Targeting options include:

  • Keywords
  • Topics
  • Questions
  • Interests
  • Question Retargeting
  • Pixel Retargeting
  • Look a Likes

In terms of ad formats, you can run Image Ads, Text Ads, Promoted Answers and Lead Gen Forms:

The University of Chicago utilised Lead Gen Forms on Quora to increase student enrollment, achieving 5x more information requests, whilst achieving 63% CPLs (cost per leads) than Facebook.

Requiring a minimum commitment of $5 per day, this is a very untapped advertising platform that allows you to generate high quality leads at a fraction of the cost of some of its rivals.

In addition to the industry heavyweights, such as Google Search, Google Display, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, there are a number of underused and new media platforms that will get your brand and message in front of your target audience in 2021, each one coming with its own unique features and benefits.

So, if you’re interested in exploring Google Discovery Ads, getting your brand heard on a podcast or advertising during the consideration phase of the purchase process on Quora, or simply want to find out how to take your programmatic advertising strategy to the next level, get in touch with our paid media experts today.


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