Video has been driving the global digital-advertising industry, and that will continue into 2026 -- with some changes. Here's what you need to know.
Over the past few years, video has been perhaps the strongest driving force for the global digital-advertising industry. And while the niche future, undoubtedly, remains optimistic, online-video-ad trends in five years will definitely be at least somewhat different from what we’re tracking right now in 2021.
Video has been driving the global digital-advertising industry
Even though the 5G adoption has been stumbling upon numerous hurdles in 2020 and 2021 (blame it on the pandemic-related economic slowdowns or the waterfall of disinformation spreading online and feeding people’s overall anxiety), the upcoming five years will be more than enough to get things going. And since the variety of 5G devices in 2026 will, obviously, dominate the market, so will the AR- and VR-powered immersive video ads. Not only will these offer an exceptional experience in the ecommerce and travel verticals, but they will also become an indispensable part of gaming ads, opening the brand-new era of metaverse for customers.
One of the most promising video-ad formats in the VR and AR gaming universes will remain the well-known rewarded video ads, and these will definitely provide an interactive, multi-level journey to viewers and a granular reward system, accordingly.
More importantly, the latter, gaming-related trend will probably cover the parent-controlled niche of advertising too, offering a unique blend of educational and entertainment ad content for children with access to VR sets in their households. In view of this, the digitized Barbie universes seem like the least imaginative example of the many.
Resurrection of 360-degree video ads on mobile
While Facebook may not be on top of its game in 2026, the overall dominance of the mobile industry definitely prevails until then. And this is where the online advertising dollars will be flowing to. Even in spite of the third-party cookie deprecation and the increasingly stricter regulations regarding customer-data use, the volume of mobile advertising will only grow in the coming years.
Yet, given the lack of precise targeting, brands and agencies will need to be more meticulous in terms of their ad-content curation, making it interactive and engaging enough to attract and retain customers within a large cohort.
One of the possible solutions we’re expecting to see make a comeback are the mobile-specific 360-degree video ads, which have gained less traction than initially expected in recent years. Namely, these will probably be flexible in display in both the vertical and horizontal device modes to ensure the smooth experience on varying screen configurations and sizes (including the folding smartphones too).
Survival vs. revival of influencer-curated video-ad content
First and foremost, according to our forecasts, the online-influencer community as we know it will die by 2026. And yet, it will evolve and grow far beyond the limits we can now imagine. This paradox is self-explanatory. The competition among YouTube bloggers has already pushed a lot of them below the desired monetization thresholds, and the TikTok boom is devouring the influencers’ market, making everyone a star, hence leaving barely anyone actually able to monetize short-term fame via direct brand advertising.
What can emerge from such an overwhelmed influencer market is its restricted, more sophisticated iteration, where brands will be putting more money into nurturing their long-term ambassadors in the influencer community, yet pushing them further in terms of the quality and format of curated video-ad content.
So far, the direct partnership between publishers and brands constituted the premium digital-video-ad niche while programmatic-video advertising has largely remained a Wild West market, though one with much greater volume.
Well, in five years, we expect the programmatic-video-ad segment to split up itself — into a range of sub-niches (from premium and upper-tier ones to the less regulated gray-area types). And, while the premium (and close to premium) segments will mostly rely on the first-party opt-in audience data and complex contextual-targeting tools along with AI-powered predictive ad tech for user-cohort segmentation, the rest of programmatic will be using a completely different business model.
That business model will imply a selection of less precise targeting options and vaguer brand-suitability benchmarks, but at a much more affordable price. Quite predictably, this can become a potentially acceptable solution for smaller brands with less demanding audiences or businesses working in the gray market areas themselves.