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Consumer attention controls the pace of commerce innovation

By Todd Parsons, Chief product officer

May 1, 2023 | 8 min read

Consumer attention ultimately decides which emerging channels win out – and deliver strong returns for advertisers – writes Criteo’s Todd Parsons.


/ Adobe Stock

In today’s digital landscape, brands face a challenging task when deciding where to allocate their advertising budgets to engage consumers with a ‘commerce everywhere’ mindset. With seemingly endless digital channels, the wrong decision could lead to wasted resources and limited impact as consumers are constantly inundated with options of where to spend their time.

And ultimately, consumers hold all the cards when it comes to deciding which channels become mainstream and which ones fade into obscurity, by essentially ‘voting’ with their attention.

Last year, the average US consumer spent eight hours and 14 minutes per day on digital channels, including smart TVs, smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles and other internet-connected devices, according to eMarketer data. That’s why marketing leaders need to stay on top of new and emerging channels to identify which have staying power that will help future-proof their marketing strategies in the next era of advertising. By doing so, brands can leverage consumers’ preferred channels to map content to commerce and create rich experiences that fuel brand loyalty and drive purchase intent – while also staying ahead of the digital innovation curve.

Retail sites changed the game

While retailers’ e-commerce sites are no longer considered a new channel, they did help set the pace for new advertising experiences and consumer expectations for online shopping.

When it was clear that consumers were getting more and more comfortable with buying online, brands needed a way to maximize exposure. And retailers answered that call. By offering ad inventory on their sites, brands could serve engaging, native product ads that provided value to customers already looking to buy.

As more consumers leaned into e-commerce, retailers became the next generation of media websites, with the logical next step for marketers to maximize their investments through the rise of retail media networks (RMNs). These were born from retailers‘ loyal customer base, prime ad space and massive collections of opted-in first-party data – which allow them to understand what people need as they shop and whether they‘re in the market or not.

By 2024, RMN ad spend is expected to grow to over $61bn, with an anticipated $51bn being spent on RMNs in 2023 alone, per eMarketer. Retail media is now expanding to non-retail media owners through the expansive wave of commerce media.

Channels on the rise: gaming

Gaming is a channel that has gained a significant amount of consumer attention. While it started as more of a niche category, it’s gradually taken 40 years for the technological capabilities to progress enough for it to be a viable, broad consumer and commerce destination. In fact, the global gaming market, according to a report by Fortune Business Insights, is expected to reach $545bn by 2028, which represents a massive opportunity for marketers to connect with the 2.7 billion-player gaming audience.

Plus, gamers are highly engaged: the average video gamer spends over 8 hours playing online per week, according to data from Limelight. However, the demographic stereotype of gamers only being young men is seriously outdated – women now account for about 45% of US gamers, and around 30% of gamers in the US are over the age of 45.

In-game commerce, advertising, sponsorships and partnerships with game developers are all ways that brands can tap into this market to drive revenue, performance and brand loyalty. By leveraging first-party data on user behavior and preferences, and seamless integration into the gaming experience, marketers with a commerce-and-customer mindset can deliver ads that feel like a natural part of the game. This provides value to the player while also promoting their brand.

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CTV tips the scales with consumer demand

Another more mainstream but still evolving channel is streaming video and connected television (CTV). Brands that can effectively advertise on streaming channels have the potential to reach a large and engaged audience, especially as heavy hitters like Netflix and Disney roll out ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) tiers.

As cord-cutting becomes commonplace, consumers are increasingly turning to CTV devices to access their favorite shows and movies. This trend has opened up new opportunities for marketers, who are now exploring innovative ways to engage with audiences through shoppable video and CTV formats. These marketers take a cue from what’s worked in other video feeds and leverage it in the streaming world.

CTV has the unique ability to offer a highly targeted and personalized viewing experience on a constant basis. By leveraging data on consumer behavior and preferences, marketers can deliver the most relevant ads to viewers in a way that feels seamless and non-intrusive to their watching habits, much like gaming and retail sites.

This has led to a rise in shoppable video, giving viewers access to commerce experiences directly from the content they watch. Viewers can easily make purchases before their favorite Netflix title starts up again by clicking on products featured in the video or ad space.

Marketers are also exploring other interactive formats that can help turn CTV into a more engaging and interactive environment. For example, some companies are experimenting with choose-your-own-adventure style ads, which allow viewers to make choices within the ad and receive personalized recommendations based on their selections.

These CTV formats create a more immersive experience for the viewer, turning what used to be a one-way channel into a more dynamic and interactive environment. At the same time, it provides equally valuable data and insights for the marketer to consistently drive conversions.

Engage the right audience

Successful new channels are the ones that constantly adapt to changing consumer behavior, so they can provide the most value to consumers at any given moment.

By analyzing commerce data, marketers can gain insights into what types of content and messaging resonate with their target audience. This intelligence can then be used to create more effective advertising campaigns, tailored to the specific needs and interests of consumers on their preferred channels. These new advertising opportunities can be particularly effective in building brand loyalty among younger audiences as well, who are often early adopters of new technologies.

Powerful commerce data for preferred audiences is the foundation of successful commerce media strategies. As technology continues to evolve and the industry moves towards addressability based on first-party data, we can expect these trends to become even more prevalent in the advertising industry, which means emerging channels will be more important than ever.

Todd Parsons is chief product officer at Criteo.

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