December marks the time when everyone in digital marketing starts sharing trends that are anticipated to shape the next generation of experiences. During this time of last year, I wrote an article, “Digital Marketing Trends to Watch Out for in 2015,” where ad executives from Havas Worldwide, J. Walter Thompson (JWT), Tribal Worldwide, LinkedIn, Tumblr and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) shared their thoughts on where the industry was heading in the new year.
This year, instead of writing another prediction piece that you could (already) feel tired of, I decided to go back to those executives and ask them if their predictions came true in 2015.
There’s no magic ball and my thoughts from last year were not as much a prediction as they were an insight into where the industry was heading. Looking ahead, 2016 will be a creatively challenging year for brands to drive differentiation. I’m excited about virtual reality and even podcasts and audio streaming for high-touch, creative brand experiences.
I still agree that 2015 was the year of mastering content at scale. From agencies reorganizing themselves to offer inexpensive content production to brands building content studios in-house and publishers launching a more concerted effort with their branded content offering, this year has seen tremendous amounts of positive momentum in that direction.
I would have also mentioned ad blocking and its growing shadow in digital marketing. Combine ad block technology with an already fickle millennial audience and it creates a significant challenge, even for brands producing great content.
I don’t really consider myself a trend forecaster, so I looked back at my predictions with a fair bit of anxiety.
I was worried that like a bad Major League catcher, my “batting average” would be somewhere below 20 percent (.200).
I had predicted that more brand marketers would adopt principles from direct marketing. In May of 2015, Mondelez announced that it would convert all of its digital media into shoppable ads. In September, YouTube announced that it would make all of its ads shoppable. And in November, Twix, along with BBDO, implemented a sort of champion/challenger beta test for video creative.
I predicted that the content production model would shift as more agencies looked for ways to produce more content, more efficiently. This year saw Co:Collective launch Pub, which will connect brands to YouTube stars for content production needs; Omnicom merge the studios of DDB New York, BBDO New York, as well as TBWA New York in order to better focus on real-time content production; and The Barbarian Group open Lot112 to produce content for clients who wouldn’t otherwise work with the agency.
Finally, I predicted that marketers would invest less in community management on Facebook as the platform became more of a paid media platform. Many of Tribal’s clients have already taken the decision to only produce content for Facebook when it can be supported with media investments, but generally this topic hasn’t been a major point of discussion within the industry.
All in all, not bad for someone who isn’t in the trend forecasting business! Definitely, well above an all-star level batting average (.333).
Looking back, I think my 2015 prediction was pretty good. This was a year of mobile measurement – the Media Rating Council (MRC) started working on a mobile viewability guideline and is looking to release it in Q1 of 2016. There has been advisory and temporary standard about mobile measurement, showing that the industry has come together to figure out what mobile viewability means, which in return, means that we will be able to start looking at creating digital Gross Rating Points (GRPs) for better cross-screen measurement.
The IAB has also started a massive project trying to figure out better ways of measuring cross-screen attribution. And we will continue working on it next year. Of course, there’s more work to do, but the industry is taking a big step forward.
Mobile programmatic is really growing fast and data is becoming even more important on the rise of new products and solutions, such as beacons and wearables.
On the video front, I think we are getting better and better in terms of what ad units work on mobile and how we work with native advertising.
In 2015, we certainly saw a massive diversification of streams and sources of branded content.
One example is that more and more emerging talents are taking on brand work. On top of that, some of the most exciting things that happened this year involved brand-commissioned work: it seems like every week, a new original series, editorial headline, or art installation has been brought to you by a brand.
To me, the biggest surprise was not the increase in branded content (this seemed unavoidable, considering the pressure brands are under to stay relevant and engaging.), but the huge rise in the quality and originality in content. If you told me just a couple years ago that millions of people would tune into a sitcom owned by a fast food chain or that a photographer’s hair care tutorial would be reblogged tens of thousands of times, I would say that’s crazy. But in 2015, we saw these things happen repeatedly.
And video was a huge part of that puzzle – equal amounts of creativity stretched into video formats. Those two went hand in hand.
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