A year ago, when I made my predictions for 2006, it was clear everything was in place for 2006 to be a watershed year – and it turned out to be just that. The two mega-trends were online video and social media. At the beginning of 2006, MySpace and YouTube were not part of digital media mix for most marketers. Now MySpace is at the top of the charts and YouTube made the cover of Time Magazine—or rather “You” made the cover of “Time” magazine.
Looking forward to 2007, I see six key themes that will shape the year:
- Niche Social Media Sites Achieve Critical Mass: I touched on this topic in my last column, but it’s worth revisiting as vertical (or special interest) social networking sites are getting traction. Senior citizens, pregnant mothers, pet owners, wine collectors, sports fanatics, and adventure travelers are all examples of passionate communities offering opportunities. Look for lots of merger and acquisition activity in this space in the coming year as companies try to build their communities — fast. Why? Any media property or entertainment company with a connected audience is quickly developing communities. People want to connect and they generate a lot of page views when they do.
- The Time for Mobile Video Has Arrived: For years, the promise of mobile video has loomed large in the media and in the consciousness of digital marketers but it’s been slow to hit in the US. Thanks to the proliferation of video-capable mobile devices, there are now over 34 million mobile Web users. This provides a market hungry for rich media experiences. Look for mobile pictures and video to become a major content area for blogs and news sites.
- Interruptive Online Video Advertising Replaced by a User-Controlled Model: It’s almost impossible to run a :30 spot in a pre- or post-roll placement. Even asking consumers to watch 5 seconds of irrelevant messaging is a stretch, especially in the consumer generated media space. In 2007, we’ll see new models get traction in which the consumer has much more control over the advertising content they see.
- Confident Brands Will Turn Themselves Inside Out: Traditional marketing taught everyone to control the perception of their brand through careful adherence to brand guidelines and messaging strategies. Now, every consumer has a megaphone and a soapbox. The most relevant and connected brands will be built around the dialog they have with their customers and that their customers have about them. Look to sites like eBay (with seller ratings) or the developer forums hosted by major tech companies to get a sense of what to expect. Use what you learn to formulate your inside-out strategy.
- Growing the Talent Pool Becomes an Industry Imperative: Although there have been numerous stories written about the war for talent in the digital space — and we all agree it’s one of the most important challenges in our industry today — we’ve done little to grow the talent pool. Instead, we focus on poaching each other’s best and brightest, driving up turnover and labor costs. Not too smart. We need to work together as an industry (hello, IAB!) to encourage universities to offer digital marketing courses, even digital marketing degrees. And we need to work harder to attract talent from traditional advertising into our digital space then coach, train, and mentor them in what makes our space different and unique.
- Engaging Reach Emerges as a Mantra for Advertisers: In the world of digital communications, “reach” is just step one, not an end goal. Simply reaching a consumer isn’t enough. And if you focus solely on engagement, you won’t reach enough viewers to make an impact. That’s why it makes a lot of sense to measure “engaging reach.” First, we must look deeper when it comes to online advertising metrics. According to Rick Corteville, our executive director of media, “Interaction rates and view-through metrics (in addition to the normal clickthroughs) help us understand how engaged the audience is/was with the online experience. It’s all about understanding the dialogue and depth of immersion. Additionally, we have to look at the entire consumer experience across multiple digital touch points. Sounds easy, but it isn’t and we all know it. Do your Web site metrics and online advertising metrics connect to give you a more holistic view of the consumer experience? If not, then that’s something to work on this year.” Exactly right, Rick.
Based on the momentum in 2006, 2007 is poised to be the most exciting year on record in this industry. I encourage you to continue to push the edges, take risks, and explore fresh territory. Good luck, and Happy New Year!