Ad trends 2019: Mark Melling

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Verizon Media-owned global creative studio RYOT's head of EMEA, Mark Melling, believes it's time for advertising move on from being passive and one-way and that we have the tools and technology to make it happen.

He gives his wider thoughts and predictions for the industry in 2019, including how 5G will play a big part and why gaming hit Fortnite should be on your radar.

What will be the biggest trends in 2019 in your field?

  • Brands will increase investment in content and branded content marketing, seeking to start or join conversations that are important to their audiences. Conversations between brands and consumers will continue to become more fluid and honest.
  • Brands will continue to experiment with extended reality, particularly AR, using tech as a way to grab consumers’ attention in an already crowded, noisy marketplace.
  • The first wave of 5G capable smartphones will begin to capture the imaginations of tech companies and content producers everywhere.
  • AR will continue to impact social media and publishers, and the major players will continue to invest in creating scalable, engaging experiences, while the big tech firms will continue to launch devices that make these experiences more accessible to wider audiences.

What is the biggest challenge for the industry at this point?

Convincing brands to invest money and time in content experiences, over the more commoditised digital advertising mediums, specifically social. Great content has an unmatchable ability to engage audiences, but it takes time and effort and often means putting yourself out there as a brand - but has the potential for huge payoffs. Let’s face it – often campaigns find their way to Facebook as an easy, familiar and safe play. The challenge is getting brands to take risks.

What is your biggest hope for the industry in 2019?

Essentially that all the above will come true. More than ever we have the technology and tools to create incredible stories that can engage people at an unprecedented scale.

Advertising no longer needs to be a passive, one-way conversation; it can be engaging, powerful content that leads to incredible insight into the hearts and minds of audiences. My hope is that we continue to embrace this potential and break even more barriers than we did in 2018.

What was the best piece of work you saw this year and would like to see more of?

The most impactful piece of work on our industry in 2018 was Fortnite. If I'm honest, I'm a bit shocked how little we speak about the Fortnite phenomenon in the media industry, often passing it off as the latest juvenile video game craze. This is not Super Mario Brothers. As of November last year, the game had over 200 million registered users and according to Epic, the game’s manufacturer, Fortnite currently has 78.3 million active monthly players.

But what's different about this game is that it has developed a culture of its own, one that has not only seeped into pop culture, but dictated it. Players in the World Cup mimicked Fortnite character celebrations – not the other way around. This multiplayer game has literally, in any given match 100 alter-egos of adolescents, university students, professional athlete and mothers competing all at once against each other in real time.

What I find so relevant about all of this is that we’ve spent years, if not decades, theorising about if and when virtual worlds would become so engaging and attractive that they would impact society. We’ll look back on Fortnite as a watershed moment in digital.

The millennials and teens currently obsessing over this phenomenon will soon grow up to be creators, marketers and CEOs in their own right and will influence the industry for years to come. Especially if we imagine the impact of applying 5G technology to this world and, as we've seen, advertising has historically followed content whether it be radio, TV or digital.

What technological changes do you see having the most impact on your business in the future and why?

5G. EE announced late last year that six cities in the UK will be 5G network-enabled by mid-2019 with a further 10 by the end of the year and we expect to see similar network penetration throughout Europe.

The US already launched 5G network capability in several markets in 2018. While it’s true the technology’s consumer take-up is dependent on 5G-ready device ownership, 5G technology is already being used in studios to exponentially speed up the process of creating next generation content such as holographic and volumetric video, and of course AR.

It will also facilitate the creation of new types of content never before possible such as live (real time) motion capture, like RYOT is currently creating in our new 5G studio in Playa Vista, as well as shared content experiences.

Overall, I think we will see huge leaps in next generation content creation in 2019 that will capture the imagination of creators and marketers all over the world which will eventually transform the way people consume and engage with content in the future.

How will Brexit affect your company in 2019?

Brexit is of course a challenge for all businesses. We hope that a deal can be done between the UK and EU on key issues such as data and talent; a deal allowing companies such as ours to continue to do business successfully and smoothly across jurisdictions. We've had a team working across all key areas of the business to ensure we are ready for whatever March 29 brings.

What learnings can the industry take from 2018 in order to make this year more productive?

Simply put, storytelling remains the most important tool to reach individuals and connect with them to capture their hearts and minds. That hasn’t changed with technology, it just means the mediums are evolving the way they always have throughout history. Tell captivating, brave and bold stories and audiences will listen.

  1. What’s your own biggest goal in terms of work for 2019?

The mission remains the same - use content to tell captivating stories as a way of non-interruptive marketing - joining and creating conversations audiences care about, rather than interrupting conversations they care about to try and yell our own story above the noise which just adds to it.


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