When discussing the trends that will take hold in advertising next year, it's important to understand what a polarising year 2016 has been. As we approach year's end, we've all no doubt grown tired of the generic “I'll be glad when this year is behind me” platitudes and placid encouragements that “next year will be better,” but has 2016 really been all that bad and why should 2017 be so much better? The trends that appear to have taken hold above all others this year are those related to the digital worlds of VR, AR, AI chatbots and online video, and, if our experts below are to be believed, 2017 will continue to run with these trends. There are, however, a handful of trends earmarking 2017 as a year when advertisers will, in the paraphrased words of Marc Lewis (below) find a variety of fresh canvases to paint their ideas onto.
Streamlining and collaboration are terms, and concepts, that appears to crop up more often than not, and they are terms that many might baulk at, as they could be misconstrued as signs that we're heading towards a dreaded 'jack-of-all-trades' future, where brands put all of their eggs in one basket and hope for the best and agencies spread themselves too thinly as a result. The overall vibe, however, is one of unbridled optimism, and on that note, let's dive in and see what adland has to say for itself.
Marc Lewis, Dean of the Brixton School of Communication Arts (SCA):
The pressure of being so busy and the strategy of consolidating can lead agencies into seeking easy wins, adopting short-term thinking. But the recent Karmarama acquisition shows a future in which creative agencies can return to their position as partners in their clients’ businesses, working on long-term value creation. As for other trends, I predict that we will start to see Bots being used a lot more in 2017, and this presents an exciting opportunity for story-tellers. That’s the great thing about advertising in the 21st Century - we get so many new canvases to paint our ideas onto.
Roj Whitelock, Executive Creative Director and Partner at the Jacob Bailey Group:
In an industry striving to be more streamlined and savvy, ‘density’ might not be the word on everybody’s lips. But in 2017, for brands to be smart and successful, they need to be dense. That sounds like a contradiction, but there is method to it. According to a study by Media Dynamics Inc, consumers can expect to be exposed to advertising and brands over 5,000 times a day. Ad-only exposures, however, stand at 362 times a day, of which only 153 will be noted and 86 will raise awareness. Of these, just 12 will make an impression. Although exposure has increased dramatically since 1945 across multiple channels, the number of ads actually noted by consumers has remained static – 124 then vs 153 now. With so many adverts and messages being served daily, we have developed coping mechanisms to help filter the noise to a level we can process. We glance over, we flick through and we ignore with aplomb. We share content based on a headline, with no impetus to dig through the details. Forbes identified that 59% of people will share an article without reading it; while 59% of links on social networks are never clicked on. As such, our opinions are often formulated based on little information – and the same can be said of our approach to brands.
We skim brands and their messaging like stones forever bouncing across water at speed, rarely getting under the surface. As touch-points proliferate and people’s attention wanes, how marketers communicate needs depth. That’s where density is becoming crucial. Messages need to be tight, succinct and engaging. Headlines need to be punchy to grab attention. Copy needs to be short and creative, demanding a more thorough inspection. 2017 will be the year that brands start to realise it’s not enough to just put out a price message, slogan or value proposition. More than ever, brands need to really know themselves at every organisational level. Only then will they understand their personality, what makes them truly distinct and why a consumer should choose them over a competitor. Marketing then needs to adopt a clear tone of voice that is applied with unwavering consistency, ruthlessly eliminating anything that is extraneous to the key messaging. There’s no doubt that 2017 will see big advances in the likes of live video, augmented reality and data visualisation. Technology marches on at a pace. But this will only increase the need for one of the oldest skills in our industry: elegant, succinct and beautifully-crafted creative copy that engages consumers and brings brands to life. Especially if it is only 140 characters.
Victoria Ward, Digital Marketing Manager at SPEED:
A trend that may emerge in 2017 is augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). The launch of Pokémon Go was a wakeup call to many businesses who haven’t explored this option due the popularity this achieved. The mainstream shift toward AR and VR provides new ways to connect with customers and offer unique, memorable interactions. Think of how many sectors have already started to utilise this? There will definitely be a strong roadmap of using AR and VR in business strategies to engage customers and to introduce a new way of they can interact with the company in a different way and experience. Even experts have predicted an explosion of creative uses as both these technologies becomes more ubiquitous.
Serhat Ekinci, Director at OMG Ethnic:
2016 has highlighted the need to be more diverse and inclusive as deep divisions between different communities began to surface both nationwide and globally. As a result of this, many brands are beginning to take a 'total market approach' towards their creative production in order to represent the whole population. After all, multicultural audiences are the youngest and fastest growing segment of the population. Whereas before a lack of data and fragmentation of multicultural audiences held brands back from applying this approach further than TV, the advancement in dynamic creatives, rich digital data sets and the ability to carry out precise targeting will allow creatives, messages and languages to be automatically tailored to consumers based on their cultural background and values across all digital media.
Sean Betts, Managing Director at Annalect UK:
Next year we will begin to see the use of algorithms to build target audiences based on predicted future behaviour, meaning we will be able create audiences specifically to drive a brand’s desired outcome. For example, if a brand wanted to drive sales, we will be able to build an audience based on their likelihood to purchase as opposed to a demographic definition.
Nick Mawditt, Director of Insight & Marketing at Talon:
Digital OOH’s ability to prime other channels as well as offering flexible, smart, data-led and creative solutions will gain wider recognition and importance in a potentially challenging year. The blurring of media boundaries, epitomised by the digital OOH landscape and the rise of mobile, should offer smarter solutions to brands feeling the pinch or exploiting consumer sentiment opportunities, particularly those targeting millennial audiences and expecting an immediate response.
Nikhil Sethi, Co-founder and CEO at Adaptly:
More of the VR companies that were pure platforms will begin to build hardware. We’ve already seen this with Spectacles and Oculus. Pursuing hardware creates new formats and more types of experiences for people, which will ultimately create more advertising opportunities for the platforms.
Something that has less obvious marketing implications is the evolution of the car. As cars become more autonomous, it frees up so much time that will go into using walled gardens instead. If you have an hour commute and you’re no longer doing the driving yourself, you’ll start spending that time on Facebook. There will be more ad loading, more consumption, more data creation. The amount of time the average American spends in a car is huge. Collectively, if you remove the amount of time spent actively engaged in transit and give it to something else, that creates a huge uptick in platform usage, which further compresses out-of-home television, print, radio. It moves all of that time into walled gardens.
Live video will continue to push dollars away from television, especially as new types of shows and live entertainment emerge. For example, Twitter partnered with Buzzfeed to cover election night--not a news medium like CNN or MSNBC. We’ll see a new type of company pop up that takes advantage of the new live broadcast mechanism.
Olga Egorsheva, CEO and Co-founder at Lobster:
Ad agencies are turning away from polished, unrealistic photography, in favour of the authenticity you can get with user-generated content. Throughout 2017, thousands of ad campaigns will feature images or videos discovered on social media. The only way to get noticed by a generation with no attention span, is to avoid the generic stereotypes of the past.
Matt Teeman, Managing Director at Primesight:
Out-of-home (OOH) has always been able to provide an environment-based contextual framework to deliver pertinent messaging at a time when consumers are most likely to act. After all, a poster outside a convenience store is positioned to influence consumer behaviour in moments of impulsive hunger. Digital OOH (DOOH) provides an interesting new dynamic and is expected to claim a 40% share of total spend in 2017, up from 31% in 2015. One driver of this is the continued investment in digital infrastructure that is providing a true economy of scale; meaning more of your desired audience can be reached throughout a host of environments more cost effectively.
A second driver of this growth is brands engaging audiences in real time. Originally coined by Google as ‘micro-moments’, DOOH is able to activate your message when and where it will be most contextually relevant. This affords brands the edge to create truly bespoke messaging. The effect this is having for brands is significant. OOH media owners are seeing increased digital brand count triggered on a number of variables. This is introducing new advertisers to the medium, as the flexibility and lower cost of entry to serving their adverts at a relevant time and appropriate location provides real benefits. Pre-set conditions for ad serving, dynamic pricing and reduced wastage are testament to the strength of DOOH and in 2017, contextually focussed clients will reap rewards for applying data and adapting creative messaging that is greater than just a trophy of acknowledgment for the cabinet.
Stuart Taylor, CEO of Western Europe at Kinetic:
In 2017 we will plan and buy more contextually to a targeted broadcast audience. Continued digital investment is enabling the increasing digitisation of environments and a greater number of digital screens. This is allowing advertisers and planners to work in more innovative ways around how to engage consumers. As the cost of content creation comes down, we will start to see more campaigns take advantage of out-of-home’s contextual capabilities with richer and more relevant messaging. And advertisers will start to see the benefits as context delivers value, as seen by Clear Channel’s research which showed that contextual OOH messaging increased visual attention by 20%.
Katie Field, UK MD of Viant, the people-based advertising technology:
Chris Gorell Barnes, CEO & Founder of content agency, Adjust Your Set:
The final months of 2016 have seen a steady stream of big brands like Toyota, Pernod Ricard and McDonalds build in-house teams and bespoke networks. Why? Because, in the content age, brands’ need to be ‘always on’ means they need agencies that are also always on. When an agency is geographically and culturally close to a brand, it gives content the best chance of being ‘always on’. So why would any right-minded marketer want to play the traditional agency game?
In the quest to create a steady stream of 24/7 content, the client/agency system – where the brand engages an external agency – is at best unhelpful; at worst an antiquated obstruction. For brands hungry to create content in the most responsive and speedy way possible, engaging an external agency all too often entails the enemy of efficiency: a time-consuming multi-layered approach and a cumbersome array of departments to deal with… not to mention the politics and expense.
This disruption of the conventional agency model will – understandably – send shivers down the spines of most agency CEOs. But instead of fearing the disruption, we need to embrace this shift as an evolution by being more open-minded about merging the traditional agency model with the in-house approach. This way, there’s still a valid role for agencies by helping clients from the inside.
Rob Garber, Managing Director of Undertone EMEA:
How can digital companies improve their offerings? Simplify, and add expertise:
Diversity and complexity within the digital ecosystem is set to continue into 2017. Those most likely to make their mark will achieve this through consolidation – most likely through merging with or acquiring existing other experts in the field. We’re already starting to see companies like Adobe (Tube Mogul) and Accenture (Karmarama) buying creative/advertising agencies, and this is just the start of that activity over the coming months. Creating an established unit, through which every aspect of advertising can be covered to a high standard, will be key to success next year.
The battle against ad blockers will reach a turning point:
There's a reason that ad blocking has become so prevalent – we took our eyes off the ball. As an industry we focused too much on commercialisation, and not enough on the consumer experience. After some trying times, 2017 is set to be the turning point in our battle against ad blockers. Initiatives such as LEAN and Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project have put the user experience back in the foreground, and come 2017 I predict more parties will follow suit. Agencies and brands will focus on delivering compliant adverts, and publishers will create a better experience for their audience to maintain loyal readership.
The programmatic marathon starts to warm up:
I’m struggling to remember a time when the word programmatic wasn’t used in every meeting, boardroom or strategy session, and we can expect that trend to continue into next year. Within the UK, automated display adoption will continue to grow in penetration. However, Real-Time-Bidding will decrease in favour of Private Market Places and Automated Guaranteed as brands and agencies continue to focus on the quality of inventory their advertising is delivered on. Across Europe we’ll see programmatic adoption continue to rise and in the UK automation will include multiple channels, with the biggest growth in TV and radio. The automation of advertising is a marathon rather than a sprint – 2017 will be another year of learning and improving.
Andy Bolter, Creative Partner at Yes&Pepper:
Collaboration has been a growing trend over recent years, and I expect this to accelerate faster than a Ferrari with brakes made of butter throughout 2017. The reason for this increase is necessity. Campaigns are becoming more complex as technological developments evolve requiring agencies to collaborate with each other, start-ups and businesses outside our normal sphere.
Modern campaigns are swaying from traditional TV and press and moving towards innovative platforms. Sochi launched a campaign during the Russian Winter Olympics a couple years ago, which allowed individuals to take a selfie which was then transformed into a 3D image placed on a billboard. As this campaign was immersed in a kinetic façade, the advertising agency had to team up with technology agencies to create the project. The desire to create impact and stand out are driving innovation, which, in turn, is leading to more agencies working together. I mention this old Grand Prix winner because it’s a great example of the rise in collaboration in advertising through the winners of the Cannes Lions festival over the past two years. Typically, Cannes Lions awards are handed over to single agencies for their efforts. However, recently, there have been numerous ‘collaborative winners’ – winners which consist of two or more agencies that have jointly created the campaign.
Collaboration is definitely an advertising trend which is becoming more popular with creative agencies. The ‘Don Draper days’ in the advertising world are truly over, and instead of agencies consisting of many ‘kings’ with self-fulfilling egos, there are far more coalitions now, willing to collaborate with their competition and others to create a successful campaign.
Trevor Chambers, Group Creative Director at Cubo:
The quickening: things are going to get even quicker – more advertising that responds in real time, and to live events.
Everyone will be pushing VR and AR hard, and the danger is that in the rush to produce VR/AR work brands/agencies forget to give it a real purpose.
Brands thinking harder about how the present themselves visually – gender neutral and equality.
Humanising of complex tech, more voice control (0Ui).
The death of UGC for brands, more aesthetics, craft that makes brand advertising more valuable.
Bertrand Quesada, CEO of video advertising marketplace Teads:
Consumers are looking for a much more engaging experience when they chose to interact with ads so advertisers are having to work much harder than before to earn attention. I think this means we will see a breakthrough for immersive formats in 2017, building on this year’s momentum, with the rise of 360, interactive video, (like shoppable ads) and dynamic real time editing. We will also see an increase in ‘designed for device videos’ with more clients opting for Vertical and Square video as we better understand the differences between consuming content on mobile and other devices. Finally, there is a lot of talk about one-to-one advertising, but it hasn’t quite translated into practice for most advertisers. We believe that the increase in premium programmatic inventory will be a game changer and will make video ad immersion and personalisation much more popular. When you are bidding on top premium ad spots it makes sense to do everything you can to make that view as powerful as possible.
Irisini Davis, Director of Marketing, EMEA at Marin Software:
As the importance of customer experience continued to dominate throughout 2016, marketers have begun to understand how consistently improving their customers' experiences is directly correlated with positive brand differentiation. Over the last year, the focus on improving customer experience has been fundamental in helping marketers create separation and differentiate their brand. Conspicuous consumption aside, branding as a theory is becoming more than just imagery in the minds of consumers; it's the full end-to-end customer experience.
For marketers getting it right, brand differentiation may prove to be a serious disruptor to a competitor's product differentiation or price strategy. In 2017, frankly, marketers should keep an eye on global economics. From Brexit to the 2016 US Presidential Election, marketers should keep a close watch on how economic factors are shaping business. For example, Unilever's post-Brexit price increase, across a number of popular brands, resulted in a price war with one of the UK's largest retailers. As companies respond aggressively to the uncertainty presented by the external environment, marketers will need to assess and predict the potential impact on trade and adapt their strategies if necessary.
Brendán Murphy, Senior Partner, Design at Lippincott:
With time compression and growing digital sophistication, brands are decluttering and simplifying their interfaces, striving to create a seamless interaction and connection across channels. And while this push can create a modern sameness to these interfaces, we’ll in turn see a greater emphasis on the expression of a brand’s character and how this manifests itself in language, and the subtle sensory movements and actions that help create a deep sensory connection.
Jon Wadelton, CTO at The Foundry:
2016 has been the year that VR and AR have started to move the medium to a wider audience not just enthusiasts. The likes of Pokémon Go and PlayStation VR have made VR content readily available to us in a relatively simplistic form. However, VR and AR are technological developments in their early stages and we still face some barriers to widespread consumer adoption. Issues like motion sickness in VR environments and the sheer cost of consumer hardware means 2016 is just the start of the VR journey. However, 2017 and beyond will see VR and AR content become more mainstream as these issues are addressed. We are seeing software tools come to the fore that help VR content creators develop 360° video in a far more streamlined way. Toolkits like CARA VR, launched to the market in 2016, is just one such piece of software helping content creators push the boundaries of what’s possible with VR.
Next year we’ll likely see new headsets and technologies come to the market that will help push consumer adoption even further. With the launch of Google Daydream and its inclusion into Android VR we’d expect to see many more consumers of VR in 2017, particularly for 360 video. While Microsoft is beginning to take steps into VR hardware, Apple has been uncharacteristically quiet. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see Apple enter the hardware race in 2017. The next iteration of headsets will likely push prices down, making it more affordable for people to have a VR headset in their home or as a regular entertainment source. I’m excited to see VR develop in 2017 and the ever more immersive VR experiences that entertainment and creative professionals envelop us in.