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Reshaping human storytelling with addressable media

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It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas as the nights draw in and snow is on its way. Yet this year, the chill in the air isn’t a nostalgic reminder of Christmas past but a stark realisation that this winter is going to be tough.

With a potential recession looming and inflation soaring on everything from electricity and petrol to food and mortgages, many consumers are struggling to make ends meet. The economic situation has left a cloud over the festivities as consumers make cutbacks where they can.

The dampened mood has inevitably filtered through into the advertising industry, where brands keen to connect with consumers are rejecting any notions of Christmas extravagance and instead reflecting through creatives that showcase the true meaning of Christmas ‘to think of others’.

Indeed, the majority of big brands such as John Lewis and Disney are bringing family to the core through emotive ads, which tug on the heartstrings. Campaigns are simple and focus on storytelling rather than clever, creative techniques that have become available as a result of innovations in artificial intelligence (AI).  

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It feels a world away from the piece I penned in July off the back of Cannes Lions 2022. It now feels like it may have been a honeymoon phase for advertising; it seemed the pandemic was as good as over and as the world opened up, so too did ad creatives. Immersive experiences and synthetic voice supercharged campaigns and seemed to be the way all big-brand advertising was going.

But as the lingering effects of Covid became more apparent and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed energy prices to the brink, advertising took a far less futuristic turn to become more human.   

That being said, much of this technology is still working along in the background but rather than advertisers overtly demonstrating the power of futurist tech, it is being used to ensure the human-centricity of ads really does meet the expectations of all users. It does this through addressable advertising, which automatically serves a tailored ad variant to each individual, to give them a sense of connectedness at Christmas. 

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We’re also seeing more brands use tech in innovative ways to cut down on costs, while still guaranteeing personalised experiences. Dynamic audio creates thousands of iterations of an ad, so there’s one that’s contextually relevant to each individual listener based on their specific interests, as well as external factors such as location, date and weather.

Dynamic audio is not only a cost efficient way for brands to make campaigns more addressable, it also allows brands to bank audio files and change them on the go, ensuring greater optimisation. We expect to see more brands utilise dynamic audio over the coming months, as they seek to reduce production costs and ensure campaigns are as cost efficient as possible without losing the effectiveness of a human approach.

But as much as dynamic audio is allowing advertisers to continue to connect with and engage consumers without breaking the bank, there’s also a number of brands that are taking advertising back to the technical dark ages by cutting addressability budgets in a bid to save money.

The problem with serving a generic creative to your entire audience base is that it’s not going to resonate with many potential customers, and it begs the question, is there any point running a campaign at all if you’re not connecting with the right people, especially given our ads are meant to feel more human now than ever before?

Numerous studies have shown that maintaining or even increasing ad budgets during a recession reaps long-term rewards, and so continuing to invest in tech-powered solutions like dynamic audio will benefit brands both now and in the future.

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So, what of 2023? There’s still a lot of uncertainty in the air but we expect to see the ad industry pick up pace again once winter’s out the way and flowers are in full bloom. It may be the case that the economic situation remains unsteady but once there is less imperative to turn on the heating and lights, and people get a spring in their step, advertising is likely to follow suit.

By the time the next Cannes Lions rolls around, we predict a wave of fresh campaigns that highlight technological innovations both in and behind the scenes. In particular, moment marketing, which targets ads to consumers at the exact moment it matters, and hyper-contextual advertising, which pairs contextual analytics with big data to improve the customer experience, are likely to be front and centre stage at the world’s biggest creative advertising event.

And just like my predictions for this year, further developments in AI are going to drive ever-more immersive experiences with audio truly enhancing creatives to match the context of the listener’s environment. 

By Kim Aspeling, Director of Creative & Production at A Million Ads

Header image by Rebecca Hendin

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