1. Live streaming enters the mainstream
Brands have to date approached live video streaming as an experiment or PR stunt, rather than a core tactic within their marketing armoury. Expect that to change in 2017 as the live streaming services of all the big social networks grow their user base and the concept gains traction among consumers.
Facebook went in hard with a multimedia advertising campaign to promote its Facebook Live service at the end of last year, while its sister company Instagram added live video functionality in November.
Twitter recently agreed a deal to live-stream 10 NFL matches for free worldwide, turning the platform into a live TV broadcaster. Meanwhile Snapchat’s new wearable product Spectacles made the news when a teaching surgeon wore the glasses to live-stream part of an operation.
There are already signs that brands are using live video for more sophisticated marketing purposes, such as product launches. In December, Xbox used Twitter’s new Periscope Producer tool to live-stream the trailer for a new game, attracting more than 300,000 viewers.
The tool enables brands and media organisations to create high quality streams, rather than just footage taken on a phone or tablet. Twitter’s head of brand strategy Eimear Lambe tells Marketing Week the company expects to work with publishers “on a broader range of live broadcast partnerships” next year.
Live streaming is also being used within traditional TV adverts. Last year, Virgin Holidays created a live TV advert by piecing together live footage from 18 locations within a 60-second spot. Such examples highlight the opportunities for brands to create interaction and excitement among consumers during live TV moments such as sporting events or programmes like the X Factor.
2. More transparency in media buying
Concerns about the lack of transparency in media buying reached fever pitch last year. In a damning report, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in the US found widespread evidence of media owners paying rebates to agencies based on the amount they spend. It suggested that many agencies choose to buy media that does not align with their clients’ strategies as a result of these financial incentives.
The report followed warnings by UK trade body ISBA about a lack of transparency in online media buying, particularly regarding ad viewability, brand safety and click fraud. ISBA’s director of consultancy and best practice Debbie Morrison told the Financial Times: “I don’t believe that [media agencies] have got the best interest of their clients at heart any more.”
Hamish Nicklin, chief revenue officer at Guardian News & Media, believes that improving data transparency will be a key trend in 2017. He notes that there is currently a reliance on “unverified and opaque data sources”, a reluctance among first-party data holders to release too much information and an “immaturity” in the way data is used.
“We will see a more transparent way of trading between publishers and agencies – coupled with a desire to find more relevant data, such as dwell time [and] ads per page – that accurately allows agencies to value the quality of the context and environment alongside the quality of audience,” he says.
Nicklin believes such changes will require “a massive cleaning up of the ad tech supply chain” between both the demand and supply sources. “This will provide a much more effective way of planning campaigns, determining media and evaluating success,” he explains.
“Ultimately, it will allow programmatic buying to move from simply servicing the needs of direct response advertisers to efficiently supporting those who wish to build brands.”
3. Out-of-home becomes truly interactive
Perceptions of out-of-home (OOH) advertising shifted in 2016 as brands discovered new ways of using the medium. Rather than simply raising awareness, outdoor ads were used to educate and inform the public, or to immerse consumers in brand experiences.
Brands innovated with huge takeovers of public spaces, such as Sony’s activity with JCDecaux at London Waterloo station for the release of the new Ghostbusters film, or the Financial Times’ use of ‘reverse graffiti’, which saw the news outlet highlight statistics about the US Presidential election by power-washing them onto city streets.
In addition, marketers began to uncover new ways that outdoor advertising influences consumer behaviour. A study by research group Ipsos Mori and OOH industry body Outsmart found that people who have seen an OOH advert are 17% more likely to interact with the brand or campaign in question on their phone than those who have not.
The research involved monitoring participants’ mobile behaviour and combining this with location data, including the OOH sites they had passed.
More marketers look set to take advantage of this opportunity in 2017 by aligning their mobile marketing strategies with their OOH campaigns. This could include serving mobile ads according to people’s location where they have permission, or refining outdoor campaigns to improve mobile interaction. Improvements in programmatic marketing, such as location data layering, could help marketers to plan these campaigns accordingly.
Technology such as near-field communication (NFC) and interactive touchscreens are already changing the way people engage with outdoor advertising, but more brands will experiment with OOH ad formats – and associated mobile targeting – in 2017.
4. ‘Screen agnostic’ strategies
Several trends are encouraging brands to think less in terms of specific media and more in terms of ‘content’ or ‘experiences’. The desire to achieve synchronisation across TV, desktop, mobile and digital outdoor screens is resulting in creative executions that are immediately transferable across all channels.
For example, many brands are now making online videos that work as TV adverts and vice-versa. This includes low-cost ads featuring real people in real situations that brands can release quickly and responsively. Furthermore, many brands now use digital outdoor campaigns to showcase content from their social media feeds and to encourage engagement. Sponsors of sporting events did this frequently in 2016.
Expect this blurring of the lines to accelerate in 2017 as brands seek to develop ‘screen agnostic’ strategies that help them to hit as many media platforms as possible with one execution. In addition to providing consistency in communications, this trend will partly be driven by cost factors.
The latest IPA Bellwether report forecasts that ad spend in 2017 is set to decline by 0.7% as business investment is pared back in line with the continuing uncertainty over Brexit. Squeezing the most from creative investments will be imperative this year.
Brands must also consider how new technologies will start to change human behavior in the years ahead. The recent launches of connected home hubs by Amazon and Google – which take voice commands and can control other digitally enabled products and services – prompted SharpEnd agency founder Cameron Worth to talk about the rise of “zero user interface”. This predicts that as people adopt this technology, they will also reduce their interactions with screens in favor of speaking directly to faceless machines.
Regardless of how consumer-facing technology develops, expect brands to look beyond the screen in 2017.