It’s hard to believe we are well into the second month of 2018! We’ve asked our panel of digital and social marketing experts what trends advertisers and publishers should be looking out for this year. (From left to right: Cheryl Ingram, The Digital Media Consultancy; Grant Lapping, DataCore Media; Jo Griffiths, The Loudhailer).
When speaking to your clients, what challenges and opportunities do they foresee in 2018?
Cheryl: One of the biggest challenges (and opportunities) for our clients this year is ‘purpose’. Understanding how necessary and valuable it is for a brand to have a single, consistent ‘purpose’ and how this translates across the multitude of consumer touchpoints, should be a key consideration especially within the context of social media. Pages for the sake of pages and high content creation costs for the sake of pretty pictures doesn’t speak to purpose – today’s consumer is value seeking which means brands need to be relevant, relatable and adding value or they face becoming redundant. Our focus this year is to really help our clients navigate the journey of understanding and maintaining their purpose.
Grant: Technology allows for some really advanced digital media campaigns such as dynamic ads and full CRM integration which is both a challenge and an opportunity. This helps clients be more targeted at scale with multiple audience segments and messages, but the challenge is backend integration. These tools require good technical skills on the client side or for the relevant development people to prioritise the relevant feeds required.
Jo: Media budgets are always being questioned, and social spend is a requirement now more than ever before. The challenge for clients is to get the right balance between creating great content and media spend. Social is very much a pay-to-play model. Having a clearly defined strategy and measurable KPI’s is necessary to realise the opportunities and deliver ROI. Clients see the positive effect of multimedia content, but the challenge again lies in the production costs. We aim to amplify messaging across platforms, so if content is produced we make it accessible to all platforms including broadcast which is often seen as unreachable. Digital TV is a real opportunity for our clients in 2018.
How will Google’s Ad blocking browser affect the online advertising industry?
Cheryl: Currently in SA, less than 15% of internet users are actively using ad blockers and the reason for their use is not surprising – users are tiring of the disruptive, annoying and overwhelming number of advertisements they are exposed to. Certainly, if more advertisers were cogniscant of these reasons and took a long hard look at the quality and relevance of their marketing campaigns, perhaps the uptake would remain relatively low. The onus surely sits with advertisers and their agency partners – create and deliver ads that are relevant, timely and relatable and there will be less of a need for consumers to activate ad blocking technologies.
Grant: I don’t think it will make a huge dent in the short term as it doesn’t block unobtrusive ads and the take-up is still relatively small in the total internet universe. It will however force advertisers to be more relevant and ‘less spammy’ as relevant ads should still get through. We will have to watch this space closely and see how it grows.
There’s a lot of talk suggesting Twitter is dying a slow death. Do you agree?
Cheryl: Personally, I am not a fan of twitter. Certainly, it may well have its place and can deliver time relevant results for events, sport and maybe politics, but I’ve seen too many examples of attempted trend “hijacking” go horribly wrong for brands. Will it stay relevant? Will users stay engaged? Their 2016/2017 growth in SA was marginal at best so I guess only time will tell. My guess, it’s losing its footing and will struggle to gain ground against the leading social media platforms in SA.
Grant: While it is not necessarily growing in users or frequency of use I don’t think it is dying either. It has a place for news and supporting PR as it is the number one source for staying close to news relevant to you as it happens. They don’t have the algorithms that Facebook has, making conversion optimised ads less effective, but they are improving and we have noticed some good results from Twitter in terms of video views and conversions.
Jo: Twitter has a purpose for different needs and requirements based on the clients’ social strategy. It is paramount that a channel strategy addresses business and communication objectives and can be resourced effectively. I would not agree that it’s dying; it is maybe slowing down, but for clients who interact and engage on an international level it is a necessity.
Will influencer marketing and content still be as important as before?
Cheryl: I whole heartedly love influencer marketing – WHEN done right! We work with a number of fashion brands who have established hand selected influencer programs. Where they really add value is where the brand/influencer fit is so right that it’s barely questionable as to why they are collaborating. Often brands get it wrong though – in an effort to get anyone and everyone talking about a campaign, marketers pitch “influencer” campaigns out across “influencer” platforms and it soon becomes very clear to the consumer who sees replicated PR content posted across multiple supposed influencer sites and social media accounts.
Grant: While influencer marketing isn’t really my area of expertise, content on the other hand is going to become more important as Facebook and Google continue to dominate ad budgets. This takes revenue away from publishers which means less money for content given Facebook and Google don’t actually create any content while publishers pay journalists. Content will become more user generated and customised to your interests. This can cause divisiveness for example if you suspect Hillary Clinton is ‘dodgy’ you are likely to engage with content that supports this suspicion, which means you will see more of it strengthening your view and less contradictory content. People in today’s world are becoming more divided with more extreme views as seen with US elections, Brexit and even our local politics. We no longer see both sides and are spammed with what we think we know which reinforces our one sided beliefs.
Jo: Having an authentic voice for a brand is still important within the overall communication messaging structure. That said, the most important word there is ‘authentic’. Content with its relevancy and agility for amplification across platforms will continue to drive strategy and engage with the right audiences.
What can we expect from AI and machine learning?
Cheryl: In our own business, the best example off machine learning is how the move towards programmatic buying and Facebook’s pixel have enabled us to better target consumers, driving more efficiently towards conversion; In doing so ensuring that the “spray & pray” approach of old is not a strategy we ever employ for our clients. Additionally, the adoption of AI in bot technology is rapidly changing the way customer service is delivered to consumers online, and we will start to see a broader blurring of the lines between customer service and marketing objectives.
Grant: This will be big as companies like Google are investing heavily in this area. It is reaching a point where the machine knows more about your likes and interests than your closest family members. They get this not only from your search behaviour but now also your images. It is a lot of power for big corporations to be able to access and use to manipulate your behavioural patterns, but it is happening and it is up to marketers to use this data effectively.
Jo: A lot. We continually hear stories of how robots are going to take over our jobs, but its real innovation stories and how AI is integrated into big business that will deliver the results and the successes. Take a look at GotBot.co.za, they improve retail and customer experience for businesses through always-on AI and real-time training. A real example where AI is solving real problems.
South Africa is expected to have 27 million internet users by 2019, mostly through mobile. Have you seen an increase in mobile advertising budgets from your clients?
Cheryl: Mobile Display – not specifically. Social yes and let’s be honest – social is mobile so if one stops slicing and dicing and looks rather at channel selection, budgets have shifted dramatically into the social space which is by default part of a consumer’s mobile online journey.
Grant: Not intentionally, but with more budget shifting towards social media they are naturally getting more mobile impressions. Also as people engage more with apps it means more inventory is available on mobile than desktop these days which is creating a natural shift to mobile. We find almost 70% of traffic these days is coming from mobile on most clients, but this ratio is much smaller when looking at converted sales. The ratio of people that browse on mobile is much bigger than the ratio of people who will convert on mobile.
Jo: Our clients are very aware that mobile is a fundamental channel for communication, whether it’s for advertising or digital TV streaming opportunities. Budgets will certainly increase, but ROI will still remain the key focus. For budgets to grow significantly content must be smart; relevant, personalised, creating thumb-stopping engagement to evoke brand recognition. If you get that right, budgets will follow.
Grant: This is very relaxed currently and I do think it will come to a point where uploading data between CRM systems onto media platforms will need to happen via feeds, rather than a human actually uploading a database that was emailed to them by a client. It also goes back to how they will regulate the likes of Google and Facebook in terms of what they allowed to capture and use. These companies seem untouchable, but data regulations are probably the only thing keeping their founders awake at night.
Any other predictions you’d like to make?
Cheryl: The economy is fast forcing marketers to tighten their belts and question where their ROI is actually coming from. Retainer billings that are heavily weighted towards hourly people costs rather that physical outputs that drive ROI will almost certainly be challenged. It’s an interesting time and I personally think that smaller agencies who are more agile and who can take risks with different monetisation models will start to make ground against the “BIG BOYS CLUB” who has dominated the agency landscape for so long.
Grant: I think online retail is going to grow significantly in South Africa as it has in other parts of the world. This is going to have a massive impact on traditional retailers, but also there won’t be space for multiple providers. People will want a one-stop-shop for everything like what has happened with Amazon in the US and other markets. Amazon might start to dominate in South Africa, which will leave no room for players like Takealot OR Takelot will continue to dominate leaving no room for other smaller online players.
Jo: The real value for a client should be on purpose-driven communications, where the digital strategy has a balance between earned versus paid-for media exposure. 2018 should be all about amplification of spend which requires a clearly defined strategy and an agile approach.