9th December 2016

Digital media predictions for 2016 – a recap

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A whole year has passed since we put our digital media predictions together for 2016 so before we dive straight into what we think is going to big next year, let’s review what actually happened this year and how on (or off!) track we were!

1. The Rise of Instagram

I think we can confidently say that we got this one right, and if anything we were probably a little cautious in how big the social media platform would grow to be! 2016 has certainly been Instagram’s defining year and now has over 500m monthly active users and 300m daily users. Since opening up its advertising offering in September last year, advertisers have been keen to reach Instagram’s engaged user base and according to COO Marne Levine “there have been over 1 billion ad actions” since Instagram opened its doors. The top sectors putting their marketing budget Instagram’s way are consumer packaged goods, e-commerce, retail, entertainment and technology. 2016 has also been the year where the platform has seen a lot of change; the launch of Stories, a move to an algorithmic feed, deeper integration with Facebook and not to mention a re-brand. With Shoppable ads on the horizon we are looking forward to seeing what else Instagram has up its sleeves in 2017.

2. Cross-device – putting faith in the value of mobile advertising

I think the jury is still out on this one, as a reporting framework we are certainly making use of this within the agency. Mobile is an influential part of the funnel and if anything has grown in prominence and through cross-device measurement we are able to attribute value to the role it plays in the journey, whereas before mobile was often under-represented when compared to conversions on desktop.

While cross-device tracking has been great for insight in terms of measurement and optimisation there has been eager anticipation for Google’s answer to Facebook’s cross-device targeting. Cross-device remarketing for the Google Display Network and DoubleClick Bid Manager using Google deterministic data is just round the corner and will enable advertisers to, yes you’ve got it, target users cross-device. Google have emphasised that consumers must opt-in to allow advertisers to target them across devices but for advertisers and agencies, with the ability to sequentially message and to frequency cap we are eager for its roll out.

3.Connected Storytelling

I think it’s fair to say that we got this trend right! We have seen a lot of brands in 2016 turn to storytelling as a way to tap into people’s emotions and build a conversation. We have also seen an appreciation for creative that’s designed for the environment in which it is to be delivered in and this has allowed advertisers to better connect with their audiences in the ‘moments that matter’.

“Storytelling” definitely became a buzzword within our industry in 2016, especially “data-driven storytelling” where brands really took to using the data that is available to them to spark new content and creative ideas. AirBnb is a really good example of this where instead of telling the company’s story, it got its own customers to tell their stories and even created a section on their site dedicated to ‘stories from the AirBnB community’. We also saw a really clever Digital Out-of-Home campaign that featured Stephen Fry to promote awareness and participation in the Child Rescue Alert Initiative. The campaign used data to drive programmatic creative to deliver real-time, responsive and geo-targeted messages with the aim of increasing the number of people registered to receive text message alerts when a child goes missing. The creative used live registration data from the campaign along with location and travel data to tailor messages and encourage recruitment in the areas that needed the most coverage. This was a great campaign that was constantly evolving and reacting to data to tell its story.

4. Quality vs Quantity – the impact ad blocking and viewability is making in the industry

The challenges that ad blocking and viewability pose are still very real in our industry and the latest IAB UK Adblocking and Consumer Usage and Attitudes Report shows that approximately one fifth of online adults are actively using adblocking software in the UK. There are a number of reports now however that are suggesting the ad blocking has reached its peak and that although a significant proportion of people have adblockers just 2% of those same people block ads on their smartphones. This low percentage for mobile is what is significant because as we all know we are quickly moving to a mobile-first world.

So although ad blockers are still at large, the good news for advertisers and publishers is that consumers are now much more open to the value exchange which there now is between exposure to advertising and access to free content. The same IAB study reports that consumers have been exposed to advertiser notices (adopted by publishers such as City AM, The FT and The Telegraph) and more than half are willing to switch off adblocking for favourite, some or all sites.

The war is still not over but the industry is evolving and that win-win-win scenario that is often talked about between consumer, publisher and advertiser is within reach.

5. Digital Audio

We tipped this trend rightly so at the start of the year as the online audio sector is rapidly growing with a number of innovations in this sector appealing to advertisers. According to the IAB, 19.4 million people in the UK listen to online audio, which equates to over 36% of the population – that’s huge! And people spend 9.7hrs a week on average listening to digital audio, increasing to 13.7hrs on average for 15-24 year olds. Outside of the likes of Spotify we have seen innovation this year from Bauer who extended their InStream+ technology across more of their radio brands. The InStream+ advertising model uses first party data to offer advanced targeting of consumers listening via any connected online devices.

All in all I think we faired pretty well with our predictions although a lot of these trends are still evolving and will be exciting to see how they develop further on into 2017. These, of course, will be combined with our new set of trends for next year which we will be sharing with you very soon.