Advertising trends for 2018: It’s a virtual world

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In recent years, writing about trends for the media and marketing communications industry can feel as if you are in a dystopian sci-fi novel, as augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics and artificial intelligence all become more of a reality. And this year, 2018, will see more immersion by marketers in the virtual world.

Artificial intelligence has arrived

Self-driving cars, CRM bots and other customer service programmes are already using artificial intelligence and, according to Gartner, 85 per cent of bots will power all customer service interactions in a couple of years. Machine learning is very much here.

 

Augmented and virtual reality

For the last couple of years, marketers have been coming up with innovative AR to thrill customers and amplify chatter on social media. AR and VR are about to go mainstream in everything from trade shows to print campaigns and movies. It presents a wonderful opportunity for marketers and advertising agencies to push the boundaries of customer experience. Gartner, in its raft of 2020 predictions, posits that by next year, 20 per cent of business will be investigating or adopting augmented, virtual and mixed realities (AR, VR and MR); and that in two years’ time, 100 million consumers will be shopping using AR applications.

Embrace video content

In a world where 90 per cent of all internet traffic will be video-based by next year and 92 per cent of mobile viewers already share videos, South African brands and media owners still have to fully embrace video. Less than 1 per cent of press releases are sent to media including a video link to include as part of the content, unless it is of course, obviously, a new television or film or television commercial or movie trailer. Brands and public relations professionals need to start thinking about including video shorts and interview snippets as part of any press release and marketing release, as video content is amplified on social media. Brands need to include video as a priority in all messaging from herein out.

Streaming video pushes connected TV

According to eMarketer, the number of households in the United States with traditional television packages, will decline by 4 million by 2020, as consumers go for connected TVs as the demand for streaming, on-demand video content grows. At AfricaCom in Cape Town, November 2017, the focus was squarely on VOD (video on-demand) services for Africa, with packages ranging from a few hours of video to per day and per month packages. The good news is that the focus is on brand advertising to fund these services across Africa, in the hope that content and data will eventually be provided for free.

New strategic model for agencies

Locally and internationally, ad agencies and business consultancies are going head to head to service brands as data insight and business solutions become the key to building brand innovation. The result is that business consultancies are buying ad agencies and ad agencies are transforming into strategic partners to brands. It will be an interesting time of new agency models and consolidation.

Agency heads in South Africa are careful to point out that they “own” creativity and no one can do it better as storytelling sits at the heart of all campaigns.

Content Marketing remains a key trend

Content marketing remains a key trend globally and brands are increasingly creating and owning their own media properties as advertising agencies boost their content and digital teams with professional writers/journalists and social media experts. With social commentary by brands rising, coupled with purpose-driven branding that makes a measureable difference in communities, brands will begin to influence society as much as media currently does, as the lines blur in a digital world.

The rise of independent media

The “fake news” phenomenon and rise of nationalist politics across the globe, driven largely by the incoherent Trump era in the US, has had a positive spin for independently and crowd-funded investigative journalism, both in the States and here in South Africa. It has often been the independent press that has uncovered massive political and business scandals, and that era is returning and growing in the total onslaught against the media by unscrupulous politicians decrying: fake news; as well as the fake news spread by bots manipulating social media algorithms

No more digital

Segmenting digital as a separate channel or service has ended as digital is integrated into everything we do. And if you are still featuring “digital” or “social media” as separate plans in any strategy, you need to find a new job. The only relevant question is “which platform”. It follows that anything a brand does will be featured on or seeded through social media and all the digital real estate owned or targeted by the brand.

The generation to save us from ourselves

Generation Z is overtaking millennials in influencing brand decisions. They are an entirely new breed of youngster, purpose-driven, with a deep concern for the planet and all who live in it. They want to fix what their parents broke, but they don’t want to struggle like their millennial older siblings are, trying to cope in a brand conscious world which has had more than its fair share of economic and political crises. Generation Z are often anti-brand, they want authenticity and real stories, nothing fake. They will create their own world and they may allow brands to help if they demonstrate they really care enough to tackle global problems too. And watch out for Generation Alpha – the children of the millennials (born after 2011) – who are shaped by digital technology: “They are born into a landscape in which devices are intelligent, everything is connected and physical and digital environments merge into one,” according to Wired magazine’s recent special report. Their brains may, in fact, be wired differently due to the impact of technology. Start studying them now – they will change marketing forever and the rest of the world.

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