10 Marketing Trends To Watch Through The End Of 2016
End Of 2016
1. Vote TV
Traditional media will get a boost from political spending
during this U.S. election season. Pundits predict a $5
billion presidential race—double 2012’s total—and state
and local candidates are girding for massive spending,
anticipating the side effects of a contentious Clinton-vs.-
The result could be tight inventories of national and
local TV time, especially in the battleground states. The
Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has already
predicted the possibility of an “ad squeeze” as the party
conventions adjourn just in time for the Olympic Games
to kick off and take up inventories.
The rising use of programmatic buying for political ads
will help ease the crunch, though political advertising
remains TV-centric, especially in local spot markets.
Expect tight inventories and hefty price tags for prime
time until November.
2. Marketers And Agencies At Odds
Cracks in the marketer-agency relationship became
obvious this spring, after the ANA released a
controversial K2 study highly critical of transparency in
agency media-buying practices. The industry group
pointed to a “fundamental disconnect,” citing rebates
from publishers were pervasive, with markups often
mandated by senior agency executives.
The K2 study appears to have driven a wedge between
the ANA and the American Association of Advertising
Agencies (4A’s), which in January released its own set of
transparency guidelines. “This does nothing to foster a
productive conversation or to move our industry
forward,” the 4A’s stated in response to the K2 study.
The two groups have been trying to find common cause
in fighting off the separate issue of ad fraud, estimated
to be a $7.2 billion annual drain on media budgets.
Future meetings could now be tense.
Last year we predicted publishers would strike back
against ad blockers, but the level of ad-blocking adoption
has shocked even the pessimists. Blocking exploded by
90% in 2015, a May report from PageFair revealed, and
was even more pervasive on mobile, where twice as
many users block ads than on desktops. One in four
mobile users have ad blockers.
Media and creative executives acknowledge that the
industry will have to stop fighting and adapt to the new
normal of ad blockers. Relevant, value-added messages
“It’s the culmination of years of technology that cuts out
the crap and gives consumers the content that they
want,” said Jason Jercinovic, global head of marketing
innovation and global brand director of Havas
Worldwide. “Very soon everyone will have ad blocking
built in, and that’s a benefit. Look at Snapchat—they’ve
done a good job; the ads are really entertaining.”
3. Ad Blocking Goes Mobile
All recent Olympics have opened in the wake of
controversy, but the Rio Games face more than its share,
including a potential ban on Russian athletes for doping,
a Zika virus outbreak that made officials ponder
postponing the event, and an unsteady political
situation in Brazil (including a presidential
Sponsorship contracts, however, have been in place for
years. NBC expects to top the $1.3 billion in ad sales it
racked up in the London Olympics in 2012. At these
rates, marketers will be approaching these games with
“The well-documented issues going on at the moment
will definitely mean CMOs will be taking a hard look at
messaging and timing to ensure not to fall foul of any
minefields,” said Dominic Curran, CEO of sports
marketing agency Synergy U.S.
4. Olympic-Sized Trouble
In the decades since China's market opened to the West,
brands have rushed in, but this year’s market correction
has given them a moment to stop and consider China as
more than a new frontier but as a complex market.
So, as the Chinese economy continues to grow at a clip
faster than in the U.S. or Europe, brands are introducing
a new subtlety in their segmentation. Landor recently
published a report calling for a “profound rethink” of the
market, pointing out changing attitudes among Chinese
Millennials, a new mindset among Chinese women, and
a sharp divide between villages and cities. Zenith
Optimedia reported the Chinese media market is
maturing, too, with the rise of paid content and a more
sophisticated outlook on gauging digital engagement.
While Chinese brands, such as Huawei, Tencent, and
Alibaba, look globally, it’s not enough to merely launch a
brand in China in 2016.Indeed, the days of easy growth
5. Digging (In)To China
At the Digital Content NewFrontsthis spring, the word
“partnership” came up repeatedly. While the digital
platforms have emulated TV networks in the past—
creating shows and selling ads—platforms are moving
closer to the “content lab” model, partnering with
sponsors early in the production process. For example,
at Cannes, Yahoo launched the Storytellers content
studio, with brands including Dasani and JetBlue. Largely
responsible for the shift: Ad blocking and skipping has
made preroll and in-stream spots less viable.
Meanwhile, content creators are accepting their new
role, despite wariness about “selling out.”
Documentarian Morgan Spurlock was remarkably
sanguine at the NewFronts, saying that marketers and
creators are willing to play ball now. Dan Harmon,
creator of the NBC show “Community,” commented that
creatives need to break out of the noncommercial pose
because “we’re as much part of this weird culture …
We’re not punk rock.”
6. Howdy, (Content) Partner
Social networks have centered on branding messages,
but in 2016 their focus shifted to becoming established
conduits for news. Twitter lifted its 140-character limit,
and Facebook shuttered its Notify app to integrate it into
apps and make life easier for publishers.
The platforms are following the audience: A survey from
Reuters Institute shows half the public gets news from
their social feeds; for 12%, it’s the main news source,
and that’s even more evident among 18- to 24-year-olds.
Social-friendly publishers have acknowledged the shift
and are partnering with marketers to produce branded
content made to be shared. According to founder Jonah
Peretti, 75% of BuzzFeed’s content is consumed via social
sharing. As the social platforms lean into their role as
publishers—and the recent acquisition of LinkedIn by
Microsoft opens new possibilities—expect to see more
publishers experiment with chatbots and other ways to
push content and sponsored messages via social.
7. Social ‘Likes’ News
It’s not all self-driving cars and smart homes. After years
of circling around the use of natural language
processing, automatic speech recognition, and
contextual messaging, marketers are leveraging artificial
intelligence (AI) far more extensively this year.
The spring launch of Facebook’s bot store for Messenger
means that any business can afford its own chatbot to
engage customers—a simple, everyday use of AI.
Observers see this as a mere toe in the water when it
comes to adding machine learning to all aspects of the
“There’s no question AI has arrived, and it’s growing in
use in marketing,” said Trevor O’Brien, CTO at Deutsch
NY. “I fully expect AI to be a disruptor to not only our
client business but also for agencies—everything from
sites that build themselves and get better over time to
self-learning ad systems. It’s going to be fun.”
8. Artificial Intelligence, Naturally
One immediate use of AI in 2016 will be digital
assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana,
IBM’s Watson, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant.
Marketers will be injecting voice-activated response into
retail and messaging, while also looking into a future
where younger generations will have grown up talking to
devices, appliances, and cars.
“Tried-and-true marketing concepts, like SEO, PPC, and
location-based marketing, now need to fit into voice-
only environments,” said Jonathan Adams, chief digital
officer at WPP agency Maxus. “All five brands have
infiltrated, or soon will, the smart home and in-dash car
[telematics] industries, so get ready for a device war.”
It’s too soon to tell how this competition will affect the
market, but “the second half of 2016 will be a powerful
one for voice,” said Greg Hedges, director of strategy at
digital agency Rain. “We’re just scratching the surface of
where voice can and will go.”
9. Digital Assistants Speak Up
If talking to a digital assistant is too much effort,
marketers are working on ways to avoid words entirely.
With younger generations communicating more often
via text and images, emojis are evolving as the new
mode of communication for brands. A survey from
SocialBakers, for example, found by the end of 2015 the
number of brands using emojis grew 46% on Facebook
and 32% on Twitter. The trend continues.
Cases in point: After Domino’s won awards for its pizza-
ordering emoji program, other marketers, including
Dove, Comedy Central, and Coke, followed. Now a
number of brands are incorporating the visuals into their
traditional campaigns. Pepsi recently launched a global
summer brand campaign using a library of emojis and
hundreds of wordless, five-second TV spots.
Expect to see more marketers leverage these images,
especially in their mobile-based efforts. What was
disruptive last year is becoming mainstream in 2016.
10. Words Fail Us J