As you may imagine for a part of the group more closely associated with the creative side, Annette believes content is the big one to watch for 2016. Her other prediction, however, took me a little more by surprise -- she stated that brands which stand for something and actually do it and even go beyond will shape the year ahead.
As far as content goes, Annette is the first to say the word can mean pretty much anything to anyone. It could be a social post, it could be an opinion article, or it could even be applied to the clever campaign that Ogilvy ran for BA, which used digital outdoor sites on the A4 and Piccadilly to identify the client's planes flying overhead and tailored a message about where they had been or were going to with a child pointing to the sky excitedly. It could equally mean native advertising, socially shared content or PR-driven crisis management articles -- whatever the content is, it will be more crucial this year than next.
The devil in me had to ask whether this was due to ad blocking, click fraud and viewability meaning that digital display is losing its impact -- and after a long pause the answer came. "You need to get your arms around the whole customer experience and if your content is good enough, it will work." The long pause suggested that captains of the ad industry are very much aware of display's issues -- how could they not be -- but that content is there as a supplement not a total replacement. Display lives on generating very healthy margins, but content looks set to be the in foreground, rather than the banners more and more are blocking or overlooking in the background.
The refreshing aspect of our talk was a confession that the industry is not well set up to produce content -- certainly not in the time span that marketing in the present tense requires. "We've got to get a lot better at content," Annette confessed. "As an industry, we need to work better at being sharp and being first. We take far too long to produce content and, in that way, I think we have a lot to learn from publishers and journalists."
Get content right and, Annette's thinking is, you can help brands better themselves by underlining that they mean something -- "brands that matter" is what the year ahead is going to be about. Those that stand for something and do it, and even go beyond what they said they would do, are the ones that will rise to the top in 2016. In the year ahead, then, it's all about content, but it's also all about brands that not only talk the talk but walk the walk.