The advertising industry is really good at trends. Every January, marketers turn our attention to the future, searching for new tech that will keep us ahead of our rapidly changing industry. But is the allure of what's to come taking our attention away from what's ready now?
While we're celebrating technology that's not yet ready for prime time, we just might be overlooking technologies that could start driving results for you tomorrow.
This year we want to look at trends a little differently. After all, it’s a new decade. Two years ago, you couldn’t avoid trend watchers discussing the rise of blockchain, VR, and other new technologies poised to revolutionize our industry. But there was just one problem: most of these trends had no practical use to brands yet.
In the spirit of the old saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” let’s shift our focus from “Exciting, but not yet useful” to “What can help me right now?” and zero in on what’s ready to help brands in January of 2020, not 2022. These are the birds already in your hand—or at least within your grasp:
Shoppable Media. This is the most obvious trend to jump on because it makes sense for all stakeholders. For brands, it reduces the friction and steps to buying product. For consumers, shoppable media makes it easier to discover and act on new products. For publishers, shoppability is a new source of revenue and fights the increasing cost of acquisition on platforms like Facebook. The challenge will not be in why shoppable media takes off in 2020, but how. Solutions like QR codes on TV screens are just okay, while the elegantly simple one/two-click purchases in social feeds will fare much better. Platforms that already have scale, engaged user bases, and a history of making consumer-friendly interfaces—like Instagram and Snap—will succeed first, with other platforms catching up quickly throughout 2020.
Position Zero. The most important search engine ranking will no longer be position number one, but position zero: the content that appears as an answer to your search query above any links. When Google launched position zero several years ago, we should have guessed it would be as important as it’s become. As a barometer of your brand’s ability to solve real consumer needs, position zero is a strong arbiter of relevance and utility and a sign of a healthy brand (which will inherently spend less than its competitors in paid search) in 2020 and beyond.
IRL. With the digitization of once “traditional” media only increasing in 2020, it feels a bit counterintuitive to predict that 2020 will be the year “real life” touchpoints like outdoor and experiential increase their share of spend. But they will. With our heads buried in our phones and TV becoming a digitized version of itself, outdoor and experiential advertising will continue to surge in 2020 as consumers crave more real world experiences. Expect outdoor and experiential spend to increase in 2020, led by new creative uses to break through amidst increased competition.
Now of course, forward-thinking marketers should still be listening for the tempting rustle in the bushes, always assessing which birds might be getting closer:
Blockchain. While blockchain may be my favorite technology to pick on, it is still a technology that has the power to transform the digital fraud spoiling our industry...albeit next year. Blockchain solutions at scale, available to most advertisers, are still at least 6-9 months or more away, even if custom blockchain solutions are finally beginning to make sense for advertisers in very specific use cases.
Augmented Reality. - Imagine it: Simple, one-button AR overlaid over city streets (Google Maps), static or digital outdoor advertising where a brand comes to life on your phone. Gaming that goes way beyond Pokemon Go. It’s all part of an exciting future. However, most of today’s AR requires us to download a special app, open it, accept privacy terms, aim our phones, maybe see a cool AR experience, and even if we never open that app again it’s tracking us silently through our lives. With AR seamlessly integrated into ioS and Android, the future can’t get here fast enough.
Voice. While smart speakers will continue to grow penetration, and voice related activity with it, I don’t expect this to have a major impact for most marketers in 2020. Amazon will rightly continue to test Alexa-focused creative messaging, and platforms like Pandora will test voice-enabled ads, but how willing will consumers be to converse with ads and ad-based platforms? At what scale? The verdict is out and we might not know that answer for another twelve months.
Practical innovation means celebrating the new technology and strategies that can immediately reach audiences at scale, in ways that break through for greater effectiveness and utility.
Yes, 2021 and all its trends will be exciting, but let’s rock 2020 first. And I’ll see you at the Blockchain conference.