What next for the media industry? 2018 revealed
Illustration by Natasha Searston
In the first of two specials, a host of experts review what has been turbulent year for adland - and offer their predictions for 2018
Can media agencies bounce back?
Brian Jacobs, founder, BJ&A
As the room-service waiter said to George Best when he brought him champagne, only to find him in bed with Miss World: “Where did it all go so wrong, George?”
The media agency arms of the major holding companies have for years contributed the lion’s share of their parents’ profit. They’ve focussed on bolstering client revenues with funds from vendors, be they media owners or adtech businesses.
In 2016 the ANA investigation, and criticisms from the WFA, Procter and Gamble and ISBA made the wheels wobble. In 2017 the wheels came flying off. Media agency margins reduced; holding company revenues suffered; share prices stalled.
Can the major media agencies bounce back in 2018? Yes, of course they can. They need to cast aside the allures of murky revenues from trading and look to bring their planning skills to the fore. Make the case for being paid for excellence. Be transparent in actions, not just contractual words.
For many years the industry has looked to the likes of GroupM and OMG for leadership. With the7stars and Goodstuff admired by all as Agency of the Year it’s time for the major networks to learn lessons from their independent rivals.
Jane Ostler, managing director of media and digital, Kantar Millward Brown
One thing we can all predict with certainty is that 2018 is poised to be another busy year for marketers. In particular they will have to handle continued evolutions in communication approaches, media targeting technology and ROI measurement.
The way that brands need to communicate with people, as opposed to target audiences, will continue to evolve away from the more standard paid media channels. There will be ongoing opportunities to embrace new storytelling opportunities, look to entertain through longer form content, and start experimenting with voice-activated marketing. Bold marketers will reap the rewards, but also face new measurement challenges.
Media targeting will continue to improve thanks to improved validation of audiences within the walled gardens. This combined with new machine-learning technology, will enable smart outcome-based decisions. The success of OTT streaming content platforms will create new places to target customers as they watch video, ushering in a new era of TV and cross-platform media measurement opportunities.
Finally, smart marketers will spend more time trying to gain an integrated view of the overall mix, including digital. To do this they will modify measurement and optimisation approaches so that ROI becomes more of a journey, and less of a destination.
Reversing the trust deficit
Andy Pearch, co-founder, Media Sense
2017 ended with a moment of great irony when YouTube announced it is to employ thousands of human moderators in an attempt to make its environment more brand-safe.
The world’s most AI-driven company has admitted that machines alone cannot make judgements and now increasingly resembles the traditional agencies it disintermediates.
Never have there been more questions surrounding the business model of the big media networks. It is likely that in 2018 we will see an upsurge in brands going to market to reshape their media requirements and customer-centricity not transparency is the key driver, requiring organisations to put data at the heart of their marketing operations.
As a result, media strategy and data analytics are being pulled back into marketing departments, further reducing media agency scope.
We believe GDPR will be another change driver, improving standards and governance within the digital supply chain. As organisations rebuild their products in a privacy-compliant way, the legacy working practices of many digital technology companies will be exposed and hopefully curtailed.
As brands take more control of customer data and measure the direct impact marketing has on customer response, they will become more capable of assessing for themselves the true value of their media inventory. More “premium” inventory will be exposed as massively over-priced and ineffective inventory will be discarded, making the media supply chain more effective.
2017 can be characterised by the trust deficit undermining our industry, we hope that in 2018 we can make progress on directly addressing the areas that can restore its professional credibility.
A more transparent approach to data
Dan Larden, global strategic partnerships director, Infectious Media
Media transparency dominated 2017, with the industry beginning to demand greater clarity on how media is sourced, who it goes through, the fees involved, and whether these are hidden or transparent.
In 2018, people will start to ask the same questions of data. A recent Forrester report found 85% of marketers lack visibility into data used to define audiences, which means they can’t be confident about the source of data or how reliable it is when buying audience segments via a DSP.
There’s currently very little clarity on who is in the supply chain and the margin they are taking"
Forrester’s report also shows there’s a hefty financial incentive for advertisers to begin demanding this transparency, revealing that $10.9bn will be wasted on low- or no-quality display ads if data quality and transparency issues aren’t addressed.
It’s not just a lack of transparency into where the data comes from. There’s currently very little clarity on who is in the supply chain and the margin they are taking. With DSPs, for instance, their stated margin on data has been known to be dramatically contradicted by their own financial accounts.
Transparency will become key from a consumer perspective as well. As the year that GDPR becomes enforceable, 2018 will require brands to become more transparent over how they use consumer data and offer the kind of advertising experiences that will make consumers more willing to share it in the first place.
A more transparent approach to data can restore trust between brands, agencies and consumers and will secure the health of digital advertising in 2018.
A.I. as standard
Peter Day, director of engineering, Quantcast
Artificial intelligence (AI) has increasingly dominated the news agenda in 2017. With research from Deloitte showing that 85 percent of UK businesses plan to invest in AI by 2020, it’s clear that firms across the board are waking up to its benefits.
At Quantcast, we’ve spent more than a decade building the right team, expertise and structure to apply machine learning to the advertising space. We’ve seen more and more brands implement AI in digital advertising. For those that do it well, the results are evident in more relevant, targeted and measurable campaigns.
However, there are still questions over how the technology will impact creative roles and skills in the long term. Many are worried that it will kill off jobs in the sector, and others argue that technology cannot mimic true, authentic human creativity. This last point is true. However, when AI is used in the right way, agency teams will find themselves freed up from the small, repetitive tasks like adjusting campaign targeting and able to invest more time in driving creativity and innovation for clients.
AI is still a new field, but the next 12 months will see it become the new standard in digital advertising, making 2018 a make-or-break year for brands. Those that don’t adapt will quickly be forgotten.