Data and Ethics, changing customer relationships

As in all the periods during which humanity has discovered a new world, the question of ethics comes in second phase, when the settlers realize that some rules would help organizing the new land. So is the case for the new land of Data.

Data, the new far-west?

8 mn to readThis phase of maturity for the data land is now upon us, and humanity feels inclined to put some sort of order into what has been done in the past, and regulate what will be done in the future.

Data has changed everything

Obviously, data has changed everything about how a brand manages its relationships with its customers, and digital has had a bigger impact than anyone really thought it would have.

With digital, the world of marketing and media has had to face a double revolution in how consumers interact with those sending out messages. Firstly, the immediate and overpowering right to get an answer, and then, a fragmentation of uses and consumption which has led to unparalleled demand for customisation, like never before.

The right to revert came with the advent of new media – social networks – where tribes of aficionados and detractors gather, bringing their voices together until they have become equal to those who produce the information or content, and are capable of contradicting, destroying, or lauding increasingly decoded and commented brand postures.

In this new world, communication and advertising had transitioned in just a few years from a vertical mass system, controlled by the transmitter, to an individual and egalitarian horizontal system.

In the beginning, brands wanted to take advantage of technology to improve the relevance and customisation of messages as far as they could. After all, that’s what consumers wanted. Media buyers suddenly had to take on the role of orchestra conductor for individualised exposure scenarios, where the relevance of the sollicitations and their individual capping, became key. And to succeed, they had to target. And to target, they had to collect individual data, in all forms, and link them together: a client database had to be connected to a media exposure history and a website browsing, that was all! Brands or Medias could then push the right message, at the right time, to the right person. In fact, to the right profile of person, because everyone involved in the chain had agreed to use only anonymized datas.

Understanding the value of Data

A band of rich, dominant and supranational players quickly understood the value of such data, and what power it could confer. Where they had long said that if information on an audience was to be gleaned, content needed to be produced, these platforms suddenly mutated their business model, monetizing the wealth they had on their servers. Online search engine results or searches on an online hypermarket, dialogues on social networks, and uses from a device became ways of collecting this data.

Obviously, some countries tried to prevent targeting, forcing websites to more or less explicitly receive some kind of consent to be traces from their users. In front of the rejection from Internet user of a still too intrusive advertising, private organisations even invented adblockers, which stopped ads from popping up when browsing. But given the need for publishers to continue monetising their space, these users had to disable them on a massive scale to go on accessing the online content they were now used to consume.

Little by little, users realised that the free internet was only a decoy, and that if any product was actually free, the product was actually the users themselves.

Worse still, serious cases have emerged where countries have been found to control their data, and that all large companies had were little more than sieves to protect the data they have been given. Conversations, banking data and medical data could be all be stored, used and diverted without anyone’s knowledge! And then anti-terrorism Laws had been voted in the Western world, which, although legitimate, worryingly formalised the rights of Authorities to monitor the actions of their citizens.

The digital world, under the pressure of this more mature humanity has now entered a phase where the ethics question is order of the day.

The age of Ethics

Firstly, some countries, and the European Union on the front line, have recently tackled these issues head on. After struggling for many years to try and change the competitive behaviour of the major digital platforms, regulatory bodies began an all-out attack on privacy with the GDPR, in a kind of tsunami, the effects of which are not yet totally felt by all players.

First, this approach reverses the burden of proof, and obliges the players who store or use data as part of their core business to demonstrate due diligence in the protection and safeguarding of the data entrusted to them, but also to self-diagnose the processes that could affect personal confidentiality. Also, to set a precedent, it applies to any player doing business in Europe, even if that business is headquartered in Palo-Alto, Shanghai, or San Francisco. Finally, it establishes a system where the Internet user must now explicitly consent to being tracked. Subsequently, it is now likely that people will be able to approve, reject, or decide to appear or disappear completely from all databases where their personal data is stored. This imposes on economic players and their subcontractors not only a duty to obey, but mainly to inform their users in an extremely painstaking way about what they do with their datas.

The approach shows to what extent public Authorities have now become fully aware of their duty to protect and supervise a form of self-regulation that until that point had been imperfect.

Having crossed swords for years with the major digital platforms for one or other issue like abusing from their dominant position or like tax territoriality, and having questioned citizens and various marketing professionals on these occasions, public Authorities have learned, cogitated, and become very aware of how data can be and is abused.

In parallel, the French state has just published four unparalleled decrees, aimed at imposing transparency on digital platforms, again with a view to improving the transparency of the information provided to the public on their business model, and the use that is made of the data collected. Game over. Implicit obligations where users had no choice but to accept the conditions if they wanted to access specific content are now a thing of the past. Today, governments fully assumes their role of referee and ethics warden, leaving the various players to work out how they can self-regulate under these constraints. Internet users have all the power, if they want it!

But the question of ethics takes on a new dimension when thinking about the implementation of such regulations : if the cornerstone of data ethics is the collection, documentation and management of the users consent, how can we avoid relying once again on the goodwill of these same digital platforms whose governments are trying to moralise the practices? They are both umpire and player here, as they are on the definition of their opaque algorithmes. And all together, they hold 95% of all world’s personal data. How can they be considered able to take part in this self-regulation that would directly harm their own business?

Who will control the ethics?

So who should do it? Governments? Those same leaders who fail to impose decent taxation on the platforms? The very people who have access, now legislated, to the most sensitive personal data in their fight against terrorism? Some of the very ones who the Snowden case reveals they have opaque links with the platforms they are supposed to regulate ? No. Their job is to write the rules of ethics, but isn’t it better that peers organise and manage their consent among themselves, rather than leaving it to the heathens? Or to a new body that doesn’t have a vested interest? The world of Data needs trusted third parties now more than ever, and it’s time to figure out who could play that role.

At first glance, Research institutes may be the obvious answer. After all, they have always been used to segmenting, collecting and protecting individual data. This role would require them to design more comprehensive panels, therefore integrating all of the profiles that visit one website or another, by means of questionnaires to ensure that Internet users consent to their data being collected, while reassuring them about the fact that they will be in expert and trustworthy hands. In that aspect, data brings the world of digital and the world of research closer than ever. At the moment, all the major institutes are in the midst of their digital transformation, and on the quest for internationalisation now necessary on this new global playing field. Still a lot to do…

Meanwhile, it is highly likely that the blockchain will be able to play a major role this self-regulation for the world of marketing and customer relations.

Indeed, none of the players in a chain can carry out all the obligations imposed by the GDPR alone because each is only one link. While individual players can commit themselves, they have no power over their subcontractors or clients. It is also hard to imagine how to transition from principle to reality if users must explicitly give their consent to all the players in all the chains where their data is traced. It is physically impossible, and legally unrealistic.

Blockchain is the missing element

We believe then, that the blockchain will be the missing element for this self-regulation to be effective. Stakeholders will join consortia, share their data and rely on Block chaines externalized technology to manage Internet user consent centrally. As it is currently widespread in healthcare and banking, it is highly likely that the next broad area of application for the blockchain will be customer relations, and more generally, marketing, under the impetus of regulations such as GDPR. Strangely, perhaps for the first time ever, potentially competing economic players are forced to pool their strengths and their data stores to fight on behalf of governments against digital platforms that they failed to control, implementing the et his principles such government have enacted.

With digital, citizens have never had so much power in their relationship with brands.

They first asked for more personalisation, and now they want to keep control over the very thing that make personalisation possible: their data. They have pushed governments to take up the role of protector once again, and are now pushing market players to sort this and respect their digital identity. A kneejerk reaction could have been to disconnect from the internet, and then, cut everything off at the source. But no. History shows that the more points of contact are added, the more they are consumed. People want everything, right now, but in full respect of their identity. That’s the moral of this new chapter of human history.

The Multi-Middle East – Targeting consumers in a complex marketing landscape

The Multi-Middle East

Neither a continent nor a country, The Middle East is a term given to a region made up of 17 countries. The region comprises of 450 million people and growing at one of the fastest growth rates in the world, the Middle East is a prized market for most brands due to the large base of youth population that exists here. Almost 50% of the regions population is under the age of 25 with 35% being under the age of 18. This poses a huge potential opportunity for a dynamic future market. The challenges alongside remain job creation, education and channelling youth potential towards economic prosperity.

Total Poulation MENA and Youth

Brands often define their territories or regions focusing their marketing strategies based on the above market collation. This is because markets within each segment display similarities in culture, language and habits however varying differences can be seen when being compared to markets in other segments. For instance, although Arabic is regarded as the language of the region, the language of choice in Morocco and Tunisia is primarily French. Likewise, the chosen language in markets like the UAE is English and Hindi is also widely spoken due to the large base of expats from the Indian subcontinent. Even within Arabic, the dialect can vary significantly not just within the market segments but also from one country to another. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are geographical neighbours and both are part of the GCC council, however the spoken dialect of Arabic differs immensely from each other.

Arabize it!

These variances in culture are also reflected in the choice of media by consumers. Conservative segments and societies in the region are catered through more traditional and conservative content while modernized segments consume a more ‘westernized content’. However, on an overall basis some of the most popular contents on leading TV stations are western franchised shows which are ‘Arabized’ and broadcasted to the region. Shows like Arabs Got Talent, Arab Idol, Project Runway, Survivor, Fear Factor and others have all been successfully ‘Arabized’ and televised in the region. Another popular genre amongst the youth is music where the region has seen a boom in the music industry with more and more music speciality channels being broadcasted on mainstream satellites. With sporadic objection from time to time, music videos seem to always push the boundary for what is considered as an acceptable appearance and content in the region.

These popular choices of content from the audience en masse reflect the evolution of culture in the Middle East. The other interesting aspect is the popularity of the English language channels amongst the Arab audiences. MBC Group first experimented in 2001 by introducing English channels that play Hollywood blockbuster in English with Arabic subtitles. Soon after its launch, MBC 2 became the No. 2 channel after MBC 1 in terms of viewership by the general population across Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE – the three biggest markets of the region. It also commanded a position in the top 5 channels in regards to viewership across all the Middle Eastern markets. This was a unique insight into the Arab market, which proved the acceptance of not just western content but content in a foreign language. Since then, MBC and Rotana have both successfully added English channels to their portfolios.

The media maze – or: spoilt for choice!

To cater to this complex multi-cultural and multi lingual environment there is a plethora of media making it very challenging for brands to reach out to their audiences. There are over 300+ TV channels in the region and over 3,000 officially registered print titles. The number of blogs and digital publishers make the digital media landscape even more fragmented.

TV remains the media of choice commanding the highest share of audience time spent on a media platform. This is closely followed by the internet, which has grown significantly in the past years however, remains second after the TV in leading ME markets like KSA and UAE. With the plethora of free to air channels, complimented by the rising penetration of video on demand and streaming networks, the audience is spoilt for choice of content.

The good news for marketers is that media reach can still be consolidated through the biggest 2 TV networks in the region. The MBC Group which is the largest broadcasting network in the region comprises 11 channels in its portfolio that are beamed across satellite to the entire region. Five of its channels are amongst the top 10 TV channels in all Middle Eastern countries and aggregate almost 50% audience share across the entire region. The Number 1 TV channel of the region, MBC1, alone can command up to 20% audience reach across all markets in the region. MBC has been the broadcast platform for popular programs including international franchises such as ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’, ‘Arabs Got Talent’, ‘Arab Idol’ and other global hits.

Leading advertisers including FMCG brands, automotive brands, telecommunication brands continue to leverage the reach of broadcast TV to build awareness for their brands. Although cost buying TV spots can be expensive, it still continues to be the most cost efficient way to reach mass audiences across multiple markets within the Middle East.

Time Spent per Media Platform per Week

The second biggest broadcaster of the region is Rotana, part of the Rotana Group. Rotana Group is the Arab World’s largest entertainment company. It is primarily owned by the Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, with an 18.97% share held by 21st Century Fox.

The large pan-Arab media conglomerate includes a film production company (Rotana Studios), a magazine (Rotana Magazine), television (Rotana TV), seven music channels (Rotana Radio), a record label (Rotana Records), and others.

Pan Arab TV Ad Share

With 13 broadcast channels in its network, Rotana commands a 15% audience share in Saudi Arabia, the regions

biggest market and similar audience share across the Middle East. Rotana and MBC Group dominate the regions audience share of viewing when it comes to the airwaves.

This scenario represents an advantage for brands to be able to build reach over a massive audience of around 400 million Arabs in the region using these two dominant networks, but also presents challenges in negotiations due to the monopoly the networks command.

 

Key Broadcasting Networks SOA

 

The digital revolution

The Middle East is one of the fastest growing regions when it comes to penetration and usage of digital media in the world. Digital technology and access of high speed internet has connected the region to the rest of the world not only in terms of information and data but also in terms of cultural understanding and exposure. The digital highway has opened the gateways for the Middle Eastern population to be exposed to programming content from all around the world. With the click of a button, users are able to access videos, songs, programs and movies from all over the world. This exposure has played a major role in shaping the mindset of the youth in the region. Perhaps one of the best example is Saudi Arabia where the local media is largely controlled by the government and subject to a strict censorship criteria. At the same time, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest consumption of Youtube videos in the world.

The result has been the formation of a unique culture across these countries, which is an amalgamation of Western cultural influences mixed with traditional Arab cultural practises.

Today, Digital media is part of the way of life in the region Middle East. Devices like smartphones are considered as highly personal and important objects as they remain the most prominent and sometimes only possibility for people to get a view of the global world as well as expressing themselves to the world.

Growth Rates of Leading YouTube Channels Average daily time spent online

Social Media is my media

The rise of social media has further accelerated the desire for self-expression. A traditional society that has largely been scrutinized for every word put in public, social media has given the mass a means to express their opinions, desires and point of views without scrutiny or restriction. The region has one of the highest usage rates of social media in the world.

Brands have been keen to become part of this phenomenon and have benefited from the social media popularity by engaging their target audiences through these popular platforms. Social media and digital channels have already risen to overtake print media in some categories and are now giving television broadcasters a challenge for marketing budgets. Brands with lower marketing budgets that couldn’t afford big budgeted TV campaigns can now benefit from the lower cost of campaigns on digital and social media. These new marketing channels are not only lower in cost but also very effective in means of reaching and engaging with target audiences across multiple demographics.

KSA top Desktop Mobile

SOURCE: Arab Media Outlook 2016.2018. Fifth Edition

Marketing is relationship development – good customer relationships thanks to good contents

Content marketing is not a 21st century invention. In spring 1897, long before the first “http” was typed into a browser line, John Deere – at the time an inventive manufacturer of plough machines, today a global market leader for agricultural engineering – published an early “Sponsored Post” in the agricultural magazine called “The Furrow”. In the ad, the manufacturer explained how farmers can increase their yield by using agricultural machinery. John Deere thus created the link between his product and the needs of his customers. The message: We are convincing you with substantial arguments! Even 120 years later this goal has not changed: Only companies that provide additional benefits for their customers will achieve this goal. Marketing is relationship development! And you can particularly strengthen the connection with your customers through relevant content:

This, in turn, requires a sophisticated system to create targeted, user-tailored content. The basis for this is a deep understanding of the various impact levels of content marketing. The process can generally be divided into four phases:

Phase 1: To grab the people’s attention, the contents have to be created in an informative and/or entertaining way, which adds value.

Phase 2: So that the contents can be viewed and used by people, you need to ensure sufficient reach. Media support also plays a large role here because virality only works with certain types of content.

Phase 3: As people use the respective content, they establish a deeper relationship with the brand.

Phase 4: As they have established this relationship with the brand, they prefer to buy products from this brand.

It sounds very simple in theory. Of course, in practice, there are some predetermined breaking points, e.g. between phase one and two: Just because a brand produces good contents, does not mean that enough people use and see these products. And just because I like a brand, does not necessarily mean that I will buy their products. At predefined breaking point number one, a sophisticated media plan helps as it guarantees a basic reach in the desired target group. Predefined breaking point number two is the result of a simple equation: Customers usually shop in places where they can find the simplest solution to their problem and they need to know that it is the simplest.

If you take a closer look at user behaviour, you will see that: Today’s users are rushed, “always on”, have a very short attention span and take in a lot of information in a very short space of time. At a time when smartphones are the favoured devices, it is mainly visually processed contents that are used and shared. The rapid rise of Instagram is proof of this. In addition, users are very self-determined in what they want to use. The good news is: There is at least one solution for all these challenges. For example, by being “always on” with communication as well. And snackable content provides short and easily consumable content, which consistently fits to the brand. The value of recognition is particularly important, especially in a highly fragmented market: Contents must be divisible, multimedia, segmented and personalised.

How can you produce content for such a fast-paced and mobile world? By working dynamically! Paul Adams, Head of Brand Design at Facebook, gets straight to the point: “To be a successful advertiser on the web in the future, you will need to build content based on many lightweight interactions over time.” Short and simply put: If you don’t let go then you won’t be current. Many, small interactions – combined with few, but big highlights.

At the office, we call this agile brand communication. To achieve this, you need many different disciplines within an agency or an agency group to be involved: Insights, content strategy, media strategy, concept team, editorial department, creation, paid media, community management, influencer management, PR and account management. All departments of the agency have to work hand in hand with the customer.

Content is king! The customer is king! But where is the king hiding?

Currently, many companies produce “their” content primarily from the perspective of the sender. They are stuck in the broadcaster or sender trap, which they are familiar with from their previous classical advertising. A more promising approach is content analysis for content production: Based on valid data, it examines what people actually talk about and in what form (social listening). These findings are then compared with the topics and messages that the company or the brand wants to work with. Residual topics are then conceptualised using storytelling. Similar to the way Snapchat and Instagram stories work – individual images and individual parts are strung together to make a story. These stories are then reused on various channels that are suitable for the target group and the content. For logical reasons, the user is divided into different segments and also addressed with various versions of the contents – for example, regarding their gender or where they live.

A lot has happened in agriculture too. Although John Deere’s ad was revolutionary 120 years ago, it would not have the same effect today as an advert in the “top agrar” specialist medium, for example. Among today’s farmers, the smartphone is the dominating source of information. What is searched on the go? Today’s farmers are not only searching for a wife, they also spend plenty of time looking at the weather report and the weather forecast. According to a study by the Kleffmann Group, with 46% of farmers using it, the weather app is by far the most used feature. The study also showed that agricultural machinery manufacturers such as John Deere now combine their products with mobile real time content regarding the weather.

Does data-driven advertising make good old-fashioned ‘reach’ redundant?

Andrea Malgara talks before his participation at the “Jahreskongress Digitalmarketing 2017” with the Management Forum about the relation of data-driven advertising and the good old-fashioned reach.

Mobile Relevance vs. Reactance

The time has come: for the first time, mobile (49.7 percent)  has globally overtaken desktop traffic (45.2 percent). (Mobile traffic mainly refers to smartphones, since the traffic with tablets is just 5 percent.) In Germany, the situation looks somewhat different: desktop traffic (62.8 percent) still dominates in use and mobile here is “only” at about 30 percent. Mobile is, however, also “mass market-ready”. Only the advertising expenses for the mobile sector with a sum of approx. 518 million euro for the year 2016 (source: Nielsen) did by far not reach it at all.

How can it be that the rapid growth in mobile usage figures is still not reflected in the investment, as the strengths of Mobile have long been known? No other medium is so close to the consumer as the mobile phone. This can be seen, for example, in the Google “Mobile Moments Study”, which states that 68 percent of the smartphone owners already use their smartphone 15 minutes after getting up. Push functionality allows the advertisers to actively contact the user, and couponing location information or opening times, for example, provide consumers directly with additional information. Just to mention a few of the advantages.

But what is important also in the mobile area, is a well-made creation adapted to the medium. According to an analysis by GfK , creation is the strongest factor in the success of a campaign. This is the only way to convey relevant messages to the consumer.

Mobile is more likely to do this with large formats and less with 6: 1 advertising. It requires meaningful pictures as well as texts, which have to be briefly and clearly formulated. Videos should work with and without sound and are designed for mobile devices so that their main message is communicated in the first three to five seconds.

Unfortunately, in the mobile area much too often the same errors are made as at the beginning of the desktop communication: what used to be the pop-up in the past, is today the overlay on the smartphone. But an overlay can also work when it is innovative and well-made – if it brings a playful added value in the form of “shaking”, “vibrating” or “wiping”. However, this requires an intelligent implementation by frequency capping. The best creation fades very quickly when the consumer has to click it away several times a day.

The most important rule in all lean forward channels is to not interrupt the users during their active use of their contents. New, usability-compliant formats that are high-performance alternatives to overlays make this possible. The so-called “parallax ads” slowly build up in the background with the scrolling process to an advertising integrated into the content. The user can thus interact with his content and connect it to the advertising medium.
And last but not least: mix it! No media genre unfolds its optimal effect when it stands alone. Only when built in a sensible media mix, each individual channel unfolds to its full extent.

My 5 main issues are therefore:

  • Relevance vs. Reactance: relevance in communication is good, avoidance of irrelevance is mandatory.
  • Mix it! – Combine mobile campaigns with other local media such as Digital Out-of-Home to extend further the local reach.
  • Think Big! – 6: 1 formats are not the future. Rather, the unique added value should be exploited and adapted to the device size.
  • Less is more! – Creative advertising media have had a positive impact on the mobile advertising experience. Messages on mobile devices have to be even more reduced and adapted especially to the size of the advertising media.
  • Don’t disturb! –The user’s behaviour should not be severely interrupted by the advertising. Advertising media should be preferably integrated in the content.

 

Source:

 

My Programmatic Big 3: We should talk about it

When has a technology fully reached the market? When everyone is using it? If the first hype is over? Programmatic Advertising is now an integral part of the digital media business. Are we therefore at the destination? Certainly not, because as quickly as the market and its participants change, the challenges that we as market participants are faced with again and again change too.

In my view, it is the following “Big 3” in Programmatic Business that concern us and for which we must find solutions and approaches in the coming months:

1. Transparency affects all

What was and is bashed up on media agencies – the reaction is easy and will therefore be willingly striven for: “We do not know exactly what is going on – and the agencies are to blame. They enrich themselves and are the bad guys in the game”, that’s the often-heard implication in published opinion. This is asked ineffectively without a microphone and without an official position considered to represent it, and the answer is usually different and always turns out considerably differentiated. Unfortunately there is rarely a journalist around.

All the better then the presence of two advertisers at this year’s d3con in Hamburg, who tell of their collaboration with a media agency in the programmatic era and their conclusion seems to be different:”The collaboration between client and agency works like in a good marriage: You have to constantly work at it and mutual trust is imperative for both sides to get a good relationship.”

Hence my appeal: Dear advertisers, dear agencies, programmatic advertising allows transparency – use it! No agency will oppose it!

2. Fragmentation and orchestration

The programmatic world is growing exponentially: By programmatic advertising we are not only talking about on-line or mobile advertising. Digital-out-of-home, programmatic radio, addressable TV and other disciplines are part of this or these are already part of an overall programmatic campaign. This fragmentation poses a major challenge, in which technology can help us and offer new possibilities. But to the great majority who are serious about programmatic advertising it will be or is already clear that no technology in the world removes the central task from them: the correct orchestration of marketing measures – based on more and more devices and more data.

But is this new? Certainly not, this has always been the job of a media manager and his agency. Only, I think it is becoming increasingly clear where the journey for the agencies is heading: If we are not able to be a real consultant for customers in this fragmented world, we will soon have to consider what our job is. Because to retreat to purchasing or the sheer volume of purchasing is no longer sufficient to meet all the requirements of an efficient campaign. The integration of creation in programmatic campaigns has not even been mentioned, although this will certainly be the deciding factor!

3. Quality

When talking about data-based communication, the issue of quality is ever-present. But what do participants understand by quality? When asked for a definition, it is complicated and the answers are very different: Since quality is described, for example, as “maximum effect”, or even as “an advert seen by a person,” up to “quality includes the relevant message.”

None of this is wrong, but neither of these statements is truly comprehensive. And maybe that’s the conclusion: There is no uniform concept of quality! What quality is, is defined by each viewer from their own perspective. This presents us with the central challenge, to ask each other in advance of any communicative action what kind of quality is to be achieved in the end.

Or rather on what basis we should optimise a campaign. And here is the crux, because there are in fact very different fields that need to be integrated. Whether we are talking about the quality of coverage, quality of content or data quality – it will not be easy to build a common understanding of quality here.

Conclusion

Programmatic Advertising has fully arrived in the market and has been able to prove its benefits relatively quickly. But as with any stage of technological development we have to do some homework. The basis, like customers and agencies working together in the future, is just as important as a common understanding of key issues such as transparency and quality. Therefore let’s talk about them.

Trends 2017: Austria

In 2017 topics like programmatic advertising, business intelligence, data management, data security, mobile commerce and data-driven marketing per se will gain in importance. That’s not new. In reality, we already have to master all these areas and have to do “our homework” next year to drive and consolidate our knowledge and competences. Within the developments in the communication industry, especially in the digital field, we notice following main trends, which will more and more decide about “top or flop”:

  • Responsive Content
    2016 was the year of native advertising and content strategies – the focus was definitely on “CONTENT”. Online websites are (in most cases) responsive concerning the layout. BUT in the ideal case also the content adapts itself to the mobile device. There are many opportunities to improve usability and effectiveness of communication, with the background of the changing media usage. New ways and strategies to create and spread content successfully will gain a meaning – in this case in bits and pieces and not in 30‘‘.
  • Visuality & Iconic Turn
    Our world is becoming more and more “illustrated” – our environment is full of icons, pictures, videos. In the age of information overload we have to process information faster and more contextual. This means for the communication industry: Pictorial language and new ways of visualization will continue to be an important success factor.
  • Structuring data – Reducing complexity 
    Data management, data security, data-driven marketing, business intelligence – 2017 structured data will be more important than ever before. For all innovative systems handling data-driven marketing the ability of structuring data in a meaningful way is essential and inevitable. Making a complex world more simple – for everyone (customers & companies)!
  • Transition between Apps & Web 
    On the smartphone, we spend most of our time in apps, not in the browser. But marketers still focus their communication measures on the Web. 2017 priorities will shift. For example, there will be important questions about how to make the transition between app and web better – deeplinks and other gadgets can quickly become powerful marketing tools, especially in the area of mobile commerce.
  • Messenger Marketing
    Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger are the most important chat programmes and apps for communicating. Facebook is currently starting to monetize the Messenger, Whatsapp could follow soon. In 2017 mobile marketers must be there, where the target group is – and this is in any case also the messenger. It is time to enter into a dialogue on Facebook Bots.
  • Mobile Video content 
    In the meanwhile, the biggest “video problem” is solved for mobile devices. The size of videos is hardly an obstacle in LTE times. Videos are popular in all (personal) environments – with the strong tendency to live videos. Mobile video marketing must already be ensure in the production process that videos can be consumed in all living situations. Subtitling or a suitable call-to-action can be a way out.

Nevertheless we do not want to forget about the real communication trends, which we do not find in the media every day, but with which trend researchers are mainly concerned with. Digital detox, the non-existing disruption and related retro-trend, Postgenderism, (finally) customer-oriented NFC solutions and innovative e-governmental services will also be increasingly focussed in 2017.

Trends 2017 from the Middle East

TECHUCATION THANKS TO AR & VR

Technology and education is on the rise, with companies like IBM and Apple working hand in hand to release Watson Element in a bid to help teachers gain insights into individual learning behaviors. In Dubai, the vision of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to provide “NEW GENERATIONS with the skills needed for the future” is prompting VR giant, Samsung, to seek content cooperation partners like Serviceplan to create VR experiences in both the classroom and the workplace. Brands can take advantage of AR and VR by creating content, instead of merely looking at devices to push content through. This will be a tall order for VR and AR content creators, as International Data Corporation (IDC) reports that the augmented and virtual reality market for the Middle East and Africa will grow robustly over the next five years, projecting annual growth rates of more than 100 per cent by 2020.

REALTIME INFLUENCER MARKETING

Realtime Influencer Markting will now, more than ever, require brands to slowly give up creative control. With new social tools like Facebook Live and Instagram Stories now available to supplement Snapchat, transparency between brands and influencers, as well as authenticity in influencer content, will become more apparent in 2017. Brands will want to see immediacy in content, regardless of its ephemeral nature, but will, in turn, require statistics behind it. This means shorter lead-times to conceptualize and create content, giving influencers more control of the pieces they publish. Consequently, influencers will start choosing to collaborate only with brands that allow them to stay true to their personalities, and to maintain the core of their online following. With real-time now invading our social spaces, influencer authenticity will replace influencer popularity. Brands will come to realize that fame does not necessarily equate to quality, and that quality, served to a smaller, more targeted audience will hold more value and influence. Other, more established brands will revert to celebrities over mere influencers, if only to defy the already dizzying predominance of so-called “social voices”. Dubai’s clever use of Sharuk Khan in its latest promotional film is one such example.

ATTENTION ECONOMY AND THE 5 SECONDS OF OPPORTUNITY

Today, attention is a rising commodity in itself, as smartphones have left humans with such short attention spans that there is only a 3-5 second window of opportunity to grab the consumer’s attention. This change in consumer behavior places increased value on content marketing with short video at its core. In this new landscape, social platforms are assuming the role traditionally occupied by broadcast media. Brands and marketers should start looking into innovative content that would make their platforms more and more relevant to the already hooked Arab audience. Live video, for one, is now being experimented with by brands (primarily from owned events to amplify reach) and this will be utilized even more in 2017.

Trends 2017: Belgium

To achieve the best results possible for the brands that we serve, and as part of our quest to embrace emerging marketing and communication movements, we need to take a closer look at some social trends.

Looking forward, the thing that strikes us in particular is a general sense of “harmonious contradiction”. There are two intriguing, big and bold contradictions going on which brands should try to understand and appropriate.

Tactile vs virtual & artificial

At the beginning of December, for the first time in history, the amount of money spent on vinyl records in the UK overtook the amount spent on digital downloads.

“We have a new generation buying vinyl, lots of teenagers and lots of people under 25, who now want to buy their favourite artists on vinyl and have something a bit more tangible, a bit more collectible. People have become keen to support their favourite artists by buying into that ownership concept. It’s very difficult to demonstrate your love of an artist if you don’t have something to hold on to,” said Kim Bayley, chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association recently.

In a digital world, consumer preference can indeed be influenced by sensory marketing tactics: think about the combined potential of sight, touch, sound, taste, and smell.

Even while anxieties are expressed about the impact of robots on the way we work, and the kinds of jobs that exist, millions of people have already adopted home robots. Take the Echo: it has already captured imaginations and hooked its owners on how easy it makes ordering a takeaway, or never running low on washing powder.

Brands needs to ensure that their technology/services can be linked in some way to this new kind of central domestic technology.

Local vs. e-tailing on the doorstep

It’s becoming increasingly clear that living a healthy life and thriving means putting as much care and thought into our relationship with food, as we do into our personal relationships. The best place to start working on a closer relationship with the food we eat is at local farmers’ markets and by buying from local food producers – and of course this is also true in fashion, furniture etc. Brands can tap into the trend towards these lifestyle choices by playing a facilitating role starting to allocate areas for community gardens, urban farms and local entrepreneurship.

Every day, a new “kit on your doorstep” initiative is launched, whether it be a meal in a kit, an outfit in a kit, or the myriad other options available. Thousands of cardboard boxes land on urban and rural doorsteps every month, containing all the elements needed to create a home-cooked dinner. Like frozen food or the microwave oven, meal kits may be a kitchen innovation that fundamentally changes how people cook at home. The cookbook author Mark Bittman told the New York Times: “It’s cooking. It’s not shopping and it’s not planning and in a way it’s not thinking, but it is cooking.”

While many question the ecological footprint of these services, brands can play a vital role in logistics and packaging innovation, offering smart recycling. Brands can help kitchens and their appliances to become smarter, and make cooking more intuitive and complex meals more accessible.

Generation Z

The first members of Generation Z will turn 21 in 2017, marking their transition from society’s teenagers to fully fledged consumers, and as such their influence will mark a tipping point for retailers. The way most retailers do business nowadays will be turned on its head, as this generation is made up of free thinkers, and sceptical when it comes to brands. They interact primarily on social media channels, simultaneously across several of them, and spend little to no time on brand platforms.

As more and more social channels integrate social shopping, brands should design even more specific content to entice this emerging group of consumers, who will be drawn to social selling storytelling. Instagram’s shoppable photo strategy is only a faint indicator of what is to come, and what will be easily adopted by these mobile natives.

Whereas platformless retail may still be considered a trend, conversational commerce will fully blossom in 2017. Chatbots and apps are now a retail tool that can boost business and increase customer service in a way that is satisfying for Generation Z.

The daily use of technology comprising chat, messaging or other natural language interfaces, short circuits the brand-to-consumer loop, facilitating “conversations” between people, brands or services, and making it possible to use a device – notably a smartphone – to ask questions, place orders and get advice.

Brands that are early adopters of this kind of commerce will certainly appeal to Generation Z, and are likely to see these consumers spending their first salaries with them rather than with traditional e-tailers. Tangible benefits of WhatsApp social commerce:

  • Instant notification of messages being read.
  • No queuing – 30-minute response time.
  • No precious time wasted on explaining a fault or your specific need; a simple picture will do.

By linking to a CRM system, not only can brands facilitate direct sales, but track customer lifecycle too. We all remember SuitSupply in the Netherlands – the cool initiative and pilot case that resulted in an additional channel for commerce.

H&M’s bot suggests various outfits to users and provides the opportunity to purchase through the bot’s messaging platform. Sephora is using a bot to provide beauty tips and enable direct shopping.

Trends 2017: Italy 4.0

2016 has been a good year in terms of the Italian economic upturn, thanks to a government that has made important reforms to work, recruitment and retirement, so (hopefully) we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel: after years of decline and stagnation, in 2016 investment in advertising is expected to grow by 3%.

Media planning is getting ready to capitalise on the opportunities: investments in digital have been growing rapidly in recent years, and in 2017 they are expected to make up a quarter of all communications investments. It’s also worth noting that mobile web has grown to make up more than twice the extent of PC use, and next year will absorb a third of all digital resources. We are experiencing significant developments in live videos, fresh daily content with Snapchat, Instagram and Telegram, and new scenarios such as native advertising and chatbots.

Nonetheless, TV is expected to still play a major role in the landscape, representing half of total investments though with one key difference compared to past situations: forget about wide audiences. In the meantime, unlike TV, other traditional media are not showing any significant signs of evolution. Their trend seems irreversible: fifteen years ago print represented a third of total investment; now it’s only 13%.

In such a challenging scenario, it’s no surprise that Programmatic is increasingly gaining share of use vs. traditional media planning: in Italy, Programmatic spending has grown from €42 million in 2013 to €260 million in 2016. Reports predict that next year Programmatic advertising will be worth €360 million, and €515 million in 2018.

Live videos

Mobile video consumption is forecast to grow by 33% in 2017, and by 27% in 2018, reaching 33.4 minutes a day. In this context, live videos will continue to grow among brands over the next few years. Social media users love to feel “in the moment,” and live videos give them that sense: rather than seeing a recorded event, they want to experience something immediately.

Live events foster engagement. When large groups of people are concurrently watching a live stream, it is a far more social experience than when they watch an on demand video on their own. Social connections and interaction during a live event are very attainable and extremely valuable.

Fresh daily content

Snapchat, Instagram and Telegram offer the chance to tell stories in posts, videos or photos that self-destruct after 24 hours. This means that each company must create fresh daily content for its users.

In addition, this volatility makes any content more interesting and appealing to the eyes of your followers. The knowledge that tomorrow will be too late to take advantage of the experiences, stories or snaps clicked today is dependent on curiosity, and creates urgency around the need to stay up-to-date.

Programmatic buying

In Italy, Programmatic spending has grown from €42 million in 2013 to €260 million in 2016. Reports predict that next year Programmatic advertising will be worth €360 million, and €515 million in 2018. As has already happened in more mature markets, the Italian panorama of Programmatic is becoming increasingly crowded, so in 2017 the big operators will redouble their efforts to increase the efficiency and customisation of their solutions, while clients will continue becoming increasingly aware of the offer.

Native advertising

Ad blocking is a phenomenon that continues to grow in Italy: currently, ad blocker usage is at 13% among PC users, while on smartphones it is at 7.6%. The prevalence of ad blockers is provoking serious reflection on the nature of online advertising. With an average click rate at 0.06%, it is now clear to everyone that online display advertising has to change. And so, native advertising is forecast to grow by 156% in the next 5 years, overwhelming the 52% market share that display advertising in Europe currently has.

Chatbots

Brands are beginning to use artificial intelligence for their customer service. The main advantage from using chat-based assistance is a speedier response, which could reverse the trend of consumers pouring out negative feelings about the company on social media. The Italian startup Responsa has created a Messenger chatbot to offer self-service customer care with high conversational content. The technology combines contextual analysis and natural language algorithms (NLP), ensuring a spontaneous and immersive experience for customers.

YouTuber licensing

In Italy, licensed products represents business worth €3.18 billion, while the global licensed products business hit €214 billion in 2016. A new trend is for “co-branded” YouTuber-licensing. To take one recent example, the Favij nickname, featured on various products, has proved to be a winning formula: the licensed Panini collection has received more than 1 and a half million sales. If at first no one wanted to produce a book with a YouTuber, today they are queuing up for the chance.