5 things to get right in 2014

The start of a new year is traditionally a time when people look forward; problem is I can’t stop looking back.

Pretty much every website I bought a Christmas present from has retargeted me with sales messages to inform everything I bought is now C. 50% cheaper.

We all know the presents we buy will hit the sales but we never used to have our noses rubbed in it quite this much, & the store stalking me most is the one discounting most heavily. Despite the fact my Wife loved the gifts and the shopping experience was fine I now despise this company.

Surely with all this big data knocking around retailers would have more sophisticated targeting strategies. All the value can’t come from basic retargeting alone; can it?

Anyway, back to the subject. It’s a great time for lists and predictions and I thought I’d add some of my own. The problem is my predictions are the same as everyone else’s. Perhaps that’s a good thing; people making predictions all read the same source material, have similar experiences navigating the market and so draw the same conclusions. I have seen a couple that aren’t the same as the rest but they are just weird.

So rather than make really clever predictions I’m going to state the bloody obvious. Often we are so worried about the next thing we forget to focus on things that can make a difference now; ending up so far in front to be behind.

I don’t think that iBeacons, The Internet of Things or Google Glass will change the world in 2014. 50% of big brand websites are still unfit to render on mobile devices

There are five things brands and agencies need to get right in the digital space and unsurprisingly they are all connected to each other.

  • Mobile ads
  • Content strategy
  • Using social networks as advertising platforms
  • Attribution
  • Programmatic ad delivery 

Mobile ads
Mobile is an expansive term. Many believe it to be a behaviour rather than a platform and while that sounds like a wanky sound bite it does makes sense.

Thinking about mobile ads specifically; 2014 will be the year when mobile page views outstrip desktop page views globally. Mobile is fast becoming the first screen and we all need to put ads on them which make a difference to the bottom line. In the long run I think phones will be more important than tablets because we are more likely to have a phone on us at all times. The 20 year old banner is not the best way to advertise in the mobile space but more about that in a minute.

Outside of Google killing it with Mobile search the two companies poised to make the biggest advancements in mobile advertising are Facebook and Twitter. Both utilise native ad formats which work on mobiles and both have fantastic acquisitions in Instagram and Vine that rely on great content and will advance further this year.

The smart brands will think about mobile first. From the way their site renders on a mobile device to the type of advertising that resonates best. 

Content strategies
There are a many well documented reasons why content is such a hot topic, many of us have employed successful content strategies for years but not necessarily for these two basic reasons:

Native ads works best on mobile phones and good content makes for good native ads. That’s pretty simple but if mobile is the future and studies suggest that native ads work better on phones then we all need to invest in good content strategies. Perhaps very simple ads akin to the Twitter Card or Facebook Newsfeed post are the immediate future of mobile advertising. They are more visible than the tiny banners in apps and more elegant than expanding ads which obscure the very content you want to read and eat into your data plan at the same time.

The second reason is Google’s new algorithm called hummingbird. It’s the biggest overhaul the company has ever made quietly making Google a semantic search engine. This means people will start asking google questions rather than just typing single words. Quality content will more valuable than ever for brands for this reason alone. The semantic web was top of most prediction lists in 2007 and has only really been realised now and without fanfare. 

Social networks as advertising platforms
This headline may sound silly but many brands focus only on CRM or community management and forget that social networks can be used for good old fashioned advertising and measured as such.

Facebook today is as big as the Internet was in 2004. If it has a problem increasing ad revenue it’s because many brands view it as a place to have cringe worthy conversations. The Corporate Condescending Brand Page captures them best.

In 2014, brands and agencies will wake up to the fact that a site with 32m UK users who check it multiple time throughout the day is a good place to put an overt marketing message rather than an inane post about how many sleeps it is until the weekend. Facebook sales guys don’t talk about talk about likes or shares any more. They focus on custom audiences and targeted reach.

Facebook has the reach, data and arguably the best mobile ad position available in the targeted reach block. By the end of 2014 brands cannot continue buying likes or trying to build their pages’ fan base. This article explains why.

Twitter has fantastic targeting capabilities and while brand conversations / CRM feels more at home in the medium the synergies with TV make it a place for overt marketing messages. 

Attribution
We are moving away from the last click wins model; not fast enough but things will accelerate in 2014. This will ring true for all digital advertising but content marketing will force the agenda. As content becomes more important so will ways to measure how that content performs. Attributing the value evergreen content strategies add to the marketing mix will be crucial. We all need to understand what content works, how it works and what benchmarks to set ourselves. UM has been doing some great work with BuzzFeed for some time now to really understand this. 

Programmatic
RTB takes up all the column inches but programmatic isn’t just about that; it’s a new way of doing business. Agency Programmatic media buying initially focussed on replacing ad networks. CPMS were low and remnant inventory was traded with some data appended, most of it was retargeting. In 2014 we will start to see all commodity banners bought programmatically. It’s a more efficient way to trade across the board; buying, delivery, reporting and optimisation all benefit.

All agencies will introduce central programmatic buying points across all digital media (Display, Search, Video & Social posts) and across all screens. Retargeting a user with a relevant content based ad in their mobile newsfeed because they raised their hand in in another digital channel is extremely powerful. When all companies begin to employ sophisticated retargeting strategies like this I’ll be able to buy my Christmas presents without fear.

About Alan King

I've been working in digital media for quite a while now. I thought it was time I started a blog. I am managing partner and head of digital at UM London. All thoughts are my own.
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