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6 Digital Advertising Trends You Need to Know for 2018

Feb 20, 2018

Did you manage to catch Denis Villeneuve’s awesome sci-fi sequel Blade Runner: 2049 in the cinema recently? The flying cars, giant holograms and lab-crafted “replicants” might have seemed way too futuristic to imagine hitting our world any time soon, but the underlying idea that artificial intelligence and immersive advertising could shape our environment and behaviour? That’s already here. And as these emerging adtech trends for 2018 show, they’re revolutionising the way brands like yours can interact with your audience and optimize digital advertising spend, too.

Let’s take a look at six major advertising trends on the horizon.

1. Smarter Targeting Using Machine Learning

There’s no doubt about it: machine learning is revolutionising marketing and advertising. So much so, in fact, that 97% of marketers believe that the future of their industry will involve savvy humans working with machine learning tools.

But what does that mean in practice? Well, it means using predictive analytics and well-placed automation to make predictions that are driven by data. It means cross-referencing historical patterns with current data to make increasingly accurate forecasts about the future. And in turn, that means getting more and more precise about who you should be targeting with each campaign, and how you should connect with them.

2. Chatbots

Another tool that’s driven by artificial intelligence and is creating waves in marketing circles is the chatbot.

Recent developments in natural language processing have made it possible for tools to not only “understand” queries put to it in everyday language, rather than coding-speak (for example, think about how Google’s search engine figures out what you’re looking for no matter what order the words are in) – they can also reply.

In other words, the chatbot takes what you’ve said and tries to answer your question using everyday language, too. This is pretty incredible stuff, and is opening up opportunities for marketing teams to free up time by having sophisticated chatbots answer basic questions put to them through social media channels like Facebook Messenger.

3. Data-Driven Adtech

In the past, marketing professionals tended to create advertising campaigns by looking at what other people were doing that works, reviewing industry benchmarks and combining this with their gut instincts to come up with a plan perfectly matching with advertising trends. These days, this approach no longer cuts the mustard.

Increasingly (and sensibly), advertisers are collecting and analysing huge pools of customer hard data to help them figure out how they should proceed. This covers everything from information on consumer characteristics – what they’re looking for, what sways them, what their main concerns are – to figuring out where in their journey customers drop off. This demystifies the process, helping you to pinpoint exactly where pain points are, so that you can make improvements to avoid losing people at key touchpoints.

It’s also giving rise to programmatic creative (also called data-driven creative), where data insights and machine learning are used to help shape how ads should be executed for better performance and ROI.

4. More Video Ads – But Shorter

When it comes to social, video reigns supreme. Four times as many customers prefer to watch a video about a topic than read about it, but two-thirds also say that they prefer video that’s under 60 seconds. Smart marketers are taking note, creating more and more shot, snappy, native videos for social that autoplay as users scroll through.

Facebook responded by introducing a new 6-second video ad format, the length their internal metrics have identified as optimal, to help brands get messages across at lightning speed. YouTube, too, has been challenging advertisers and creatives to come up with super-short films in 6 seconds, with the best premiered at Sundance.

In 2018, expect the best brands to up the game, communicating ideas with humour and panache in a matter of seconds – and raking in the most engagement as a result.

5. Inclusive Ads

As long-fought civil rights campaigns around the world come to fruition – most recently, the equal marriage bill in Australia – brands are taking note. Many are looking to branch out from tired stereotypes, especially when it comes to depictions of couples and families, as in this well-received ad by McCain:

Or this Christmas ad from Tesco:

In the coming years, expect ads to feature a greater mix of races, LGBTQI identities and other underrepresented demographics, and to move away from pigeonholing gender roles.

6. Micro Moments

The average smartphone owner reaches for their phone thousands of times a day, and so many off-the-cuff interactions – like checking who starred in Fight Club, or if there is a decent Lebanese restaurant nearby, or how to turn on your phone’s Wifi Hotspot – aren’t things you can plan for as you map the customer journey.

However, if you can figure out how to capitalise on these “micro moments” (or brief, often spontaneous interactions), this can be an amazing way to bring new people into your funnel.

As Google’s Sridhar Ramaswamy explains:

“Micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device—increasingly a smartphone—to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped. In these moments, consumers’ expectations are higher than ever. The powerful computers we carry in our pockets have trained us to expect brands to immediately deliver exactly what we are looking for when we are looking. We want things right, and we want things right away.”

The key to incorporating this into your marketing strategy is to develop a deep understanding of people’s motivations and habits at these moments, and adapt your content accordingly.

For example, once you recognise that many smartphone users often do a quick search to tackle a problem while they’re already part way through a task, you know that the information you provide needs to be super easy to navigate, allowing them to get the answer fast, without wasting time.

So, if you’re publishing content showing people how to locate a feature in a program, for example, you might want to target this to micro moments by dispensing with the pre-amble and getting straight to the solution. This makes the person more likely to keep coming back to your site, and to develop an interest in your brand as a result.

So there you have it: what the future holds for 2018. Advertising and marketing is getting more efficient and more evidence-backed. Automation will continue to replace non-strategic roles. Machine learning is deepening data insights, making it harder than ever to justify relying on gut instinct to create campaigns. Content is getting shorter and snappier – more focused on maximizing audience engagement than communicating long-winded brand messages that don’t get watched or read.

These are the big takeaways you can’t afford to ignore… and for brands that fail to keep up, don’t be surprised if your job is taken over by a replicant in a flying car a few years down the line!

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