Always fun to gaze into the year ahead. Here are my predictions for 2017:
- Mobile web use will be an increasing problem for Google: Mobile is now the dominant web use platform. In 2010 over 95% of web activity was delivered via PC, now it’s half that. As of this October, mobile had the edge with 51.3% of web traffic according to Stacounter. Why? Because domestic web consumption has shifted to mobile and particularly to tablets. PCs still dominate at work, but workplace constraints mean most consumer web traffic is generated in the evenings, not daytime. In the evenings, the dominant web platform is mobile not PCs. As we move further into a mobile platformed, high-utility ‘appworld’ the need for traditional PC-based search will decline.
- More large-scale ad fraud will be exposed: This is going to become a much bigger issue because advertisers are going to divert more resources into actually finding it. Just as doctors screening for a specific illness find more cases, so advertisers will begin to understand the true scale of online ad fraud. The recent Methbot scandal has revealed the scale of fraud that is now possible; c. $5m per day via 6,000 fake domains.
- TV will remain strong: TV’s ability to deliver mass impact, reach huge swathes of the population and drive high volume, low cost brand search traffic make it a powerful and important communications channel for marketers. Couple this with the relatively high trust scores attached to TV advertising and the growth of dual screening and you can see why TV will remain an important part of the marketing landscape in 2017.
- There will be a bid for ITV: This has been a long time coming. My prediction is that this will happen in 2017. It might be from Google. Hold / Buy.
- Campaign goes online only: Campaign, the UK’s ad industry weekly, will drop its print format and go online. Many of Campaign’s Haymarket stablemates have dropped their print version. Campaign has only been able to hold out because all ad people over 40 like to see their faces in print.
- Brexit currency changes: As the value of the Pound has slipped against the Dollar, Euro and Chinese Yuan we will see increases in the cost of imports. With an estimated £21bn food trade gap, increases in imported food costs will present significant challenges to FMCG marketers. However, export areas like tourism and specialist manufacturing will benefit.
- Continued decline of newspapers: Continued big problems for newspapers. Goodness me, how their fortunes have changed. As the ad market has grown, newspapers have continued to lose share. It’s no surprise as our appetite for real-time news puts next day reading into the dark ages.
- EUDPR: Marketers and agencies will start thinking much harder about the new European Data Production Regulations due to come into force in May 2018. Under the new EU regulations the use of non-permissioned data and other breaches will attract fines of up to 4% of global turnover. Ouch. That’s enough to make every CEO in Silicon Valley sit up and take notice.
- Digital backlash: Out of all this we can see the seeds of a digital backlash. It’s been a great ride since Google launched in 1997, but twenty years on, there are some very big issues in digital; huge and endemic multi-million – correction, billion – dollar ad fraud, the rise of politically damaging fake news and the fact that only 50% of digital ads are ever seen by living, breathing, humans. All this is enough to push many a marketing director back to the drawing board. Expect to see some interesting changes in spend patterns in 2017.
- Direct mail could benefit from a digital backlash. Direct Mail. Thought it was dead and buried? Think again. A digital backlash is the perfect breeding ground for the resurgence of reliable, effective, accountable and physical media. Which channel ticks all four boxes? Direct mail. Add to this the fact that most Millennials have never received direct mail and you can sense a real opportunity.
No doubt there will be many a New Year marketing prediction over the next few days. The most common theme is likely to be that mass marketing will decline and be replaced by new and emerging channels and techniques. This year, I’m not going to make any such prediction. This year I’m standing in defence of mass marketing and mass media. I predict that mass marketing as a concept will be as strong this time next year as it is now. I predict that marketing’s big beasts, the jumbo jets, supertankers and super-trucks of marketing otherwise known as TV, print and outdoor will not die in 2011 nor any time soon. This year I’m flying the flag for the future of traditional mass marketing and the media channels that enable it. Why? Because I think mass marketing has been tied down by too many critics for too long. Here then is my defence of mass marketing:
- Critics of mass marketing argue that it can’t work because it’s so “expensive”. This has to be a flawed argument. How can something not work simply because it is expensive? Things don’t fail because they’re expensive. In fact, things that are expensive are, in my experience, likely to be of better quality and deliver a better experience. Yes, mass marketing is expensive from a capital perspective, but that’s because it delivers mass audiences – usually millions of consumers several times over in a campaign – at a very low unit cost. In other words, mass marketing delivers mass value. Here’s an example: If you are buying TV audience at £5 per thousand reaching 20m viewers five times then yes, it is going to cost £500,000 – but you will have delivered your message to a huge chunk of the UK population in a medium that builds brand credibility like no other. The issue is not simply the overall cost of the activity, but whether or not the activity is delivering the brand or sales shifts required. Unfortunately, not many of mass marketing’s critics understand how this type of value works. How many of these critics have examined the cost structures of mass marketing channels like TV and print? How many of them know that it costs a tiny fraction of 1p to reach a consumer for 30 seconds on TV? How many of them realise that TV can be less expensive on a unit of audience basis than many online display, search or affiliate channels?
- Critics of mass marketing argue that it can’t work because it is “wasteful”. “It’s not targeted” the critics complain, “it reaches people who are not in your target audience” or “you are buying wastage”. But do they realise that the whole point of mass marketing is to sell products that large segments of the population want to buy? Food, drinks, home appliances, cars, computers, toys, mobile phones, holidays, credit cards, bank accounts, mortgages, furniture and so on. Mass marketing isn’t wasteful when used with products that almost everyone might want to buy in the near future.
- Some critics of mass marketing argue that it simply “doesn’t work”. But how many of these critics have pored over the results of the many tests, research projects, case studies and evaluation papers designed to quantify the sales effect of mass media? How many have studied the works of marketing academics and thought-leaders like Simon Broadbent, John Phillip Jones, Byron Sharp, Erwin Ephron, Giep Franzen or Colin MacDonald? How many of them understand the relationship between a £500k TV adspend and a 10% category share gain? Here’s an example. If a brand has a 10% share of a £200m category its share is worth £20m. If a mass media campaign costing £500k helps the brand increase share by 10% from £20m to £22m, then the adpsend of £500k has secured £2m in sales.
- Of course if points 1-3 fail to help you win the argument, you might want to ask one of mass marketing’s critics which brands they consume in different categories. Do they drink an unknown brand of soft drink, use an unknown make of PC, contract with a mobile phone network no-one has ever heard of or fly on that airline whose name no-one can remember? No, they drink Coca-Cola, they use Apple, Dell or IBM, they make phone calls through O2, Orange and Vodafone and they fly BA, BMI, EasyJet or Virgin. If these critics use a well known brand at least some of the time then somewhere along the way, mass marketing has done its job.
- If point 4 doesn’t work, you could invite a critic of mass marketing to tell Simon Cowell that TV and newspapers aren’t effective communication vehicles and see what he says. You might need to stand well back.
And finally, earlier this month the Advertising Association/Warc reported that UK advertising enjoyed its best year since 2004. “In Q3 TV, out of home and internet were the top performers posting growth of 15.8%, 12.4% and 11% respectively. Direct mail posted a 7% rise, its first growth since Q1 2006″.Although the base was low in 2009 and the future remains “clouded by economic factors”, UK advertising expenditure is expected to increase by 2.3% in 2011.
Not quite dead yet then…. Here’s to a successful year for the big beasts of marketing in 2011.