Where Will Opportunity Knock Next?

From blockchain to creative bots, here are RP3’s predictions about what will impact brands and the people who build them in 2018.

CSR takes Center Stage

Now more than ever, doing good is good business. In 2018, brands that recognize this will be rewarded. Corporate Social Responsibility functions will be turned over to marketing departments. With many corporations reaping huge windfalls from the new tax plan, it’ll be important to prove they are indeed investing in their people and the communities they serve. Many brands have already announced programs, with varying degrees of commitment and sincerity. But consumers will demand transparency and won’t be fooled by token gestures. They will look for real impact based on “what’s in it for me?” and “what’s in it for the world?”

Digital Media Self-Regulates

2018 will see increased self-regulation from digital publishers and ad networks (probably led by the IAB) to run defensive measures when it comes to things like data collection via pixel tracking and how it is used for advertising targeting. After the Russian Facebook ad scandal, the digital media world is going to attempt to provide more transparency in order to avoid government regulation that will hurt their targeting capabilities or limit the usage of first-party and third-party data.

Brands Seize Control of Their Customer Data

Owning customer data will empower winning brands to deliver laser-targeted ads, personalize brand sites for 1 to 1 engagements, and close the loop once and for all on attribution. This means segmentation strategies can become so sharp it’s like targeting a demographic of one, allowing smart marketers to customize consumer interactions and capture even deeper, richer data insights to enable increasingly nuanced engagement with every subsequent interaction.

Millennials, it’s Not All About You

Gen Z consumers are just now coming of age and they have over $40 billion in buying power. In 2018, marketers will need to start focusing on reaching this younger audience who are more value-oriented, inclusive and have more of an “all about us” mindset.

Voice is the Next Killer App

The new crop of voice-enabled tech (Alexa, Series 3 Apple Watch etc.) will fuel a major transformation for marketers who have until now relied on apps and ads to reach people on their devices. As more and more interactions use voice and audio prompts, people who are less tech-savvy will become more comfortable with technology, creating more opportunities for brands to add value and drive engagement.

More Brands Take Stands

2017 was the year that corporations shed their reservations about stepping up on the soap box. Many of America’s largest and most influential brands, from Patagonia to Coca Cola, made their positions on a range of social and political issues clear. And as long as the country remains divided, and the president unpopular, there’s no reason to think they’ll let up now. Then again…

A Play-it-safe Super Bowl

Whereas many Super Bowl advertisers took a stand last year, while the divisive election was still fresh in everyone’s minds, this year’s ads will likely be safer and more patriotic than ever. Given the controversy over anthem protests and threatened boycotts against sponsors, not to mention the declining ratings that make a big-ticket football buy harder for CMOs to justify, many advertisers will overcompensate and play it safe by wrapping everything from pick-up trucks to potato chips in the flag.

“Truth” is the New “Balanced”

In a desperate attempt to avoid being labeled “fake news”, many news outlets have been treating even the most specious arguments with the same gravitas as actual evidence-based information in order to appear balanced. Look for a course correction in 2018 as traditional media outlets focus on “truth” over “balance”. CNN planted a flag in the ground earlier this year with its “Apples vs. Bananas” campaign and venerable journalist Christiane Amanpour has recently stated, “I believe in being truthful, not neutral.” Look for many other journalists, editors and publishers to echo these same sentiments.

Attack of the Creative Bots

2018 will be the year AI invades the creative department. Who needs humans when algorithms can not only identify the audience and buy the media, but also design, write and produce the content that audience wants to see? (All without any tiresome “creative attitude.”) The results will be interesting to say the least. Hopefully the difference will be obvious, with risk-free, machine-generated content being easy to spot, and more carefully crafted “human-made” content rightfully earning a premium badge

Blockchain Builds Momentum

Blockchain technology has the potential to automate the entire digital media supply chain, from creative to contracts. It’s an opportunity to create new sources of data and information by tracking transactions that happen from machine to machine. It also means an increase of privacy and transparency, which will ultimately lead to more personalized experiences. While it probably won’t get all the way there in 2018, there should be some significant first steps. For example, monitoring the number of times a real person actually clicks on an ad, which has a real impact on attribution.

What are your biggest, boldest predictions for 2018? Let us know in the comments.

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Jim Lansbury is Founder, Chief Creative Officer at RP3 Agency. He likes to think and write about ideas that harness new technology to forge deeper connections between brands and consumers.

The Building Opportunity blog showcases RP3 Agency's ongoing exploration of new ideas, new technologies, and new experiences that propel businesses forward. Don't miss it.