2019 Digital Predictions… From People Who Actually Do The Work

December 26, 2018

Ah, prognostications! A plenty, they are. I must say, I’m fairly pleased with those we’ve made in the past, so I’m going to take another stab at those we believe will become part of our daily lives in 2019.

First off, let’s look back at a few predictions we made for 2018.

We predicted that brands would begin to consolidate and align their customer data. Without a doubt, this happened, but also predictably, it’s taken longer than we thought. Why? Because data consolidation requires up front investment in technology platforms that often aren’t funded but once a year. So, I believe we’re seeing more brands bring data management platforms (DMPs) online, like Salesforce, Adobe, and others. This has taken some time.

Second, we predicted an increase in prices for quality audiences. Without question, we’re seeing this to be true. For many internet generations, audiences were woefully discounted because digital inventory was often given away as a “bonus” for more traditional buys. We had a long way to go in terms of proper valuations. I mean, it’s a long way from zero to something.

Lastly, we believed that creative work is going to experience a renaissance as designers move from static experiences to more immersive ones. Admittedly, this transition is happening slower than we’d all like, and I put that blame squarely on the technology partners who continue to be addicted to banners and the like. We do see one area of continued advancement, and that is in video. Not surprisingly, most creatives and clients alike know and understand video, and nearly all digital advertising platforms provide for better video experiences. We do not see this trend subsiding any time soon. And that’s good.

And now for our 2019 predictions!

  1. Facebook isn’t going anywhere. Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t keep himself out of the news this year. His college project, Facebook, experienced myriad woes, from horrendous data breaches to super sketchy practices around user privacy. You’d think the company would be trading as a penny stock and be shorted at that if you believed everything you read in the news.“But here’s the thing. Your mom hasn’t left Facebook.
    And she won’t.”
    For all of the problems Facebook creates for itself, it’s still a pervasive tab open in nearly all web browsers and always near the top of most-used phone apps. Sure, Facebook’s growth has slowed but that’s because everyone who could be on it is on it. People are willing to trade the risk of privacy breaches in exchange for remaining connected to one another, and until something better comes along, I don’t expect anything to change. As such, brands and agencies alike (including us) will continue to advertise within the Facebook ecosystem (Instagram, the likeliest benefactor) because, at the end of the day, we advertise and market where the people are, and the metrics around Facebook advertising are absolutely conclusive — it works, and it works better than all other digital platforms.
  2. The in-house agency is in dire straits. Guess what? Digital marketing and advertising is super hard, and they require highly skilled people to execute properly. This talent pool is incredibly finite. I know this to be true. We interview people on a weekly basis, and for every 50 candidates, one might have the potential to be a good fit for the job. That’s just a fact. Brands who have attempted to bring their digital creative and media buying efforts in-house have now experienced what we’ve been up against for years: you simply can’t hire just anyone to do this work and train them how to become incredible data scientists, traders, and creatives. There simply aren’t enough good people to do the work. So, we’re already seeing the in-house agency sputter and fall away. I know this seems like a self-serving prognostication, but what can I say? It’s true. We hunt unicorns.
  3. Speed + Accuracy = Success. As humans, we have become incredibly nomadic in our use of technology. We move from connected TV to laptop to phone to watch within moments. For advertisers, this is an ongoing challenge. How do you think through a customer experience that moves all over the damn place, where customer expectations for the experiences across those media are high? Customers don’t want to see the same creative or brand experience across each of these screens. They want to be entertained in one, learn in another, transact somewhere else, and share using any one they please. These experiences are smartly anticipated through data and listening and occur in real-time. Seamless brands are beloved brands.“Our job as brand stewards is to paddle like crazy under the water only to appear as calm, cool, and collected to the visible eye above the water.”Brands that are all over the place, disjointed in their execution, and who seem to believe that people will do any work whatsoever to interact with them are increasingly losing marketshare to their speedier, smarter competitors.
  4. Old media will continue to move towards biddable selling platforms. This year we bought a shit-ton more “old media” – television, out-of-home, and radio, to be specific — through platforms like The Trade Desk. We were finally able to add media channels to our media plans that used to be purchased through old-fashioned insertion orders because we could purchase inventory with the speed, flexibility, and accuracy we’re accustomed to in native digital environments like Google, Facebook/Instagram, and The Trade Desk. Thankfully, this allows us to participate in brand awareness media with the adroitness of direct response. Plus, there are deals to be had. The advertising supply of these channels out-paces demand so brands that are interested in playing in these emerging buying spaces can continue to get great deals, but prices will increase over time. But now is a Strong Buy.

I would like to bookend this post with a word of thanks to our clients and partners. We experienced the fastest and, quite often, nerve-wracking growth we’ve had in our 23 years. Revenues and staff doubled this year, and all of that growth occurred as a result of our clients’ trust in us. We didn’t front-load this growth. We were just trying to keep up.

So with that in mind, I also want to thank our clients for their patience. I’m sure we weren’t perfect. In fact, I know that at times we were really clunky. I am hopeful that we were able to deliver what we promised to you — a total alignment to the world in which you compete and thrive. We aim to do this important work truthfully, earnestly, and in a way where we welcome challenges and questions. As cicerones, we take our responsibilities to educate and provide a sense of calm in a world where change comes at a rapid clip, often causing stress and consternation for you. We ask our staff to lead with empathy towards you and those stresses you experience, and it is always our hope to relieve those stresses by delivering on our promises through incredible results.

We enter 2019 with gratitude and hopefulness. Here’s to a great year ahead!