Published in Nov-Dec 2016
As we move closer to the end of the year, agencies and brand teams are looking at and predicting digital media trends for 2017. What worked in 2016 may already be outdated.
As digital media marketers and product development experts, this has been a major motivator for us as well. In our research, we see incredible things happening globally. Artificial Intelligence, the rise of wearable technology and automated content are some of the elements that are going to shape digital marketing globally.
However, since I was asked to keep the focus on what to expect in 2017 in Pakistan, I will discuss a few of my hopes regarding one of the fastest growing media platforms.
One of the big challenges we faced at Digitz (see my article ‘Challenges for the digital media agency’ published in Aurora – November-December 2015) was a lack of understanding about digital media on the client side and the resultant unrealistic expectations about, and consequent attention and lower spending given to, this medium. However, I am happy to say, this is changing fast. By the start of the third quarter of 2016, MNCs and local companies alike were ramping up their digital marketing spend.
Here is what we should expect in the New Year.
Content is still king
I have written about content marketing and the importance of digital and social media platforms to create and curate content that is not just an extension of a mega starrer TVC campaign. This thought holds and will see an even bigger application in 2017. In more evolved markets, content robots along with human writers are being deployed to churn content out in a faster and more impactful manner.
In the same way, we should be increasing our efforts on developing more content for digital media. There is no shortage of good content writers and Millennials are inherently skilled at creating content. In addition, there are a variety of platforms (Snapchat, Instagram, IMs, etc.,) that are now enabling end users to create content.
Another key point I would like to emphasise is that we should use these digital and social media platforms to their fullest potential. This applies to agencies as well as brands. Using a brand’s digital and social channels as just an extension to their one big ATL campaign is wasting the utility and scope of those platforms. As a partner agency of Coca-Cola, we are expected and encouraged to think of content ideas solely As in terms of online channels and not connected to the TV and print campaigns. Another benefit of being online is that brands do not necessarily have to always create content. Deploying good social listening tools and keeping up with trends is a great way to join the conversation.
The rise of messaging apps across Asia and the quick adoption of LINE, WeChat (in addition to WhatsApp) will be another powerful way to interact with target audiences and develop tailored content aimed at creating long-term brand fans. Furthermore, with NFC technologies and the growth in ecommerce, a big change in the retail experience should be expected in the coming year.
Technology and the Internet of Things
It was heartening to see Unilever Pakistan hold its first ‘MobiTech’ Expo at the beginning of October 2016, where vendors and agencies were invited to showcase their technology-driven marketing campaigns. We saw Near Field Communication (NFC) technologies, Beacons, Blipping and other types of technologies that can seamlessly connect and engage with consumers. The good news is that Unilever is expected to do this in an even bigger way next year. This is a testament to how swiftly and fiercely technology will integrate with marketing in Pakistan. I believe that as marketers we need to start innovating and investing in new products around the IoT.
To kick off, all brands should develop an understanding of the power of stronger analytics – the local companies in particular (most MNCs already use globally applied licences for advanced tools). At Digitz, we developed our own listening and analytics tool; we also acquired licences for other global tools, which we then pitched to our clients. Initially they were very excited by these, but their interest waned when it came to the subject of monthly subscription fees. Nevertheless, I believe their importance will be recognised in the coming year as they will help brands understand and target audiences better, curate niche content and shape their strategies for 2020. Another, and much talked about tool that is yet to be fully used is ‘mobile’. The rise of messaging apps across Asia and the quick adoption of LINE, WeChat (in addition to WhatsApp) will be another powerful way to interact with target audiences and develop tailored content aimed at creating long-term brand fans.
Furthermore, with NFC technologies and the growth in ecommerce, a big change in the retail experience should be expected in the coming year.
This generation is the best educated so far and grew up surrounded by everything digital. They are anatomically connected to technology and trained to work on multiple tasks at the same time. They have opinions and a vast network to share them with. They are our audiences and our resources. So, we should (sorry, I should) quit cribbing and start investing in them.
Human resource next
Although I should be discussing trends in digital media in 2017, no matter how I look at it, I am inclined to share the importance of managing human resources in the coming year – and I am talking about the Millennials.
This is a global challenge, more so in Pakistan where 67% of the population is under 25. At agency level this is a challenge that continues to grow – and I pointed this out in my article in Aurora mentioned earlier. I must confess that I was then guilty of pointing out the trials of working with Millenials; their inconsistencies, lack of concentration, sense of entitlement and expectation of rewards without much effort. My awakening came when I started to research how organisations like Amazon and Google deal with this new workforce and the few facts we should consider.
This generation is the best educated so far and grew up surrounded by everything digital. They are anatomically connected to technology and trained to work on multiple tasks at the same time. They have opinions and a vast network to share them with. They are our audiences and our resources. So, we should (sorry, I should) quit cribbing and start investing in them. Here are a few things I have observed within my organisation that may help others as well:
1. Millennials want more responsibility. We have had fresh-out-of-college resources who, within a span of three months, start asking for new roles and opportunities. In one case, we gave in and as a result, we are happy to see creative resources digging deep into the world of analytics and research.
2. Above average digitally savvy employees do not believe in working 14 hours a day. They want work-life balance and many are ready to walk away if they don’t find it. We need to create environments that support this desire.
3. This generation thrives on social connections and on how others view them. This directly translates into wanting more feedback at work, leading to the unsaid expectation of providing constant review and coaching. An annual evaluation just won’t cut it!
Did I mention that this generation is opinionated? They are also very aware of ethics and not impressed if they have to bend them. The concept of ‘do what the client is asking for blindly’ does not work and on many occasions they have refused to create something that does not fit into their campaign story. I have realised that this attitude should be encouraged and will provide a long-term benefit for the overall industry.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what to expect in 2017. However, they are some of the key points agencies and brands should start to focus on. Pakistan is still a few years behind in terms of adapting to technology and new marketing ways, but every year the gap is closing faster and it is imperative to evolve rapidly.
Azam Jalal Khan is COO, Digitz. email@example.com