While compelling algorithms will continue to rule digital marketing next year, the industry is starting to glimpse functional artificial intelligence being applied to marketing challenges in new and interesting ways.
"The question that remains to be answered will be one of privacy and control," Kantar Millward Brown states in its Media and Digital Predictions for 2018 report. "Will consumers be happier that an anonymous AI is making decisions from their data or will this deepen the concerns over personal data privacy?"
Linked to AI is the rise of voice which, in turn, will spur the adoption of smart devices, the report said. "Big brands have not been slow to recognise the opportunity to engage people in this new channel - from ordering food to cooking dinner and paying bills. But marketers need to be wary. A skill must be simple, easy to use and add real value to people’s lives," advised Kantar.
"The challenge with non-traditional forms of advertising is how to prove effectiveness; whether the objective is to make people more aware, change perceptions, or take action," Jane Ostler, managing director, media and digital at Kantar Millward Brown, said. "The impact and return on investment can be compared directly with other brand and behavioural metrics, but brands must be clear about their objectives and consider how to measure effectiveness early in the process."
This need to measure will lead advertisers to go a step further next year and question the role digital plays within the entire media ecosystem. Digital is no longer a channel; it is the layer that connects all marketing activities and should therefore not be treated as a silo, the report observed.
"Marketers are now keenly focused on ensuring that they understand the impact of their investment, particularly given that digital now accounts for more than 30% of global share of investment," Pablo Gomez, media and digital director, Kantar Millward Brown Asia-Pacific added. "It’s up to industry players to answer the $100m (£74.5m) dilemma: how could that money be invested better – and not cut – so that it achieves the desired impact?"
Another branch of media that's gaining attention next year will be over-the-top (OTT) streaming content platforms. With TV-ratings player Nielsen and comScore to incorporate large-scale "census" set-top-box datasets into their panel-based national and local TV audience ratings estimates it's time to measure at scale.
"Taking measurement over-the-top is arguably the only viable path toward the grand finale – an ideal world of perfect information gathered across all screens and touchpoints, delivered in real-time," Corey Jeffery, senior vice-president, media and digital product leadership, commented. "While that’s likely to remain just the treatment of an as-yet-unwritten script for the future of media research, 2018 will prove a break-out year in the integration of various forms of passive OTT media and advertising data into the measurement frameworks of tomorrow."
Another digital media trend Kantar predicts for next year is the accelerated growth of walled gardens thanks to the work done to reassure advertisers and media agencies.
"However, marketers need to push them to build more doors and windows within those walls for their campaigns. They should also extend demands for accountability beyond basic elements (like viewability or safety) and into the true branded impact of these platforms in the context of their total marketing spend,' the report said.