Marketers' predictions 2016: Unruly's Sarah Wood on agility and emotion in marketing

 Marketers' predictions 2016: Unruly's Sarah Wood on agility and emotion in marketing
Marketers' predictions 2016: Unruly's Sarah Wood on agility and emotion in marketing

Agility and emotion are two keywords that Sarah Wood, founder of Unruly, believes we need to embrace as we face digital skills shortages and a rapidly changing industry. In our festive series of marketer predictions, Wood outlines her priorities for the year ahead.

On the demand side

The biggest trend of 2016 will be joined-up thinking, across several axes:

1. More strategic alliances, as well as ad hoc collaboration between partners in the ecosystem as content requirements change and the agency role evolves.

2. Joining the dots on content creation and paid media distribution. More brands and agencies will focus on building and scaling an agile and adaptive content stack that can make the most of the sophisticated data and targeting offered by the ad-tech stack.  

3. As the digital skills shortage bites and agility is the watchword for success, progressive companies will break down silos and get their cross-functional teams working closer together in tight-knit, crack squads to make the most of everybody’s skills. Leaner, nimbler operations will yield results for advertisers and a healthier bottom line for innovative agencies.

On the supply side

We’ll see many emergency drills and some strategic plays to survive the adblockalypse. Publishers will launch more native and consumer-friendly ad formats as they endeavour to keep consumers on-side and slow the rising tide of ad-blocking. This is the year they’ll get their first-party data fit for purpose as they focus on maximising yields, and they’ll be in experimentation mode, building in-app audiences and trialling new monetisation models and partnerships such as Facebook Instant Articles.

From a technology perspective, we’ll see increased M&A activity as ad-tech consolidation continues and the sector experiences heightened volatility due to EU legislators throwing out Safe Harbour rules regarding data transfer.

The tech triumvirate of Facebook, Google and Apple will fight it out to shape the future of the internet. Will it be app-based, browser-based or device-based? We may not know by the end of 2016. My prediction: this is a war of attrition and there will be collateral damage.

2016’s biggest challenge

As the digital economy continues to boom, I fear the digital skills shortage will really bite in 2016. As Unruly continues to grow rapidly, my biggest challenge will be finding people who are creative, numerate and collaborative problem-solvers – digital natives who are passionate about digital and prepared to join us on our mission to deliver the most awesome social video campaigns on the planet! 

My biggest priority for 2016

My number-one priority for 2016 is launching Unruly’s emotional-ad-targeting capabilities into overseas markets. This is the first ad-tech product that joins the dots on content creation and programmatic distribution, using first- and third-party data segments to  target the subset of consumers most likely to respond emotionally to an ad. We’re currently using Emotional Targeting in the UK and US, and are seeing phenomenal uplift in completions, engagement rates and brand metrics. Not surprising, given that emotional ads are much more likely to be shared with friends and remembered at the point of purchase.

My professional resolution

I’ll be putting my Apple Watch on eBay and trading in my iPhone for a different device. I have to believe in a brand to buy into a brand, and, although Apple has just been named as the most valuable brand on the planet, I just don’t identify with it any more. So if you see me at CES in January, swearing at my phone, have pity on me – it’s because I’m grappling with a new UI!

My personal resolution

My amazing, eldest daughter was a Millennium baby, so she turns 16 in 2016. My personal resolution is to be there for her as she takes her GCSEs, and to enjoy every single minute that I spend with my three children – because they grow up so fast it freaks me out. There will be much dancing, lip-syncing, playing of air guitars and raucous karaoke in our kitchen this year!

Read more 2016 predictions from leading marketers

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