With generative AI being one of the most disruptive technology breakthroughs of the last decade, it is definitely impacting companies and brands in planning their marketing strategies in the coming months and years. From search to creativity, to media planning and production, generative AI is expected to take media effectiveness to new heights.
2024 will also see the intensification of competition between tech platforms. In a world of shrinking budgets, tech platforms may need to double down on people intelligence, become more protective of their data, and step up their advertising offerings as they strive to better monetise their service.
Yet, growth in the next year will not only be about hard economics; it will also be about brands’ sustainable contributions to society. Amid rising societal polarisation and climate emergency, building more carbon-efficient, diverse, and safe online spaces for people and brands will be central to success.
What can APAC marketers anticipate in 2024? Let's delve into the trends identified by Dentsu that are poised to revolutionise the media landscape in the coming year.
1. The rise of generative research
As the frequency of exposure to generative AI will play a big part in changing people’s behaviours, companies such as OpenAI are actively looking to embed ChatGPT in people’s daily lives by supporting plugins.
For brands, this represents an opportunity to elevate their customer experience, especially those with large product catalogues. By using AI-generated concierges, brands can turn massive amounts of information into personalised answers tailored to people’s needs and, in doing so, reduce choice paralysis.
As generative AI-powered search gains traction from customer support to product recommendations, new ad opportunities are expected to emerge to target very qualified users with very detailed answers. If it becomes the norm, consumers’ expectations could increase, and apps and sites not integrating these capabilities may become less relevant.
2. Gen AI outputs will grow in nuance
Generative AI heralds a creative revolution for brands with execution left to technology and replaced with a focus on ideation and prompt engineering. For example, eCommerce platform Shopify recently introduced Shopify Magic, which automatically generates blog copy for online store owners with a given tone of voice.
By removing barriers to creation, generative AI democratises it to the masses and leads to a new creator economy. Yet, this model raises new questions on how brands will stand out in a world flooded with AI-generated images.
Generative AI creative outputs will become more nuanced, from more detailed images to new forms of music. As models get easier to use, it will be easier for individuals and brands to explore new avenues for creative expression.
3. Generative optimisations
While generative AI provides a new way to collaborate and create at scale, it is not a one-stop solve-all solution for creative production, and it still requires human critical thinking and supervision. Teams will need to combine prompting and proofing to make the most of the technology, which in return will help them upskill in new domains.
For example, Google’s Product Studio, which is planned for global rollout in 2024, aims to give brands the possibility to automatically create custom scenes in their product images, using simple prompts such as “surrounded by peaches, with tropical plants in the background” to create several background options.
AI-enabled optimisations could shift power to the largest advertising vendors who have the most resources and data to train their models and implement them in their campaign planning, management, and measurement suite. Smaller players may still be able to compete by engaging in strategic alliances to build their own, shared generative AI solution for advertising.
4. A world of lookalike apps
A few years ago, differentiation was crucial for platforms. Each app used originality to carve its niche and attract users, from X’s following and retweeting to Pinterest’s pins and boards.
Today, popular apps have never looked so similar. For example, the Spotify app features short musical videos reminiscent of the scrolling videos in TikTok. Instagram recently launched Threads, a text-based conversation app very similar to X. And X wants to combine audio, video, messaging, and payments/banking.
As leading platforms trend toward uniformity, we could see more similarities between formats, which could lead to production efficiencies for brands. Yet, it could also mean increased competition for the most attention-grabbing slots. Niche apps will introduce unique features, but it is uncertain how many will reach critical mass before seeing their features replicated everywhere.
5. From walled gardens to walled pipes
In 2023, tech platforms have been more protective of their application programming interfaces (APIs). For example, in 2023, X and Reddit introduced new paying API plans and limitations to their free plans, resulting in services shutting down and temporary boycotts from users.
On the other hand, publications such as The New York Times have attempted to restrict scraping for generative AI by updating their terms of service to prohibit training machine learning or AI without prior written consent. Dentsu expects more platforms will adopt protective measures to prevent involuntary contributions to the development of services competing for their audiences’ attention, and to better control their audience experience and monetisation. This will lead to new opportunities for advertisers to better reach these audiences through advertising and could open data partnership possibilities.
6. The identity refocus
Platforms are refocusing on identity, many embrace a freemium model. For example, Snapchat now has more than four million members paying for a premium account, X makes users can pay for a blue checkmark, and Meta offers paid verification on both Facebook and Instagram. Meanwhile, a research by Dentsu Schema shows that only 55% of organisations globally do have a clear overarching data strategy.
While more social platforms will create premium subscriptions, newcomers to the ad business will strive to know their users better and become more attractive to brands by following the playbook of retail media platforms. Increasingly, the best content and features online will be reserved for signed-in users.
7. More ads for more returns
Advertising remains the primary method of monetisation for many leading platforms, such as Meta and YouTube. It is also a growing source of revenue for others, most notably Amazon, which has generated more than US$40 billion from advertising in the four quarters up to August 2023.
The offering also becomes more dense, as major streaming players have entered the space to attract more subscribers through a lower price point. Netflix reported that, on average, more than a quarter of Netflix new users now choose the ad-supported plan when given the choice.
Yet, more ads across the board means more advertising clutter, and it will be even more important for brands to dive into audience insights, invest in creativity, and operate careful media planning if they are to drive effectiveness and not oversaturate their audiences.
As lucrative as it is for the platforms to constantly place more ads into more spaces, these new ads could hurt the user experience, as well as create massive clutter for brands. Platforms will need to make sure that the balance remains acceptable to all stakeholders.
8. Investment in more diverse media models
As media usages become increasingly diverse, brands must reflect this evolution in how they approach their campaigns if they are to appeal to audiences. This includes acting to reduce potential bias in the technology they use.
Diversity can be reflected in media plans, too. As brands are being pulled into culture wars, 64% of CMOs now express concerns that their media spending may inadvertently contribute to political polarisation, and 81% agree brands can use budgets to amplify independent and diverse voices, according to research by Dentsu Creative.
By taking active steps to identify and mitigate bias in their AI initiatives and supporting diverse voices through their media budgets, brands will not only do good today, but also invest in their future.
9. AI plays cat and mouse
Fraudulent websites, created to trick ad platforms into thinking they are legitimate but ultimately serve ads in a poor environment for audiences, have raised concerns among advertisers for some time. Unfortunately, the advent of generative AI and its capacity to create content at a low cost has been embraced by fraudsters.
Conversely, technological developments offer new solutions for known issues. For instance, while the explosion of user-generated content has driven substantial media consumption, it has become increasingly difficult for the platforms to monitor and moderate this content, despite colossal investments.
Facing new challenges propagated by technological development, the advertising industry will respond with new solutions to keep brands safe. Just as platforms created their own walled gardens, agencies will maintain their own networks of secure inventory providers and collections of content in specific genres from trusted partners.
10. More attention, fewer emissions
While more companies are pledging to head toward a net zero future, they have to identify their carbon-emitting activities accurately. For instance, the core emissions scope of media activities encompasses media campaign planning, ad data storage, ad routing and distribution and consumer use audience devices. It is important for brands to define the right scope for media to set the right goals and confidently measure the carbon footprints of their campaigns.
As awareness grows about the climate impact of our industry, progress in media carbon emissions measurement and attention research will create an exciting potential to build campaigns both effective and kind to the environment.
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