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6 ad trends you need to know

With the holidays over, this is the time to reflect and fine-tune strategies for the year ahead. 2018 was a whirlwind of changes, and it continues to be a challenge differentiating your brand and maintaining trust in a world where everyone is vying for attention. The more you can stay ahead of the curve, the better equipped you will be to adapt to those changes as they occur. So what should advertisers and marketers start taking note of?

Ad Technology: Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is completely reshaping advertising as we know it, and is now a standard part of an advertising company’s repertoire. So how’s AI going to be different in 2019? For the past couple of years, it has been widely considered a transformative technology on the verge of disrupting every major industry; however, it hasn’t yet been implemented broadly enough to unlock its true value.

That’s all going to change. AI is expected to be widely adopted across the digital ad landscape in 2019, from being the basis for cutting-edge AI-based ad targeting solutions, to building personalized consumer experiences on a daily basis. Advertisers are even using AI in the production process: a recent survey found that almost two-thirds of enterprise marketers expect to use AI in their content marketing strategy this year, mostly to better understand their customers, drive productive and create personalized message

Sound of success

With colourful banner ads and video content competing for eyeballs, it can be easy for advertisers to forget about the power of audio. But as we enter 2019, this programmatic opportunity is becoming harder to ignore. In fact, audio takes up the largest proportion of mobile phone usage, with the average consumer listening for 52 minutes every day. Driven by growing mobile device ownership – and compounded by the rise in streaming radio, podcasts, audiobooks and voice assistants – digital audio is here to stay.

Spotify was an early-mover in offering programmatic audio, and other streaming services are following suit. Growing adoption rates among voice-activated smart home speakers and subscription services lend further momentum to this trend, and as these technologies evolve, so do the opportunities for brands to connect with audiences in new and exciting ways.

This year, digital audio is expected to reach marketplace maturity as an ad medium. If advertisers want to tap into today’s key trends and reach audiences more effectively, they need to consider programmatic audio as part of any well-rounded campaign.

The explosive growth of eCommerce

According to an eMarketer study, the ecommerce sector is estimated to experience double-digit growth until 2021, with sales expected to exceed $4 trillion by 2010. Few industries can boast such an illustrious future, and businesses need to initiate innovative changes to take advantage of the ecommerce boom, or risk falling behind.

In particular, expanding middle class populations, extensive mobile and internet penetration as well as improving logistics and infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific  has led to it becoming the world’s largest retail ecommerce market, with sales expected to reach $2.725 trillion by 2020.

A surge in video content, personalized ads, advanced filtering and immersive digital experiences are just a few of the changes in ecommerce that will affect the advertising industry over the next few years. The potential here is massive, and if implemented correctly, can completely change how users interact with advertisements altogether.

Everything is now on-the-go (OTG)

Less than 50 years ago, mobile phones didn’t exist. But today, it’s near impossible to imagine life without one. In fact, an estimated 84% of people can’t go a single day without their phones! We use them on a daily basis for communicating, navigating and even shopping, dubbed mCommerce.

The Asia Pacific region is leading the drive for mCommerce, with India, Thailand and Indonesia having the highest mobile wallet adoption rates. Mobile payments in China alone dwarfed those in the U.S. by more than 25,000% over a recent 10-month period, with USD 12.8 trillion changing hands in China compared to only USD 49.3 billion in the U.S. The rate of adoption across sectors such as retail, financial and on-demand services –from food delivery to ride sharing – has played a crucial role in this rapid growth.

Before, it was mobile phones that drove more online screen time. But now the human behaviour of doing everything while on the go is driving mobile phones sales.

Less ads, more storytelling

A 2015 report by Nielsen found that respondents trusted recommendations from people they know the most. This was followed by branded websites, editorial content, such as newspaper articles, and consumer opinions posted online. By comparison, obvious advertisements trailed behind in the list of advertising format that people trusted.

As part of an effort to increase trust and authenticity, brands are starting to work with micro-influencers as opposed to social media personalities with larger followings. Micro-influencers appear more relatable, engaging and reliable to their audience, and tends to be more knowledgeable or have followers more suited to a brand’s particular niche.

In addition, content has to be relevant. It might sound like common sense but it’s easy for brands to forget that the story they tell won’t be hugely exciting for everyone. Our experience has shown that brands needs to be smart with their storytelling or risk getting lost amongst the clutter.

With this in mind, advertisers are adapting by creating content that consumers enjoy. Short, 6-second video ads and longer interactive ads that can’t be skipped tend to have higher rates of interaction from consumers. A new type of ad has also emerged in China to play during breaks of online TV dramas. These ads utilize the TV shows’ original content and narrative arcs, and feature the same actors in their on-screen costumes, piquing the audience’s interest by making the ad almost indistinguishable from the original content. This type of advertising was projected to surpass 2 billion yuan (US$311 million) in sales revenue this year alone, and we predict this figure will only continue to grow over the next year.

The establishment of the outcome media economy

A recent report looking into digital marketers’ top media investment priorities for the next 12-24 months found that 86% of respondents around the world expect to increase their investment in outcome-driven media over this period. The term ‘outcome-driven media’ refers to planning and optimizing campaigns against KPIs – often tailor-made for an advertiser or campaign – that are much more closely aligned to the marketer’s ultimate marketing and business goals.

While results showed some variation across regions, industries, and level of digital media investment, there is a clear trend that marketers across the globe are united in their desire to continuously improve and the way that they measure the value of their efforts.

Anyone tasked with growing a brand’s exposure needs to be able to confidently address growing media complexity and understand the impact of campaigns on business results. So it’s no surprise that marketers in our day and age hunger for new ways to measure their efforts and demonstrate the real effect their media placements have on their company’s bottom line.

In conclusion

As with any industry, advertising isn’t perfect, and it will never be. But the future of advertising is bright. As advertisers become more familiar with the full potential of AI and mobile, they will deliver more personalized experiences to consumers, as well as improved results and more sophisticated insights to clients. And as advertisers start to tap into greater creativity, brands will find it easier to draw genuine interest and build closer connections with consumers.

These are my top trends to look out for as you think about your advertising or marketing strategy for the upcoming year. While there’s no magic formula to building the perfect advertising strategy, paying attention to these six areas will help you stay ahead of the pack.

The writer is Arshan Saha, CEO of Xaxis Asia Pacific.

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