Digital Predictions Then and Now – How Did We Do?

When the 21st of October, 2015 hit, people everywhere dubbed it “Back to the Future Day” in honour of the date Marty McFly and Doc landed in the future. Bloggers spent the day comparing the 1980s view of 2015 vs the reality of 2015. What did the movie get right, what did it get wrong? It was surprisingly accurate on several accounts such as, wearable technology, tablets, video calls and hands-free video games. So far, we are still waiting for shops to start carrying flying cars, hover boards and self-drying jackets, but one can always dream.

What about digital marketing? Granted, we aren’t working with a thirty year time frame, but a lot has happened over the course of five years. How much of what was predicted in the digital industry was right? How much of it never came to fruition? For the most part, we seem to have fared better than director Robert Zemeckis. Here are some predictions from 2010, and the reality in 2015.

Online Display

In 2010, digital agency Millward Brown predicted that online display formats would increase in size and scope, causing a greater “impact.” These formats were expected to improve success rates since they would be different from anything we’ve seen before. There was, however, also the concern that some of these new formats would be intrusive having the opposite effect of what was intended: they would be rejected by viewers.

By 2012, according the IAB, it was clear that these larger formats were winning, they required fewer views to get brand awareness than traditional formats. Even with the mobile revolution of the past two years, larger (but optimised for mobile) was still the clear winner. Though bigger adverts seem to be more effective they were right to be concerned about intrusive ads being rejected by viewers. The industry is experiencing this now with the exponential increase in implementation of Ad Blockers in 2015. This year display advertisers will be forced to react ad blocker challenges. We can expect to see a shift this year from bigger advertisements to more creative native formats.

Video Marketing

A recent report by eMarketer stated that video advertising spend would increase to $9.59 billion in 2016, commanding a large portion of the year’s digital ad spend. Whilst over the years viral videos and video marketing have become increasingly sophisticated, back in 2010, YouTube was venturing into the world of skippable ads and fifteen second pre-rolls with mild success, but advertisers could already see the potential in viral videos. Millward Brown even stated that with the development of advanced analytics capabilities for video the industry can expect to see a “more scientific approach to viral campaign planning in 2010. Rather than just place their videos online and hope that an audience will come, advertisers seem likely to invest more in viral seeding strategies.”

Fast forward five years, and according to the IAB, advertisers are investing heavily in video marketing, which has gone from “nice-to-have” spend, to a premium method of advertising. Today’s video campaigns are far more sophisticated, not only in YouTube analytics, but in pushing video content across multiple channels such as, social and paid search. If media buyers aren’t already, they should invest in video as an intelligently considered part of integrated strategy.


In 2010 advertisers were just beginning to look at mobile as an effective channel for delivering ROI to their brands. It was around this time that Google purchased mobile ad network AdMob, and Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Andriod were making mobile a more attractive product. This was a prediction that was not only right, but surpassed most people’s expectations five years later.

Mobile has dominated the digital market, blowing past desktop, and it will continue to do so as smartphones become more advanced and screens get bigger and better. In 2010, mobile spend was $2.16 billion. As of 2015, eMarketer suggests that $101.37 billion will be spent on mobile advertising, and that it will encompass 51% of the market. That’s a $99 billion dollar jump in five years. You don’t get much more right than that.

CRM Data Integration

Five years ago, eConsultancy predicted that social CRM would be big the following year as brands tried to apply data intelligently. This trend was more than a flash in the pan and proved to be extremely important to digital marketing in 2015 as social giants like Facebook rolled out custom audiences. Advertisers could upload emails and combine them with Facebook data to accurately target the right consumer, and build look-alikes to reach even further and attract people who are similar to their current customer base.

The next channel we can really expect to see a growth in CRM data integration is Paid Search. NMPi’s head of strategy, Damien Bennett stated, “In 2016 I expect that the audience segmentation options within AdWords will progress once again with Google recently launching “Customer Match” on Gmail and the GDN, allowing advertisers to target look-a-likes of email addresses that they have recorded, and trialling targeting based on likely household income in the US. These more advanced ways of segmenting audiences could have a significant impact on the way paid search advertisers run their activity. For example, by pre-qualifying audiences it could allow advertisers the opportunity to explore broader keywords that were not deemed profitable previously.”


Back in 2010, attribution was gaining ground. Marketers were just beginning to capture the full funnel journey but determining the value of an acquisition was still difficult at best. Fast forward to 2015 and advertisers are well beyond last click scenarios; they’re using multi-channel attribution models to track users and see every interaction along the path to purchase. An article in The Drum, entitled, “Advertisers need to stop philosophising and actually score goals”, indicated that attribution models must keep up with change and that last click no longer cuts it. Marketers are interested in the bigger picture and need complex models to correctly attribute engagement, and reach their goals.

The article offers a three step process for how to take action today:

  1. Find a tracking solution that allows for a full view of the customer journey across different online media channels and creative.
  2. Tag up all online media from display campaigns to paid search activity.
  3. After sixty days of having this solution in place, analyse and assess the customer’s most frequent paths to purchase and refine media selections and creative messaging based on what is found.

Multi-Screen Watching

In 2010 we saw a prediction that stated multi-screen use would gain ground in 2011. It’s definitely an accurate call, especially over the past year with the explosion of mobile and tablet surpassing desktop as the place to shop, watch, and get information. In a game of ‘cat and mouse’, advertisers are chasing users, not only across several channels, but across multiple screens. A recent Neilsen study found that 58% of viewers are browsing the internet while watching their favourite programme, with another 47% on social media. Another correct prediction for digital.

Advances in digital marketing seem to be growing exponentially. We’ve just dipped our toe into 2016, where will we go from here? When we peer into our crystal balls, will our predictions be as accurate in 2020?

Tuning Out While Tuning In? – Capturing Information and Attention in the Age of Screen Chasing

Audiences are no longer the passive viewers they were 15-20 years ago, they’re actively engaging with other sources while watching television. For instance, they’re live tweeting a show, ordering take out on their tablets, or checking out product information online after seeing an advert. Today’s advertising world is in a constant state of disruption; viewers are overwhelmed by a barrage of tweets, texts, adverts and emails.

A recent Neilsen study found that 58% of viewers are browsing the internet while watching TV and another 47% are using social media while engaged with their favourite programme. According to Megan Clarken, Executive Vice President at Neilsen., “The second, third, and sometimes fourth screen is becoming a fundamental extension of the viewing experience.”

How do advertisers filter through the noise and capture erratic viewers?

(1) Capitalise on the Prime Moment

Timing an increase in bids for PLAs and text ads just before and just after the airing of commercial your television commercial. If you neglect to get the jump on this prime moment will lose viewers to other brands who will gladly capitalise on the open spot since many searches aren’t brand specific, but product specific. If a viewer sees an ad for a mixer, this may prompt a generic search for mixers, prices, features and and locations. Ads and PLAs that appear immediately following this inspiration period have the advantage and may win the sale. Similarly increase bids during your competitor peak advertising periods.

Another tactic is to run display ads during TV slots where potential customers may be surfing during commercial breaks.

(2) Understand the Consumer Journey

“There is no such thing as a linear path to purchase anymore”, according to Home Depot SEO Manager Erin Everhart. A person can be triggered by an ad on TV, go to Google to research the product, get side tracked by a Facebook message, check their email and then return to searching for that item before finally buying it. This makes tracking the path to purchase tricky at best. In 2015, Google announced that it was upgrading its attribution products. This would help advertisers better understand how consumers are interacting with their brands online and what happens right after the viewer sees their ad on TV. Is the ad driving engagement through search? Are consumers prompted to search for my brand or did the ad cause a generic product search? TV attribution helps answer some of these pressing questions, and bridge the information gap, allowing advertisers to optimise their paid search strategies.

Multi-screens, multi-devices, and users actively thwarting attempts to be reached across devices will present challenges to advertisers as technological advances show no signs of slowing down. Advertisers can keep pace with theses changes with the intelligent placement of ads before, and immediately after, their commercial airs. They can employ attribution tools like Google’s TV attribution to capture relevant data, and then stay on top, by optimising across different devices and platforms.

Are Twitter Introducing a 10k Character-Limit for Advertisers?

Digital marketers are used to working with tight character limits, but if this blog post was a tweet it wouldn’t even have enough room to fin…

…ish this sentence.

When you’re trying to get across the USPs of your product or service on Twitter, to an audience who are not actively inquiring about your brand, this can be incredibly frustrating.

So, rumours that Twitter is about to introduce ad formats that may extend to the 10k character limit currently available in Twitter messages might be ray of hope to marketers who struggle to sum up their USPs AND attract users’ attention in 140 characters.

Twitter hasn’t exactly denied that this ad format, which some say is currently working under the code-name of “Beyond 140”, is in the pipeline. Chief executive, Jack Dorsey stated, “we’ve spent a lot of time observing what people are doing on Twitter, and we see them taking screenshots of text and tweeting it. Instead what if that text…was actually text?” Furthermore, he contests, “we’re not going to be shy about building more utility and power into Twitter for people. As long as it’s consistent with what people want to do, we’re going to explore it.”

However, Dorsey insists that the current 140 character limit is not only sufficient but inspires creativity with Twitter, even going so far as to call it a “beautiful constraint.” Though to any marketer whose has ever perfectly-crafted a tweet that runs 141 characters long, this could be a life-saver.

Twitter Conversational Ads

Twitter also announced yesterday the launched their new “Conversational Ads” format in the US, which go beyond current promoted tweets. The format’s call-to-action button has the ability to combine hashtags, video polls and quotable content – crucially letting the user peronsalise content before retweeting. Surely an international launch can’t be far behind.


As Twitter continues to push to attract as many advertisers as possible, from local businesses to multinational giants, we should probably expect more new ad formats in the near future. So surely the 140 character limit can’t last forever?

Know Thy Audience: The Importance of Knowing Your Audience to Enhance Marketing Performance

If it seems like this topic has been making the rounds across industry news and events, you’re right, it has. The message bears repeating though, because knowing your audience is the key to turning a mediocre marketing campaign into a ROI driving machine. While over time some of these messages become irrelevant as more advanced technology and methodology comes along, knowing your audience has remained a textbook standard.

In order to understand your audience, you need to ask yourself three questions: who are you doing it for, what do they want, and what motivates them to buy from you. Once you can answer these questions, you can tailor your value proposition to be relevant, and eliminate the pieces that aren’t important. If you don’t have these building blocks in place, your campaign will not deliver effective results. It is equivalent to throwing money at the wall, hoping something sticks. Knowing your audience has a big payoff; it means you will have an easier time converting, significantly lower your marketing costs, and see a marked increase in revenue.

The best paid search campaigns know exactly who is converting, and why. They have a solid grasp of their target audience age, gender, income and interests. Brands that have excelled in their marketing campaigns and have surpassed these basics, also understand the importance of the motivation behind a purchase.

How Papa John’s Did it Right

Popular American pizza retailer, Papa John’s, demonstrated this successfully in 2015 when they tapped into the Rugby World Cup audience. Rugby is an incredibly popular sport in the UK, and Papa John’s understands that their target audience is more likely to order pizza during popular televised sporting events because they see it as a special occasion, so they feel as if they are treating themselves by not having to cook their own food.

In order to capitalise on the event, NMPi created unique ad copy to resonate with fans who were motivated by the match to order takeaway.  The tongue and cheek ad copy targeted a rugby audience, focusing on those searching for brand and non-brand keywords relating to pizza, indicating a higher likelihood of purchase.

Papa John's highly successful Rugby-centric ad copy

The rugby-centric ad copy ran alongside current paid search offers, and targeted UK users across Google and Bing. The campaigns began two hours prior to kick off, at 6pm, focusing on key times when fans would be more likely to order pizza, and ran throughout the duration of the match. Due to Papa John’s knowledge of their audience base, and clever strategic targeting the campaign saw an increase of 6.3% in CTR compared to non-rugby ad copy in the first day alone, and 10% in conversions over the course of the campaign.

2016 Digital Predictions

It’s incredible to think that the year 2015 has come to its conclusion.  The past twelve months have flown past, with developments that are likely to dictate the direction of the advertising industry for the next several years, from the rise of ad blockers to the rebirth of paid social as a platform that offers advertisers a new channel for acquisition.
2015 was, of course, also the year when Doc Brown and Marty McFly arrived in the future bringing with them a raft of predictions about what this year would look like.  From hover boards to self-tying shoes, the prophecies made by the film have been assessed, analysed and in some cases ridiculed, hopefully my predictions for next year are slightly better informed…

4 Digital Predictions

Data becomes an even more important part of advertisers’ strategy – Although the effective recording and application of data has been one of the hot topics in the world of digital marketing for several years we are still very much in our infancy with regards to our understanding of how powerful large sets of data can be with regards to our advertising campaigns.
The general lack of understanding around visitor identity and intent are key obstacles that digital publishers must overcome in order to satisfy the demands of the advertising industry.  2015 has seen large publishers tighten their grip on advertising expenditure as their scale has allowed them to provide greater audience targeting and insight, the battle for smaller publishers is how they differentiate their product from the big players without access to such scale.
Social channels expand their role in acquisition – The issue that social channels have always faced is that their incredible engagement metrics do not match the acquisition targets set by clients. Social channels, of course, will never be able to match the intent of paid or organic search but their ability to access rich customer data should mean they play a crucial role in any prospecting strategy.
2015 has already seen Facebook and Twitter enhance their advertising suites and ad formats to provide better solutions for advertisers looking for direct response, and in 2016 it looks like these developments will continue at an accelerated pace with Facebook and Twitter already trialing “Buy Now” buttons in the US and Pinterest announcing the commercialisation of their own platform.
Display advertisers will be forced to react to ad blockers and challenges regarding viewability – Unquestionably, the biggest challenges facing display advertisers at the moment are the rising use of ad blockers and ensuring ads served are viewable. My expectation is that these challenges will force display advertisers to react in three ways:

The first is to increase ad formats that get around ad blocking software, the likelihood is that these ad formats will feel more native than the current set of creative options becoming integrated with the user experience rather than standing aside from it.
The second is that advertisers will be forced to reassess their set of success measures.  Metrics that demonstrate engagement, such as interaction rates, will be crucial to proving performance.
Thirdly, as advertisers start to gain a clearer understanding of viewability there will be a greater emphasis placed on premium inventory.  This emphasis is likely to cause a migration from the open exchange to a combination of open exchange and private marketplaces with the knock on effect being inflated CPMs for inventory deemed to be highly effective.

Paid search advertisers turn to 3rd party data to pre-qualify audiences – As the auctions for top performing keywords continue to intensify, it will become increasingly important for advertisers to pre-qualify their target audiences before committing to higher CPC levels.
For many years the main levers available to paid search advertisers when segmenting audiences were a user’s geography and the time at which they made their search.  More recently Google has expanded audience options to allow for basic demographic targeting and the overlaying of first-party data through remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs).
In 2016 I expect that the audience segmentation options within AdWords will progress once again with Google recently launching “Customer Match” on Gmail and the GDN, allowing advertisers to target look-a-likes of email addresses that they have recorded, and trialing targeting based on likely household income in the US.  These more advanced ways of segmenting audiences could have a significant impact on the way paid search advertisers run their activity.  For example, by pre-qualifying audiences it could allow advertisers the opportunity to explore broader keywords that were not deemed profitable previously.

2016 will be Interesting

So there’s my predictions for next year, whatever happens 2016 is shaping up to be another interesting year in digital advertising.  It would be remiss of me not to mention that Back to the Future did in fact get some of their predictions right, so hopefully my prognosis is more in line with the video calls, tablet computers and wearable tech forecast by the film than the bizarre double ties or endless fax machines.