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?