The Autonomous Future

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There are emerging developments in digital marketing which could lead to some interesting opportunities for marketers, media companies, and technology developers. The biggest trends are around the movement towards autonomy, or away from external reliance and commonality, especially in video and mobile media. Here is how I see it.

Non-standard publishers will become the standard.

The era of commodity media – where brands could only get scale by advertising across websites that conformed to standardized formats – is coming to an end. The new breed of audience platforms is creating unique experiences where both brands and consumers have an opportunity to invent, create, and connect. Platforms like Facebook® , Amazon, Twitter, and Kik are autonomous – they are technology independent, non-conforming, and personal. These autonomous marketing platforms will become increasingly necessary for marketers, and as technology solves the challenges that a lack of standardization in native advertising creates, they will move from being specialized to becoming the standard form of online marketing.

Brands are also becoming autonomous.

We may soon see a tipping point of brands brining their digital media buying in-house. According to eConsultancy, 45% of brands are already buying their paid search in house. P&G, Netflix, Kellogg’s, Experian, Thrillist, Allstate, Fidelity, StubHub, 1800 Flowers, Amazon and others are all taking their programmatic buying in-house. We are headed towards “the autonomous future” where brands demand more control, transparency, and cost savings. Agencies won’t go away – in fact, there will be an explosion of new in-house agencies which will have access to all the same tools, talent, and technology. And while individual brands won’t have the ‘consolidating buying power’ that the big agency groups do, the intuitive sense of their own marketing combined with their ability to move with speed will all lead to strong ROI.

Organic and paid social marketing will merge into a single process.

In the beginning, social marketing was about distributing content to a fan-base. If a piece of content had strong engagement and the brand wished to amplify it, then they would put some paid media behind it. Publishing and amplification were therefore two separate and technically disconnected processes (and there were some pretty obvious inefficiencies as a result). The precipitous decline in organic reach across the major social networks is foreboding. By the end of 2015 “organic” content marketing as we know it will cease to exist, and the acts of publishing and testing social content will be tied directly to paid media. And while this might be met with concerns around increased media costs, uniting the publishing and amplification processes will create more efficiencies and result in cost-savings because brands won’t need two teams, two software platforms, and two budgets. There will be one social marketing team, one budget, and a single platform for both publishing and promoting content.

Facebook and Twitter will be the next video powerhouses.

Facebook now delivers 1 billion video views per day, with 65% of them in mobile (eMarketer, 2014). Both platforms have made major investments in their video ad products and it is paying off (approximately 1/3rd of the ads that Adaptly delivered on Facebook last quarter included video). Despite the propagation of digital video, there has been a shortage of high-quality, premium, native video inventory, and Facebook and Twitter are changing that. The ads tend to perform well-driving engagement, brand lift, and sales. Advertisers are just getting started, so keep an eye out for a stream of data and research pointing to the efficacy of social video.

Mobile message apps will storm the advertising world.

According to a recent Gallup study about the most common forms of nonpersonal communication, US adults under 50 said they use text messaging more frequently than any other nonpersonal communication method, including phone calls and sending or receiving emails. And with mobile messaging becoming the predominant communication vehicle, brands are finding inventive new ways of integrating themselves to reach these massive audiences. And although these are early days of testing and optimizing advertising experiences, platforms like Kik and Snapchat will become meaningful players in the media business and will start to command both creative mindshare as well as share-of-wallet.

The function of mobile media planning will become fully integrated with other digital channels.

Mobile media cuts across every other digital channel – social, video, native, etc. With many of the historical challenges of mobile advertising being addressed by platforms like Facebook and Twitter (creative, tracking, targeting, measurement) we saw a dramatic increase in mobile media investment last year. Spend levels across the entire industry will spike to a level this year where agencies will think about mobile holistically and will eliminate the concept of “mobile teams” by integrating the planning and buying functions with their other media channels. There is certainly more to be said about these trends, and surely there are others that are taking shape. But the highest-level observations are empirical and worth planning around as we head into another exciting year of unprecedented innovation and shifts in consumer behavior.

Facebook® is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.

Sean O’Neal is President at Adaptly, a social media buying technology company.
@seanoNYC