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Five Predictions for 2018

Parker Weber

Five Predictions for 2018

Prediction No. 1: Consumers will demand more transparency from media outlets and their advertisers.

In 2017, media giants Facebook, Twitter and Google experienced serious backlash due to concerns about brand safety, fake news and accuracy of measurement. Mainstream media coverage fed widespread consumer outrage in response to revelations about election meddling via social media and as a result, has undermined consumer trust in ads in general across all three platforms. 

See our recent blog: Changes to Facebook Transparency and Authenticity.

Regardless, it seems as though investment in these media powerhouses will continue to grow. eMarketer predicts that, combined, Facebook and Google will account for 59.0% of all net US digital display ad revenues in 2018, up from 56.2% in 2017. By 2019, that share will climb to 60.7%.

Facebook and Twitter have pledged to take measures to make it easier for consumers (and advertisers) to find out who an advertiser behind a message is, how much the advertiser is spending on the platform and how the ad is being targeted. This new level of ad transparency will likely have farther reaching implications for consumers, advertisers, media buyers, publishers and platforms alike. 

Prediction No. 2: Voice search will finally reach critical mass.

Ownership of smart speakers and virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home, is starting to gain scale -- and smartphone users have been using their devices for voice queries for years -- which means that voice search is fast becoming second nature for many consumers. 

The latest eMarketer estimates predict the number of US voice-enabled digital assistant users will rise by 14.1% (to 69.0 million) in 2018 while the number of voice-enabled speaker users will climb 27.6% (to 45.4 million). 

With more of us relying on voice to search—and often not relying on a screen to view results—advertisers will have to adjust their SEO and content strategies to match. The scary truth is that more and more, only the first result will matter as search engines and ecommerce sites look to serve voice searchers with “the” answer rather than a list of options. In turn, that will mean greater reliance on AI to determine what the best and first result should be -- but early signs are not encouraging. A November 2017 article in The Wall Street Journal described many of Google’s efforts to deliver a single result as “contentious, improbable or laughably incorrect.” 

Beyond SEO, what is the opportunity for brands to harness this new technology? Expect 2018 to be a trial and error year for virtual assistant ad products. Research shows that currently, people are relatively open to the idea of advertising being linked to their voice assistant.  However, marketers need to proceed cautiously and allow consumers to retain control over when and where they interact with brands on these smart devices.

Prediction No. 3: Digital video will continue to be a big (and small) deal.

Someday, digital video usage will reach the saturation point. But, as eMarketer reports, we do not expect that day to arrive in 2018. Over the last several years, video viewership has migrated to both ends of the device spectrum: the smallest, most portable units (mostly smartphones and some tablets) and the largest screen in the house, the living room TV.  In fact, consumers’ time spent with digital video is pretty equally concentrated in two areas: mobile and connected devices. According to the latest data, these will account for roughly equal levels of average daily time spent next year among US adults in 2018.

This viewership trend will mean continued acceleration of ad spending in both mobile video and connected TV. But connected TV is where we may begin to see higher rates of growth -- because, to date, it has been slower to emerge due to a host of challenges. Most notably, connected TV platforms have historically lacked the scale advertisers are used to finding on traditional network and cable TV. And while programmatic buying has dominated in the overall video space and now accounts for the majority of video ad dollar volume, the same isn’t true of connected TV, where direct buys predominate.

The challenges for connected TV won’t disappear overnight, but many experts believe that advertising spend will see major gains in 2018. If so, it might be a case of ad spending catching up with consumer behavior, as we saw with mobile years ago.

Prediction No. 4: Social media platforms will enter into the “TV” content game.

Speaking of mobile, we can’t talk about video trends without addressing social media platforms and their foray into TV-style programming. 

The leading social media channels—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat—have long been focused on growing their video products. However, to date they’ve specialized mostly in micro-content designed for sharing.

The traditional TV-style format has been missing from the social video mix, but that may change in 2018 as the major platforms chase mid-roll ad dollars by developing original programming with a longer narrative arc. Don’t expect Facebook to become the next Netflix, but perhaps they will begin to compete more and more with YouTube, which has also attempted to stake their claim in the mid-length content space (with mixed results).

Prediction No. 5: Improvement in online-to-offline data will lead to a better understanding of the true customer journey.

We all know that data-driven marketing is powerful, but how that data informs the customer journey will be the key to unlocking a new level of digital marketing success in 2018. It starts by using data to know where your consumers will be on every step of their path to purchase-- then learning what appeals to them and how to design your approach to intercept them at points of receptivity along their journey.

Recent improvements made in accurate location data will play a critical role. In 2018, improved online-to-offline (O2O) data will reveal a deeper layer of understanding about mobile behavior and advertising performance, which should ultimately result in better targeting and advertising that’s more personalized and localized.

Location data isn’t new. GPS signals, IP addresses, Wi-Fi and beacons have been available to mobile marketers for years. More recently, Google and Facebook have allowed marketers to dynamically localize their advertising with local inventory and directions to stores. Both companies also provide tools to attribute offline sales and store traffic back to online ads. With device-ID targeting, mobile advertising in general is moving in that direction.

With better O2O data, mobile advertisers will find that the real magic in location data is in customers’ patterns of movement over time, which will help uncover better audience insights. And better behavioral data combined with location data will result in richer audience segmentation. 

It is estimated by Google that as much as 90% of mobile advertising’s effects occur offline. Better O2O attribution will not only inform target segmentation but it will  finally give marketers the information they need to determine optimal mobile investment.

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