Four trends that will shape media in 2016

As social media becomes more about value than volume and brands increasingly look to link online and offline channels through live events, Marketing Week outlines the media topics that will define 2016.

Continuous innovation in media is providing brands with a seemingly endless stream of ways to connect with consumers, but knowing where to focus budget and for what purpose is becoming increasingly complex.

With the rise of ad blocking and the fact marketers will soon need to get  ‘unambiguous’ consent to use customer data under new EU laws, it is not an easy road to navigate. Success or failure comes down to content and effectively honing it to meet consumers’ needs in every channel, which anchors many of the media trends and predictions that marketers need to be aware of in 2016.

1 Digital fights to win spend from TV

As more marketers and media journalists talk about the rise of digital, traditional channels are left by the wayside in terms of attention, but TV remains the king of media in terms of ad spend.

“The focus will be on digital channels, certainly in terms of column inches, but whether that plays out in actual numbers is another thing as I fully expect old school TV to remain the [biggest] channel,” says John Broughton, head of performance marketing at

“Unless a huge amount of new money arrives, we will to some degree be robbing Peter to pay Paul within the digital channels, give or take a percentage point here or there, while TV takes  home most of the money. And deservedly so.”

It is a valid point considering BARB data shows the average UK viewer watches three hours and 37 minutes of TV a day, two thirds of which is commercial TV and 87% live.

Another trend that Broughton expects to accelerate is activity powered by the intelligent application of data; uses Oracle Marketing Cloud’s data management platform for the purpose. The use of data to drive TV buying picked up pace in 2015 and there is no doubt this will continue into 2016.

Duncan Wynn, sales director at Sky Media, believes the use of data will take cross-platform campaigns to the next level in 2016, as marketers are “now able to understand this multiscreen behaviour like never before”.

He says: “Those that can harness customer, viewer and device insights can help deliver truly connected campaigns. But it’s not just about using as many platforms as possible; it’s about delivering properly activated content partnerships that tell a story.”

Wynn predicts that brands will take advantage of new solutions to sync campaigns across TV and online but warns that brands should “never leave creativity behind”.

“The challenge for the industry this year is to bring together data, technology and creativity to ensure we don’t lose sight of delivering compelling and effective advertising for brands, agencies and viewers,” he adds.

2 Mobile strategies mature

The industry no longer says ‘it’s the year of mobile’ because the channel is now fully ingrained in the lives of consumers, but mobile strategies and spend are yet to catch up. This is because mobile behaviour is personal. Users, not brands, drive consumption patterns so understanding what people do on mobile devices is a constant research project for marketers.

Success comes down to having the right content and Clare Hill, managing director at the Content Marketing Association (CMA), believes that in 2016 content marketing will be focused specifically on mobile and image-based content, as well as personalisation.

“Mobile strategy is closely linked to a rise in image-based content,” says Hill. “Images are one of the most popular types of content for consumers to share via social media, and this has only increased as phones get bigger and our bandwidth improves.”

Al Cotterill, creative strategist at Instagram’s Creative Shop, believes a key trend this year will be visual storytelling. She says: “The proliferation of mobiles and smartphones has changed the way brands are communicating, with a focus on imagery over text.”

Cotterill adds: “In 2016, we’ll see more brands using visual communication in a number of formats, from short-form videos to real-time images. The benefits will be two-fold: brands will succeed in cutting through the noise by creating content that reflects the behaviour and preferences of their customers; [and] marketers will be able to experiment with creativity.”

However, investment in mobile and digital channels needs to be in line with opportunity in order to take advantage of this behaviour. The sentiment is there, since 61% of digital marketing managers say more money should be shifted from offline marketing to digital marketing, up 27% from 2014, according to Marin Software’s second annual industry census.

Data from eMarketer’s UK Media Consumption research shows that 49% of all UK adult media consumption is via digital channels, yet only 46% of the UK’s £15.7bn total ad spend goes on digital, according to the Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report. The gap is even more pronounced with regard to mobile, which includes tablets and smartphones.

On average, 25% of all UK media consumption is via mobile devices, yet only 10% of ad spend is on mobile. In addition, the amount of time UK adults spend daily with mobile devices is expected to surpass the amount of time spent online via desktop and laptop computers this year.

Proving return on investment remains an issue, as a study released last year by Opera Mediaworks and Censuswide shows that 65% of the UK’s most senior marketers find it “quite hard” to show a clear return on investment with their mobile ad spend, which will no doubt have an effect too.

3 The growth of ‘moment marketing’

Linking online with offline has become a key consideration for marketers, given the rise of digital content consumption but in 2016 this is set to truly take off, according to new research from agency TVTY.

Dubbed ‘moment marketing’ by WARC and Deloitte’s 2016 marketing ‘tool kit’, this type of engagement is set for growth with over two thirds (67%) of brands planning to spend more on digital campaigns triggered by offline events. TVTY’s report analyses the views of 200 brand side UK marketers, each working in companies with turnovers of more than £1m.

It shows that brands plan to focus reactive marketing on a range of offline ‘triggers’ this year including popular TV shows (52%), sports events (48%), financial events (40%), TV advertising (38%) and changes in the weather (33%). Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents say they would use moment marketing on social media to counter-attack when a competitor brand’s ad is being aired on TV.

The research also shows UK marketers already spend 23% of their digital budgets on moment marketing; Facebook is the most common channel cited by 73% of brands, followed by Twitter (65%) and Instagram (44%). Online video (43%) and search (40%) are also frequently used to deliver reactive marketing campaigns.

Computer chip manufacturer Intel is already taking advantage of this approach and has been working with TVTY to sync search campaigns with its TV activity to capture key moments when people reach for their smartphone or laptop to search the web.

Launch activity in the US achieved a strong uplift in performance, according to Corey Carrillo, Intel’s senior manager of search engine marketing and performance media. The brand is running campaigns across the UK, US, France, Germany and Brazil.

Carrillo says: “It allows us to react to live ads instantly, rather than using an approximation  based on a media plan model. This matters to us because we know that peak consumer interest occurs within 10 seconds of TV ads being shown, so to capture this interest we need to alter our search marketing campaign instantly.”

Getting the context and content aligned is vital though. Zoe Harris, group marketing director at Trinity Mirror, suggests there has to be a balance because a “continued obsession” with digital and social results in an “increased amount of meaningless content being produced, adding to the supply of online white noise”.

This leads to the promotion of content on the “back of pointless shares, likes and follows, despite having delivered very little in terms of brand objectives”.

Harris believes that “creating contextual relationships with consumers will be the real success stories for brands in 2016” and that reaching and connecting with people who come to life when there is a nationally or internationally covered event, such as Euro 2016, will be a focus for Trinity Mirror. She says: “Brands that really think about how to put themselves at the heart of events – or even create their own place on the calendar – will win.”

4 Social media shifts to value over volume

Dating app Tinder, as well as Snapchat, Instagram and messaging platform WhatsApp have all developed monetisation strategies to entice brands but marketers must not be dazzled by the allure of these new social platforms without determining what value they can actually add.

“Messaging apps and channels have seen huge growth over 2015 and I expect that to continue, but marketers need to think about how to effectively use these networks,” warns Richard Bassinder, social media manager at Yorkshire Building Society.

With social often now the first port of call for customer service, and many consumers expecting brands to respond via the channel too, Bassinder suggests that it is “crucial to ensure that each channel is being used for the right type of interaction”.

He says: “In other words, brands should first decide whether a WhatsApp strategy is right for them before looking at how they need to change their approach to suit the way their audience likes to use the channel.”

The rise of influencers will also continue as more platforms create their own type of celebrity, such as YouTube star Zoella. However, for some brands it presents a challenge in finding the right influencer.

Bassinder says: “Influencer outreach will become an increasing focus in 2016. Amplification of content through key influencers presents a credible challenge to paid promotion strategies, but it’s essential that the partner in question is in line with the brand and the way it wants to present itself to its audience. We need to ask ourselves ‘who is our industry’s Zoella’.”

Combining these two trends creates a ‘value over volume’ debate for social media strategies. “I expect to see a move towards smaller, more engaged audience groups that form around more local offline events or rally behind the specific causes that matter to them,” adds Bassinder. “Many brands talk about ‘the internet of things’ but we need to start thinking about the ‘social media of things’ and how networks spring up around our devices and interest areas.”

The use of targeted influencers to reach specific audiences can also give rise to content collaborations. Nishma Robb, head of marketing at Google, suggests there is particular scope in gaming for this type of activity (see ‘What to watch in 2016’, below). She says: “Gaming content has led to [many] incredible brand partnerships because of the reach and breadth of the creators and audiences. For example, YouTube blogger and gamer PewDiePie has more subscribers than the population of Canada.”

According to the trends laid out by marketers, 2016 will be the year for moving platforms along, ensuring that a brand is not only present across channels but with content that is in line with what consumer behaviour dictates.

Creativity versus data came head-to-head in 2015 but this year it is not either/or, as offline meets online in more creative ways using information to steer content.

What to watch in 2016

Will Hattam, CMO, Archant

Marketing automation will be an interesting area to watch. Digital marketing opportunities continue to grow and the possibilities are endless. For SMEs, without large marketing functions or time, this landscape can be chronically complex.

Undoubtedly, there is going to be increasing movement towards aggregating and automating marketing to help simplify this for the UK’s huge SME population.

Nishma Robb, Head of marketing, Google

Gamers are an audience that up until now have been somewhat ignored by marketers – this is a real missed opportunity. Gamers are like engaged fans on steroids; they watch gaming content on YouTube in the same numbers and with the same passion as sports fans.

The audience of gamers on YouTube is in the hundreds of millions and growing. Every month people watch billions of hours of gaming content on YouTube, which is up 75% on last year. In fact, half of the top 100 channels by viewing time are gaming.

John Broughton, Head of performance marketing,

Programmatic buying will be a very interesting area prompted by a higher adoption rate and a significant increase in the breadth of what is bought via programmatic technology.

I expect to see better servicing of video-on-demand inventory and more cross-device targeting.

Private marketplaces will and should proliferate, and we will see more reservation-style buying running through a variety of different technology offers [including ‘programmatic direct’, the automated process allowing advertisers to buy guaranteed media space direct from publishers].

Story first appeared on the Marketing Week website –