Last year’s IAB predictions for content marketing and native advertising focused on mobile, native and data as the game changers. And while this largely holds true for this year, a few new themes have emerged that have changed the tone and outlook for this type of marketing, namely brand safety, transparency and the growing role of AI. Focus on brand safety, in particular, has forced content marketers to take a second look at content distribution, with an eye toward higher quality, “safer”, contextual placement over reach/scale. In many ways, this reflects the maturation of content marketing, branded/sponsored content and native advertising in a world where brand safety concerns are looming larger than ever before.
As we begin 2018, some members of the IAB Social Media/Native/Content Committee shared their predictions for content marketing and native advertising which you can read below. As you read the predictions, you will see a number of consistent themes which we’ve highlighted in the infographic:
Click on each headshot to read individual IAB member predictions from AdYouLike, Bidtellect, GumGum, Influential, rewardStyle, Sharethrough, StartApp, Storyful, Triplelift, Turner Ignite, and Unruly:
In 2018, the barrier between content creation and content distribution will come down. Right now, these two strategies often exist in silos, preventing one from influencing the other and causing marketers to miss a significant opportunity. With the two pieces linked, marketers can gather behavioral insights from distribution campaigns and feed them back into their creation strategy, leading to smarter, more valuable content for consumers.
In 2018 these two pieces of content marketing will work in conjunction, enabling marketers to travel the “last mile” in linking the right content with the right consumer, at the right moment in time.
While Native Advertising continues to grow tremendously this year, it remains plagued by brand safety issues. Traditional approaches to brand safety rely strictly on analyzing headlines and text that appears on a publisher’s site. This is not a fail-safe solution. By focusing on text only, brands that run native ads are occasionally associated with unsafe images such as car crashes, guns, hate speech, etc. With the latest development of AI (Artificial Intelligence), brands will increasingly use computer vision to identify unsafe imagery and deliver its ads in safe, contextually relevant environments.
In 2018, we will see the continued emergence of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the influencer marketing space. In 2017, we saw huge growth in the use of AI to measure personality characteristics, natural language understanding, and tone analyzation of text, but brand marketers are now asking for AI to go a step further. The next evolution will be visual AI, which will include photo and video recognition. Using visual data, AI will be able to not only analyze content, it will also be able to be used for media targeting through video object and pattern recognition.
I predict the following for Native Advertising in 2018:
Cookie tracking changes on iOS and the coming implementation of GDPR (EU General Data Protection Regulation) will force brands to make a major shift in 2018, realizing that cookie-only targeting will mean missing out on reaching some of the highest value iPhone users. In parallel to cookie-based targeting, marketers will begin to use context and content for identifying pools of high value users, delivering ads that complement the surrounding content. This will shift ad spending away from the long-tail and towards well-lit editorial content sites. This will make native more important than ever in the media mix, allowing brands to invest in ads that consumers are less inclined to block, and enabling them to improve their ad performance and brand awareness by using trusted publishers to read curated, high value audiences.
My predictions for Native Advertising in 2018:
1. Brands find it hard to reach consumers in the fractured social & messaging landscape. Brands must participate through authentic owned creative that encourages consumers to be ambassadors.
2. Everyone wants a chatbot! But Natural Language Processing is hard to scale, so the quickest path to consumers will be within navigational UI (User Interface) to optimize flow and remain consumer-focused.
3. Social platforms are aware of their value and they understand that owning the audience has an advertising ROI. Branded experiences like filters, emojis, and more will now need to be factored into media budgets.
For branded content, authenticity will take center stage in 2018. Not just beautiful, high gloss content but content that actually reflects and utilizes the interests and sentiments of the people brands are trying to reach. That means looking deeper than a few top-level metrics and activating celebrity influencers. Successful brands will really explore the conversations of social communities and derive insights from those conversations to create content that’s meaningful for the audience and relevant to the brand.
I predict the following for Native Advertising in 2018:
1. 100% year over year growth in native programmatic as DSPs make native ad buying as seamless as buying banner ads
2. Shift to more engaging ad experiences such as native video, gifs, cinemagraphs, carousels, 360 video, etc.
3. Focus on brand safety, transparency, and supply chain results in reallocation of spend from traditional video towards native video, as inventory becomes scarce
4. Continued market confusion around the types of native
5. Analytics becomes both an input and output for branded content
The year of high-quality video:
In 2018, we anticipate there to be a renewed focus on high-quality, video-led brand storytelling. While the bulk produced will remain short-form, we predict that more marketers will experiment with longer-form formats, which can enable a more profound, emotional connection with the consumer – and platforms will extend beyond digital and social to experiential and TV.
Upsurge in emerging video ad formats:
As publishers continue to look for ways to cut through the clutter, and consumers continue to seek engaging content experiences, video developed with special functionality, such as AR/VR, interactivity, animation, and for us specifically at CNN, live branded content, will be on the rise.
Increased focus on brand metrics:
In addition to time spent, completion rate and engagement metrics, there will be a greater focus on branded content’s accountability to measure and deliver on brand attributes, such as awareness, perception and lift.
Shakeout on the horizon for smaller, social-only publishers:
Heavy competition in branded content will start a shakeout among smaller, social-only publishers. Bigger, established media companies are now entering the space aggressively, and with clients pushing for quality and audience credibility, smaller players will struggle to fund the robust operations required to compete.
Increased machine learning capabilities means that 2018 will be the year smart marketers use AI (Artificial Intelligence) to harness data and create more personal ad experiences.
The industry is demanding greater personalization, in both dynamic content and custom targeting. Brands that create personalized experiences using digital technologies and customer data on average see revenue increases of 6 – 10%.
But with 90% of the world’s data created in the last two years, analyzing all this increased information is a major challenge. In 2018 we’ll see more businesses step up to the plate and unpack big data in clever ways.
Native continues to prove it’s a viable and worthy format. This year we should see native display ads topple banner in total ad spend for the first time ever. And artificial intelligence (AI) will become more sophisticated in 2018. AI lets us scan and analyze text and video content on a much faster scale. It eliminates ad waste and delivers content that’s contextually relevant, more precise, and ultimately better for the user. AI can also help ensure brand safety. This has never been more important, and initiatives like ads.txt (Authorized Digital Sellers) will help the industry filter out unauthorized and fraudulent activity.
In addition to AI, we’ll see marketers increasingly experiment with Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO). DCO means that situational data, environmental factors, time-of-day, the weather, live information, and a host of additional third-party user data can all be added to increase relevancy and the performance of campaigns.
We’ll see more and more marketers embrace the Holy Trinity of digital advertising in 2018: high performance native ad units that engage customers; deep AI analysis, targeting, and data; and dynamic, hyper-personal creatives. This is the future and 2018 is when we’ll see these products and services become ubiquitous.