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If a week is a long time in politics, a year is an eternity in the turbocharged worlds of creative, tech and marketing. Take 2018: who could have predicted Facebook/Cambridge Analytica, Martin Sorrell’s dramatic departure from WPP or Snapchat’s Visual Search partnership with Amazon? To peer into what 2019 might hold, growth and M&A advisor Waypoint Partners has brought together agency figures from all the major markets for their take on seven key trends and developments impacting these sectors this year.
Agencies: Specialists to benefit from networks repositioning
By Phil Gripton, Partner, Waypoint Partners
Following 2018’s colourful WPP drama and new CEO Mark Read’s pledge to turn the media behemoth into a “creative transformation company,” 2019 will see increased pressure in the agency sector as large networks adapt their business models to become more focused and competitive. But that doesn’t have to be bad news for everyone else. As the big networks pivot to stay relevant in a fast-changing market, there will be opportunities for agencies that have a clear value proposition for their clients – backed by relevant proof points in the form of metrics and case studies.
Savvy agency leaders will spend time ensuring they have effective, scaleable sales processes that can drive new logo growth as well as expanding their relationship with existing clients. Specialist agencies that can articulate their value to clients will be well-placed to develop adjacent areas while large networks race to reinvent themselves.
Retail: Shoppable social set to take off
David Schulhof, CEO, Red Hot Penny
Shoppable social looks set to be 2019’s big focus. A surprising number of brands and retailers still haven’t monetised their social activity. Right now, when it comes to buying from social, enthusiastic Instagrammers lead the way but as they show their Facebooker parents how simple it is to buy from their social feed, the market will expand.
Big retailers’ social media feeds are a key customer service channel, and with bot technology coming of age, we’ll see increased adoption to resolve low level gripes. Beyond this, ‘buy’ enabled retailer-bot use will increase. We’ll also see some exciting technology rollouts and partnerships. Amazon’s visual search partnership with Snapchat is potentially a game changer. If Instagram agrees a similar partnership or collaboration this will drive adoption and inspire shoppers.
Marketing & PR: AI will boost creativity
Todd Grossman, CEO – Americas, Talkwalker
This is the year when AI will become an integral part of marketers’ and PR professionals’ daily lives. It won’t take their job, as many fear; instead it will accelerate processes, increase data quality and eliminate routine manual tasks allowing them to focus on more creative aspects.
As outlined by Gartner, 2019 will be the year of democratised AI, or AI accessible to all.
In social listening this will translate into technology that will unlock the content analysis of images and videos (logos, objects, scenes…), better sentiment analysis that understands sarcasm and brand bias, and most importantly the ability to teach custom algorithms to find the most relevant brand mentions.
Content management: the wars return
Robert Andrews, Editorial Consultant, Clarity PR
Once upon a time, brands and agencies picking a content management system (CMS) were spoiled for choice. For many, WordPress has become the default option claiming to run 32.5% of all websites.
In 2019, WordPress faces increased competition as it struggles to be all things to all people. Many small businesses now pick easier-to-use Wix, Squarespace or Shopify, whilst bloggers are publishing through Medium or Ghost.
On the developer side, many are embracing new ‘headless’ CMS technology such as Contentful, CraftCMS and Cockpit which separates database infrastructure from design elements meaning they don’t have to worry about look and feel. Customers like them because their centralised content can be piped to multiple devices and channels, not just their website.
All this could help brands and agencies separate service contracts and future-proof their content operations. But it also makes for more complexity, with dozens of new suites to choose from.
One thing is for sure – in 2019, content management selection will once again be a strategic decision.
Social: Brand-building through social will regain prominence
Callum McCahon, Strategy Director, Born Social
Five years ago, social media was viewed as a brand channel – creating connections with a brand’s target audience. Soft engagement metrics were the name of the game. Over the last two years, however, we’ve seen a clear shift towards sales metrics as indicators for success on social media. It’s now all about demonstrable ROI. As a result, brands have become very short-termist in their approach to social media.
This year brands will realise that building true business value through social requires a balance of both. Brand building and sales activation are equally important, and it’s only by investing in both that businesses unlock the real value of social.
Blockchain: A return to purpose and values
David Lockie, Founder, Pragmatic
In 2019 the conversation around blockchain will evolve and become more sensible. Projects that have been in build mode since 2017 will start launching products and services.
Regulation will start catching up to 2017’s Initial Coin Offering rush. We’ll come to terms with the reality that blockchain isn’t the solution to everything, but neither is the idea of a native value transfer protocol for the internet going away (even if it takes new forms).
We’ll start to realise that just like there’s no ‘going back to normal’ for social media post-Trump, Russia and ISIS, there’s also no going back to normal for money post-cryptocurrencies. There’s a new normal ahead of us – one that I believe gives us a huge economic opportunity to connect ever more people, machines and data to the global economy, and to influence that economy towards the behavioural outcomes we want.
Above all this year, I believe that as we consider how technology is disrupting ancient institutions we’ll return ever closer to human purpose and values.
Experiential: A game-changing year to be a retailer or a shopper
Hugh Robertson, Founder & CEO, RPM
Rather than dying, the high street is poised for a new chapter focussed on experiences which bring people into retail spaces, engaging them in the moment and making them want to stay.
In a world where life is increasingly virtual, people want experiences that cut through and become memorable where the value of a live brand interaction is worth more than an online discount. Mapping customer’s behavioural journeys can unlock passion points to trigger connections and make every visit relevant, relatable and real.
This experience-led approach will increasingly drive innovation in how the on and offline retail journey merges to create a seamless brand experience.