Opinion

16 predictions for '16

MediaCom chief strategy officer Sue Unerman looks ahead to the trends that will define 2016.

1. More ad-blockers used by more people. Not because people hate advertising, not because advertising is more intrusive than it used to be. Whether these two things are true is actually irrelevant. It is because ads slow down the things you really want to get at. Some news and magazine sites take four times longer to download because of the advertising. No-one wants that – why wouldn’t you ad-block if that is the case? The solution is not meaningful ads, not better-targeted ads. It is better or more appropriate application of technology that works in smartphones and iPads, as well as desktop.

2. Media budgets spent in accountable media. Accountable in terms of outcomes, not traditional media metrics. More "right time, right message, right person" accuracy than ever – this means programmatic.

3. No step change in media research. Although we are long overdue a revolution in cross-industry standards, and while many types of media are investing in research solutions that benefit them in isolation, there is still no sign of a solution that truly works across the industry.

4. Customer service will transform how people think of brands. I was recently on hold on a call to a financial-service institution for 40 minutes, but it assured me that my call was very important, so that made it OK. Not. This year sees the launch of a bank with no bricks and mortar, and no heritage practices. Designed to service the customer.

5. Less spin, more authenticity. Brands that sell with stories about warmth and empathy made up by their creative agencies will underperform compared with brands that deliver warmth and empathy and then content that tells brilliant stories about what they have actually done.

6. SEO will gain significance. Not just because it helps with search. But because, if your product delivers in natural search, it means that it is largely doing the right things for marketing in general.

7. A long-overdue recognition of the importance of acting locally for national brands. A superb way to cut through the competition. We are not one nation; Chelsea and Tottenham aren’t equivalent, let alone Durham and Swansea.

8. A continued shift in how trends form. The traditional canon of influence – published critics and trend-setters – will give way to a constantly changing set of self-published internet influencers.

9. The power of friendly and respectful communications strategies to achieve competitive standout. Brands must be friendly to their fans and followers. If you speak out for a brand, then you expect to be thanked, "liked", retweeted and recognised. One-way comms will not do. Reply, acknowledge, amplify.

10. The employee brand will increase in importance. What the people who work for the company say, think and do. Their voice is going to be recognised more and more in 2016. They are the real brand ambassadors and their views make a difference.

11. More diversity in business and in media. The inspirational efforts of individuals such as Karen Blackett and the day-to-day efforts of every business leader all help to drive real change. My next book, co-authored with Kathryn Jacob, also aims to address this.

12. New app ecology: the end of fragmentation and the rise of the virtual personal assistant.

13. Strong women on the rise. Ditch the stereotypes – we’re going to see a whole new set of strong women out there in 2016.

14. The re-emergence of insight in comms planning. The industry has been focused on – some would say obsessed with – tech and innovation at the expense of brilliant insight. Strategies driven by good insight have true business outcomes. The rest is just tactics and fun.

15. Proper use of the second screen, not just tactically but as core brand strategy.

16. The best creatives will be media planners. The best media planners will be closing sales.

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom
@sueu

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