'Asda sells more lingerie when it's windy', the Guardian's Nick Hewat's 2016 predictions

'Asda sells more lingerie when it's windy', the Guardian's Nick Hewat's 2016 predictions

The Guardian News and Media's commercial director Nick Hewat predicts that 2016 will be a year of fewer, bigger, better branded content campaigns that use data to target consumers at the right time. He believes this will be essential to ensure your brand is the 'chosen one'.

Buy cheap, buy twice. That's the advice I was always given when buying shoes. My prediction for 2016: the market will move from (crudely) buying as much inventory as it can for as cheap a price as possible to one where the values we've always held dear in this industry - context, environment, attention, design - are once again fully appreciated by the people behind the algorithms. A fewer, better approach is where we are headed.

Storytelling across channels

Publishers had it tough in 2015. In the UK, ad money stayed in TV to help pay the inflation caused by declining commercial audiences, or went to Facebook and Google, where personalised data at scale, video and the increasing consumption of media on mobile devices can all be answered. No-one should deny the power of these channels. It is incumbent upon publishers like the Guardian to challenge this current orthodoxy.

In 2016, we're focusing on moving at pace to where the ad business now is; on mobile, in video, in data and critically, in using our expertise to create modern brand building through storytelling.

In 2016, we're focusing on where the ad business now is; on mobile, in video, in data and using our expertise to create modern brand building through storytelling

There are challenges in each area: mobile is still bought in bulk, dominated commercially by performance advertising and app downloads. An optimistic, I-need-this-to-happen-to-keep-my-job prediction, is that smart marketers will reassess the mobile landscape and decide that the app environment in particular can deliver brand campaigns. They should, because that's where our most loyal audiences are congregating and where context and environment offer powerful branding opportunities.

In video, the market is still dominated by the 30 second pre-roll; that won't change in 2016. The challenge is that it is not a great user experience, particularly if the video you came to view is a short clip. Pre-roll for longer time lengths is more acceptable. Pre-roll done badly will increase the download of ad blockers – an issue that is already at the top of the agenda of our industry. Pre-roll more carefully executed will allow publishers to thrive commercially.

Asda sells more lingerie when it's windy

In data we're going to see some interesting developments, whether that is second party data deals (where publisher and advertiser come together to pool their anonymous data) or shared data deals between publishers, such as the Pangaea alliance – a digital advertising proposition between high quality publishers that is spearheaded by the Guardian.

I'm fixated by weather and its impact on retail, and how best we can use that information to serve different ads to different parts of the country depending on temperature and climate conditions. Asda sells more lingerie when it is windy, apparently. This tailored response to the real time moment will drive more effective campaigns.

Fewer, bigger, better campaigns

And in branded content, I think we're going to see fewer, bigger, better campaigns. Check out Copa 90's work with Hyundai, reaching the most passionate football fans on earth, or our work with Direct Line, where everyday household tips have been created as Vines and shared at scale socially.

2016 will also see the rise of virtual reality. Imagine landing in a bombed out Syrian town, in a field at Glastonbury or at the Rio Olympics

2016 will also see the rise of virtual reality. Imagine landing in a bombed out Syrian town, in a field at Glastonbury or at the Rio Olympics. Every few years, a new technology emerges that shifts our behaviour. Smartphones did it, tablets did it, and virtual reality will too. Google Cardboard makes the distribution of virtual reality available at scale, and I expect to see brands jump on the opportunity, with the one proviso being whether they can produce the content at reasonable cost in the first place.

Quality matters

All of the above need to be delivered with quality. Quality matters. Consumers will happily engage with quality content from brands - the Beats videos we published on the Guardian for the start of the Rugby World Cup are testament to that. But before you dive in and publish content for your brand, ask yourself a simple question; would you share it to your own social networks. If not, no-one else will either; it will have failed the quality test.

The best definition of marketing I can remember is that ultimately, marketing is "about being chosen". Your brand over someone else's. That means buying quality environments and creating quality content, not buying in bulk or creating tat. The former is harder and may take longer to show results, but everything we know about marketing, from the likes of Binet and Field to Byron Sharp, says that long term brand building is essential to success. Do that and with your bonus secure, you can buy a new pair of shoes, once.