Marketers' 2016 predictions: from the video explosion to the next 'new normal'

Things are changing fast in the industry and show no sign of slowing down, forcing marketers to adapt to thrive. We asked 10 of the industry's brightest and best to share their resolutions and the challenges they face in the months ahead.


Chief executive, BT

Busy going from superfast to ultrafast

My biggest marketing prediction for the year ahead is ‘busy-ness’. If the UK economy remains resurgent, it will be an intensive time across all channels and media. It won’t surprise you that I’m excited about BT combining with EE. Marketing will be an important way of communicating the advantages for consumers and business.

A big challenge is going to be continued adjustment to our mobile world, and people using more and more media on the move, with all that entails for marketing messages. Creatively, the challenge is finding the best way to cut through. For my industry, we need to go on ensuring people can access data where and when they want to.

We’ll be operating across a broader spectrum as we go forward with our plans for EE, BT Sport, BT TV and the move to so-called ultrafast services. We’ll have 10m premises able to access ultrafast within five years. This will commonly mean speeds that are more than 10 times faster than the ones already making a reality of things like 4K TV.

My New Year’s resolution is to continue focusing on customer service, new services and further improvements to digital infrastructure. Naysayers in the UK point to areas where getting online could be easier, and we need to take that seriously, but, having said that, the EU does place us top of its five biggest members for superfast broadband.


Vice-president, Facebook EMEA

Making virtual a reality

Video on mobile will become ever-more integral to how people around the world discover, watch and share content. In just over a year we’ve seen the shift from photos to video, and soon it will be VR. The future of video is richer, more immersive content, and we’ll continue to introduce new ways for people to create and find this.

Today, 1.5bn people use Facebook; next year we’ll be working on connecting the next 1bn. People are coming online at a staggering rate in emerging markets and, in most cases, do so on mobile via 2G. We’re designing features and products that work seamlessly, regardless of network or device. 

In 2016, I’ll buy a Samsung Gear VR to watch all my favourite Netflix shows. We’re betting VR will become the mainstream. The tech has come so far and the platform is ready for the next major shift. It’s exciting to imagine the possibilities.


Managing director of home installations, British Gas

Focusing on reputation

As well as the continued rise of performance and programmatic marketing, many companies will have to focus harder on reputation.

With episodes like Tesco’s misjudged accounting, FIFA corruption allegations and the Volkswagen emissions scandal, it will be recognised that a company’s most valuable asset is its reputation; and the only way to protect that is a genuine culture and framework around ethics.

In the year ahead, I hope to keep learning and improving; to make the best possible use of my time and aim for the transformational, not just the incrementally better.

I’ll be spending (even) more time out in the field and with the members of our team who directly serve our customers.

This is because the main aim for British Gas in 2016 will be to help our customers keep their homes and businesses running smoothly. To do this, we’ll be providing them with new ways to control their energy costs, connect and protect their homes, and get a brilliant service in whichever channel they want to interact with us.

We’re targeting ambitious growth in a competitive market – we’ll be combining a compelling proposition with consistent service excellence, an engaged team, and careful control of cost. We’ll also keep making the necessary changes for the long term, as well as delivering in 2016.


Brand director Northern Europe, Procter & Gamble and co-chair of Marketing’s New Thinking Awards

Winning hearts and minds

The world is changing fast and showing no signs of slowing. Our industry is being disrupted by new models of marketing and selling, new retailers, and a consumer empowered by new technology and a new age of transparency.

We’ve witnessed a fundamental shift in the balance of power. The 70s and 80s were the age of the supplier. The 90s and 00s saw the retailers come to prominence. Now it’s the age of the consumer. Trust in brands and institutions is declining, yet marketing still has incredible power to reach consumers and win their hearts and minds.

We’ve seen this at P&G with the success of the Always #LikeAGirl campaign across the world; a clear message relevant to the audience and the brand, going beyond product performance to the role the brand can play in people’s lives. But what strikes me most about this campaign is its broad relevance, not just to the brand and society, but how we need to operate as marketing organisations.

Diversity drives better creativity and innovation, and, with that, better business results. We all need to ensure we have the best talent in our companies at every level, with diversity of gender, nationality, age and religion, but also diversity of style, ideas, approaches and experiences.

We need to focus on removing all the barriers that stand in the way of attracting, retaining and promoting the very best people in our industry. We need to have diverse role models speaking up and inspiring change.

Only then will we ensure we are representing the diverse consumers we seek to serve. In the new age of the empowered consumer, let’s make sure we are truly putting them at the heart of everything we do in 2016.


Co-founder and co-chief executive, Unruly and Made in Britain winner of Marketing’s New Thinking Awards

Getting more emotional

As the digital skills shortage bites and agility becomes the watchword, progressive firms will break down silos and get cross-functional teams working closer together in crack squads to make the most of everybody’s skills.

Leaner, nimbler operations will yield results for advertisers and a healthier bottom line for innovative agencies.

On the supply side, we’ll see many emergency drills and some strategic plays to survive the ‘adblockalypse’. Publishers will launch more native and consumer-friendly ad formats as they endeavour to keep people on-side and slow the rising tide of ad-blocking; this is the year they’ll get their first-party data fit for purpose as they focus on maximising yields.

They’ll be in experimentation mode, building in-app audiences and trialling new monetisation models and partnerships, such as Facebook instant articles.

From a technology perspective, we’ll see increased M&A activity, as ad-tech consolidation continues and the sector experiences heightened volatility due to EU legislators throwing out Safe Harbour rules regarding data transfer.

Meanwhile, the tech triumvirate of Facebook, Google and Apple will fight it out with each other to shape the future of the internet.

Will it be app-based, browser-based or device-based? We may not know by the end of 2016. This is a war of attrition and there will be collateral damage.


Chief executive, Grey London

Contributing to society

In 2016 we’ll continue to see clients and agencies wrestling with data and disruptive technology. One of the biggest trends in that area will be the shift toward connected living. As all devices in the home become connected and part of the wider Internet of Things, the race is on to be the brand that controls all these relationships centrally. Google, Amazon or Apple are obvious contenders, but it would be interesting to see whether the likes of Tesla or energy companies could also credibly stake their claim on this area. 

When I started in advertising in the early 90s, more than a third of people in the UK said they preferred the ads to the programmes they surrounded. Less than 5% say that now. Advertising needs to have more ambition. Agencies and brands must contribute to society, by being useful or entertaining enough to remain relevant and deserving of people’s attention. 

To do that, we need the best, most diverse talent. There’s so much more we can do to help the emerging chief customer officer, so I’ll be continuing to bring new talent and skills into the agency either through acquisitions, partnerships or by simply finding and hiring extraordinary people.


Director of partnerships, Sky Media and judge of Marketing’s New Thinking Awards

Bringing it all together

With the unrelenting increase of platforms and opportunities, the challenge for advertisers in 2016 is how to integrate and understand cross-platform impact and effectiveness.

But with the scale, quality and accessibility of data now available, understanding this multiscreen behaviour is more achievable than ever.

As with all these changes, often the biggest challenge is to deliver new thinking to new problems – being prepared to be brave, to test and learn when these opportunities come along. We want to continue to make TV more relevant to more brands – reminding them that TV remains the most used, trusted and effective screen there is.

We also want to enable them to deliver seamless campaigns across TV and online through Sky AdVance; we think our 3m-homes viewing panel provides advertisers with an understanding they’ve always strived for. We mustn’t forget that, without great creative and storytelling, it just doesn’t work.

So it’s about bringing it all together to deliver compelling and effective advertising for everyone. For me personally, it’s keeping up to speed with all these changes, keeping that work/email/life balance as it should be.


Group chief executive and group chairman, AMV BBDO and Creative Excellence Winner (Sainsbury’s) of Marketing’s New Thinking Awards

Putting a premium on the important things

As the world gets more fragmented, specialised and complicated, there will be a premium on our expertise and capacity to simplify. As it changes at speed, there will be a premium on adaptability, resourcefulness and agility.

As tech provides myriad innovation opportunities, there will be a premium on the human insights with which we drive these innovations. As communications become programmatic and micro-personalised, there’ll be a premium on ideas that pull the strands together and experts who can build those ideas collaboratively and profitably.

There will be a premium on brand/consumer and agency/client relationships. The winning brands will understand their customers better than everyone else, make life simpler and demonstrate the humanity, transparency and responsibility required to build brand purpose and trust.


Chief operations officer, MediaCom

Getting personal with mobile

The biggest trend will be mobile taking centre stage. Companies that have invested in mobile – either to deliver product, make life easier for their customers or simply engage people – are among the most interesting, talked-about and successful today.

In digital media, companies such as Facebook and Google are seeing their growth coming from mobile, and the most-current start-up success stories are ‘mobile-first’.

At Cannes, the best examples of media innovation were connecting mobile and other channels such as out of home.

Next year, brand marketers will further exploit mobile to forge more personalised relationships with their customers, create more content designed specifically for the small screen and develop mobile products designed to add greater value to their customers. At MediaCom, we have an incredible family of clients.

Ensuring these relationships are long-term means staying at the top of our game, which requires retaining and attracting the best talent. Our culture is at the heart of this. We always challenge ourselves to keep things fresh while being true to our ‘People first, better results’ mantra.


Chief customer officer and global managing director, Dow Jones

Staying nimble in a new era

We’re going to see the explosion of video in the year ahead, from video on mobile to virtual reality. Video is set to account for 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2019, and mobile video plays increased 74% year on year in 2015.

At the same time, virtual reality is rapidly moving from a sci-fi concept to a seriously exciting opportunity for media and advertising, creating more interactive and immersive experiences that can engage customers on a whole new level.

We’re seeing lots of companies experimenting with VR; from CNN live broadcasting one of the Democratic presidential debates to VR headsets, to The New York Times partnering Google to send 1m of its readers free Google Cardboard VR headsets on which they can watch films produced by the Times.

One of the biggest priorities for Dow Jones in 2016 will be modernising our paywall. We need to create the next ‘new normal’ with it, staying nimble in a world where the blogosphere and social media are increasingly becoming the new home of breaking news. We need to create platforms where people don’t just read and listen, but can be heard and participate, and we’re increasingly shifting from thinking about subscriptions to thinking about memberships.

Another of our biggest priorities is focusing on what we call B2P: business-to-professional. Traditionally, our industry has been divided in two: the B2C world of The Wall Street Journal and the B2B world of our professional information products, like Factiva and Dow Jones Risk & Compliance. However, there is a sweet spot between the two where we can create powerful marketing campaigns that bring together the two sides of our business, and target all our customers in a truly human way.