#1 Ad-blockalypse now? By June 2015, almost 200 million internet users around the world were estimated to be using ad blocking technology. Evidence indicating the motivations for the use of ad blocking are starting to emerge; it paints a concerning picture of ad blockers as a one-stop-solution to people’s online concerns. Industry has only just begun to react but in 2016, we hope to start seeing the fruits of a coordinated response to address people’s concerns with advertising.
It’ll take a mighty and concerted effort by the whole of the industry to highlight the consequences of ad blockers for the creation of content and the benefits that advertising can bring to people’s lives.
#2 Ad Fraud, a rising tide? No one wants to pay for advertising that is never seen by a human or gets clicked by a bot. In 2016, the impact of ad fraud will be high on the agenda for many marketers as they seek to reduce its capacity to whittle away their media spend. A recent WFA survey found that more than 30% of digital budgets are consumed by fraud and other studies have claimed that global advertisers will lose $6.3bn to bots in 2015. Two thirds of WFA survey respondents have reported direct experience of impression fraud and 60% have experienced ad fraud ‘bots’. WFA believes that some of the structure and systems in the digital media ecosystem can allow such fraud to occur and that cross industry collaboration is required to reduce the problem. The WFA’s Global Transparency Group will be busy in 2016 issuing guidance to members to help reduce the impact.
#3 Transparency, top of the agenda: A hot topic for WFA since we were founded in 1953. In 2016, much attention will be focused on the outcome of the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) investigation into media rebates in the US, headed up by K2 and Ebiquity/Firm Decisions. But transparency is a global issue. The WFA will be updating its global transparency index in 2016 to help marketers identify which markets need the most careful management. Last time around in 2014, China, Japan and Brazil remained key markets of concern.
#4 Viewability, when the eye doesn’t see: Viewability has been a hot topic for much of 2015 and it will remain near the top of most marketers’ agendas in 2016. Advertisers are unhappy with the lack of clarity in existing definitions for viewability and an industry that can sell impressions that are only 70% viewable as “premium”. There will be increased pressure to reform the standard definitions for viewability and create measures with much greater integrity in this area. More and more brands will get tired of spending money on ads that don’t get seen and start allocating budgets only with media owners who can promise the presence of eyeballs for long enough to take in the brand message. The WFA’s MEDIAFORUM will be publicly clarifying brand owners’ position on this topic and providing guidance for WFA members.
#5 Capabilities, taking tasks in-house: Marketers will look to their own teams and those of their agency partners to ensure they have the ability to operate in today’s data-led environment. Marketers will make building a world-class team a priority in 2016 as they seek to develop their internal marketing resource, particularly in areas including programmatic, e-commerce and CRM. This drive to raise the bar will also extend to their agency partners, particularly in high growth markets where approaches can be less sophisticated. This will be a topic high on the WFA’s CMO and CDO FORUM agendas in Asia and Europe in particular.
#6 A future for marketing procurement? PepsiCo’s decision to disband its marketing procurement team sent ripples across the industry. Are more companies set to follow suit? The WFA experience suggests not with as many as 30% of brand owners currently hiring sourcing professionals. But the move may well indicate that the function needs to better demonstrate the value of marketing procurement to other internal stakeholders.
#7 Privacy pains. 2016 will see the finalisation of the wording of the General Data Protection Regulation, which will be the most comprehensive piece of data protection legislation ever. Businesses will have two years to comply but for many international companies this will involve substantial upscaling of privacy teams across all companies and an upskilling of all staff on privacy-related issues, including marketers. Equally as brands continue to strive to build stronger relationships with consumers online, will compliance be enough to allay mounting privacy concerns around the world? We predict that brands will have to build positive conversations with people in order to secure sustainable data flows in a consumer-empowered future.
#8 No let up from regulators. World Health Organisation (WHO) chief, Margaret Chan, is in no doubt as to why kids are increasingly overweight and obese: “The biggest harm comes from the marketing of sugar-rich non-alcoholic beverages and ultra-processed, energy-dense, and nutrient-poor foods, which are often the cheapest and most readily available […] Give these industries enough rope to hang themselves if they fail to deliver on voluntary agreements and marketing codes.” Regulators in over 30 countries are currently looking at regulating food marketing. Others target alcohol marketing while the marketing of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals find themselves under fire in some countries. Expect more of the same in 2016.
#9 Emerging issues, emerging protagonists. Industry has achieved a lot over the last few years in developing responsible marketing self-regulation. Policy-makers have shown their recognition of industry efforts, including APEC heads of state. But for every solution arises a new challenge. Increasingly, questions are being asked about marketing’s perceived role in driving unsustainable consumption patterns, childhood materialism, climate change and promoting gender stereotypes. Regulators and NGOs continue to drive the debate but new actors have entered the fray. UNICEF and OECD are two other organisations which will be asking tough questions through 2016. We’ll need to have answers.
#10 Bring public affairs closer to the business. Public affairs teams have a unique ability to bring what society really thinks into the boardroom. A trust deficit in corporations, the failure of ‘politics as usual,’ the technological disruption of one industry after another (including marketing) are just some of the trends that will become more acute in 2016. Companies need to understand how these different factors are coming together, putting Public Affairs as the go-to resource for senior business leaders. PA professionals will need to be compelling advocates for bold action and often agitators for change. WFA is witnessing more and more companies embedding smart PA thinking into the C-suite. We predict it will be the only way to keep pace with a fast-changing world.