It looks like 2015 is going to be another eventful and disruptive year. But then, perhaps we should be used to that by now.
After all, the marcoms sector has already seen a plethora of new technologies, strategies and approaches that aim to reinvent how we work. Countries like China and India are changing how the industry thinks, while digital has had the sort of explosive effect that the invention of the power loom had on textile manufacturing a couple of centuries ago.
But what is it about the coming year that particularly stands out? For starters, we can see big things on the horizon in the UK, US and Asia.
In the UK, there’s a General Election coming up. With the recent successes of UKIP the contest is more open than it’s ever been and the possible permutations of coalitions and alliances could result in wide swings to either end of the political spectrum. The stakes are high for all the spin doctors, marketers and communication advisors involved.
This could just generate a lot of tacky mudslinging, but it could also mean some outstanding creative (Love it or hate it, the ‘Labour isn’t working’ campaign was very clever) and ground-breaking use of social media, data and technology, building on the lessons from the US Obama campaign.
Depending on the outcome, this election could also see a significant shift in British culture and consumer thinking that happens maybe once a decade, such as during the Thatcher or Blair eras. Marketers of all types will need to be in tune with any shifts in sentiment and respond accordingly.
In the US, the Federal Reserve’s recent announcement of the end of its bond-buying programme signals that the US economy is gradually recovering – and also leads investors to believe that the Fed will soon raise interest rates sometime in the first half of 2015.
With a growing economy, consumer trends in mobile, video, social and big data analytics can expect to increase. As a result, US digital advertising spending is forecast to nearly double to $80bn and make up 40 per cent of total media spend by 2017.
Venture capital firms and large advertisers have already picked up on this expected growth, leading to increased M&A activity in the adtech industry. Larger firms, such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, are beginning to create their own adtech units rather than go through agencies.
To compete, US adtech companies have begun to develop solutions across all media channels; utilise user purchases and location data for ad targeting; and advance programmatic advertising campaigns on real-time exchanges. As adtech becomes more of a commodity in the digital economy, the key to agencies staying ahead is to find ways to differentiate themselves – by either being acquired or expanding their products and services.
And in North Asia, we’re expecting more M&A activity on the global stage led by Chinese firms and followed closely by Japanese enterprises, who have war chests to acquire and the desire driven from ‘Abenomics’ (Prime Minister Abe’s strategy to recover from economic malaise through investment – the jury is still out on whether it’ll work). While in China, part of the Xi administration’s strategy will embrace Joseph Nye’s ‘soft power’ (the way the ‘land of the free’ USA has done so successfully) to win over the international community with its culture and values.
Meanwhile, business model innovation means the world will increasingly need to follow the opinions and moves of entrepreneurial titans like Ma (Alibaba, left), Huateng (Tencent), Li (Baidu), Jun (Xiaomi), Son (Softbank) and Mikitani (Rakuten).
It’s an exciting time for the industry and don’t be surprised if there are some more big (and surprising) announcements over the next 12 months. It’s a good thing that marcoms and adtech is based on innovation and disruption, because there’s a lot more of both ahead.
Keith Hunt is managing partner of Results International.