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Media Buying in 2020: A Look Ahead at The Evolution and Trends

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Simply put, if you are currently wondering how “digital” might change your media buying, you’re probably already behind the curve.  Data and personalization have fundamentally and irreversibly changed the media buying landscape.

The saying that “there’s no longer any such thing as ‘digital marketing’, only ‘marketing’” may be well-worn, but it has considerable truth.

The media buying strategies that will lead the way in 2020 and beyond won’t take a particular approach just because they’re ‘digital’, ‘data-driven’, or ‘on-trend.’ That is the kind of indiscriminate ‘reactivity’ likely to end in misdirected, wasteful expenditure of time spent trying to ‘catch an advertising wave’ that’s long-since passed.

Rather, the businesses likely to succeed are those that take a more targeted approach, and critically assess how specific developments impact, interact with, and can augment their wider media-buying strategy.

That’s why identifying today what is on the media-buying horizon for tomorrow (that is 2020 and beyond) is so vital.  It allows you to consider proactively what particular trends will mean for your business, and how to act strategically to maximize the advertising opportunities they present.

So which trends should be on your radar?


AI-driven ad sales

The need for a judicious approach to tech-driven media buying is most evident in AI-driven sales.

That firms will increasingly use AI to provide deeper insights into where to target their advertising is beyond doubt.  A 2018 Econsultancy survey of 400 marketers found that 80% of marketers surveyed were already using, or planned to use, AI for audience targeting and segmentation.

That trend line will surely only go in one direction.

The reasons are self-evident: AI can interrogate data in volumes and at speeds that humans simply cannot match. Whether they would admit it or not, marketers may also be tempted into thinking that, by investing in AI, they can show their higher-ups that they are ‘forward-thinking.’

But again, used injudiciously, AI risks being nothing more than a costly money-drain.  Limitless data, or the most advanced automation or machine-learning technologies, are worth little if they don’t actually deliver useful information and insights about a firm’s marketing any better than their existing processes can.

As such, for any business considering the use of AI, the key is to assess that use in the context of both your wider strategy and existing human capital, to ensure it would be additive, rather than duplicative (or worse, reductive). This is not necessarily easy – in 2018, a third of marketers identified integration into existing processes as the principal barrier to using AI– but the potential gains from getting it right are significant.


‘In-house’ advertising

The challenges of ‘intelligent’ AI integration reflect another continuing trend – the increasing convergence between advertising and marketing (and indeed, between those and other corporate functions), and the consequent need for those functions to work seamlessly together.  To take one example: as marketing teams increasingly gather customer data, to avoid falling foul of the (rapidly-tightening) data privacy laws around the world, effective engagement with legal and compliance functions becomes imperative.

Against that backdrop, 2020 may see more businesses following the lead of Bayer, and bringing some or all of their advertising functions in-house. This does come with challenges (in particular hiring the necessary, scarce talent).  Nor will it be practicable or desirable for many firms to fully insource their advertising.

But before dismissing insourcing, remember that this is not a binary choice.

The world of work is evolving.  Freelancing and ‘gig’ working are booming.  Firms are now able to procure – agilely and on-demand – bespoke external (or short-term) services and talent that precisely complement and ‘plug gaps’ in their in-house capabilities.  By going beyond broad functional categories and off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all solutions, and looking instead at how specific business needs can best be fulfilled, therefore, the opportunity exists for firms to tailor-make a marketing and advertising function that is – in Goldilocks’ words – “just right.”


Towards an ‘ambient’, omnichannel approach?

The “no digital marketing; just marketing” mantra may soon apply equally to “programmatic marketing”.

Already, emerging consumer technologies (virtual and augmented reality, digital assistants, wearables, etc.) are providing new opportunities for programmatic buying.  And today’s predominant advertising channel – video – is likely (unless and until overtaken by new, disruptive technologies) to grow further in its centrality to businesses’ programmatic buying strategies.

In parallel, however, technology is also extending the benefits of programmatic buying to ‘traditional’ channels that previously appeared out of reach.  As all aspects of our lives become ‘connected’, and we move towards a world of so-called ‘ambient intelligence, the opportunities for targeting advertising, or gathering multi-layered behavioral insights, appear near-limitless.  In the immediate term, the first step towards such ‘ambiance’ appears to be OOH – Clear Channel already offers near-real-time auctions for digital boards, and that trend will only broaden and accelerate in the future.

What does this mean for marketers? Primarily, in an ‘omni-programmatic’ world, it suggests moving towards an omnichannel approach, one that allows firms to integrate (and agilely flex) their programmatic buying across platforms to reach customers in real-time, wherever they are. It will become vital for firms to be able to accurately compare the effectiveness (e.g. ROAS) across all such platforms. As such – and particularly as new technologies (such as addressable TV) enable greater cross-channel alignment of KPIs – traditional ROAS measures (e.g. C3/C7 for TV) may need to be revisited.

Indeed, the most effective firms will likely go further still, adapting all their KPIs to focus not only on the short term (impressions, new-customer conversions, etc) but also on longer-term customer retention, to provide a truly holistic picture of their ROAS. 


To 2020, and beyond

The technological evolution of advertising and media buying continues apace.

But – as the emergent trends show – ensuring your advertising remains at the leading edge and provides value-for-money is not just about utilizing as much technology as possible or diverting all expenditure to today’s ‘hot’, on-trend channel.

Rather, tomorrow’s marketing pace-setters will be those able to forensically target their use of new technology and advertising channels’, and to see those innovations through the prism of their wider short and long-term marketing strategy.

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We’ve helped some of the world’s top brands get more value out of their media buys and we can do the same for you. Ready to work with us? Still unsure? We’d love to hear from you.

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