Following a number of big announcements for the marketing industry in the second half of 2018, the coming 12 months will see significant pieces fall into place, with hiring expected to start for Amazon’s HQ2 in New York City, major marketing deals coming to fruition and legacy brands accelerating their focus on direct services to combat the rise of disruptors.
Underpinning these shifts will be heavier investments in data and e-commerce, with marketers turning more frequently to outside partners for help — but not always from the traditional agency suite. The demand for high-impact, purpose-driven creative messaging, delivered through a number of evolving channels like connected TV, will prove essential in distinguishing brands from competitors.
“Everybody has digital technology, everybody has access to capital — and so now the differentiation is the brand,” Keith Johnston, a research director at Forrester, told Marketing Dive.
But the window to make an impression with consumers will also be short and crowded this year, as outside factors like increased regulatory scrutiny of digital platforms, the ramp-up to the 2020 presidential election and the possibility of an economic downturn loom large. The need to improve growth and profitably during this period will ultimately guide more marketing decisions, creating new tensions while accelerating trends that became readily apparent in 2018.
“This means that advertisers will continue to cut costs wherever possible — agency fees, production costs and media spend — while investing in in-house capabilities to execute simple digital and social deliverables,” said Michael Farmer, chairman and CEO of Farmer & Co. and the author of “Madison Avenue Manslaughter.”
Pieces falling into place
The aforementioned Amazon HQ2 in New York — which could break ground later this year if all the necessary approvals come through — a push toward agency in-housing and big deals like IPG buying Acxiom will disrupt the landscape of agencies, platforms and, of course, the brands powering them in 2019. Indeed, the roles of players across the ecosystem will change, with marketers wearing more hats related to technology and growth while also asking partners to simplify their offerings and focus more on data services. Not all transformation will be positive: Ad holding groups like WPP will continue to tighten up and squeeze the most out of their portfolios in fiercely concentrated turnaround attempts, according to Farmer.
“WPP’s shift to [consolidate] and streamline its operation is indicative of what is already been happening at the other holding companies,” Jay Pattisall, a principal analyst at Forrester, told Marketing Dive. “The implications are: marketers will hire holding companies first and agencies second.”
That means more agencies must offer integrated enterprise technology platforms, as is the case with the Publicis People Cloud, per Pattisall. Consultancies, on the other hand, will take advantage of a bumpy period of agency transition to win over clients. On that front, a potential MDC Partners acquisition by Accenture will be one to watch in 2019. On the client side, CMOs will feel pressure to juggle myriad roles — around growth, learning and information — all while centering their brands more squarely around “purpose.” With the potential for a recession in the near future, savvy marketers will be presented with further economic challenges, but also opportunity.
“If you’re willing to invest during a downtime, you can leave your competition behind,” Johnston said.
Everyone will try to ‘Just Do It’
Speaking of purpose, more brands in 2019 will try to replicate the success of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign starring Colin Kaepernick, which has opened the floodgates for creative possibilities — but also new risks.
“There are no ‘off limit’ topics anymore,” Danielle Lee, Spotify’s global head of partner solutions, said in comments to Marketing Dive. “‘[W]hen the backlash comes (and it will come) you must be prepared to engage with the audiences you have made uncomfortable or even offended and unapologetically stand in your truth.”
High demand for braver marketing will spur brands with strong core values to expand on them, offering more comprehensive, actionable programs. “Consumers are really looking for: what’s the information beyond the purpose?” National Geographic CMO Jill Cress told Marketing Dive. “What can I actually do?”
By providing consumers with concrete steps for improving the world and themselves, brands will be able to convert devoted fans into a type of micro-influencer, according to Cress. Similarly, an often overlooked aspect of purpose that savvy marketers will tap into in 2019 will come from within company walls.
“Employees want to know where their companies stand,” Lee said. “Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option.”
By instilling a business with a clearly defined set of values, leaders will be able to energize their talent and closely link divisions like product, marketing and sales to drive stronger results.
“Really great marketers are going to use [purpose] to get out of these siloed situations,” Forrester’s Johnston said. “I think CMOs are going to use that as an opportunity to bring the C-suite together.”
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