Change is Good: What Lies Ahead in 2017?

Stuart Flint from AOL shares his insights on the areas that they expect to dominate discussions in the media industry during 2017.

Think back over the past year. What's been the thing that's impacted you most in your job?

For some people, it will perhaps be some aspect of the momentous global change that we've seen in 2016. Be that Brexit, President-elect Trump or even the death of a cultural goliath, ranging from Bowie to Cohen.

For others, it will be change in our industry. At the start of 2016, it seemed ad blocking was the topic de jour for all in media. More recently, there's been huge shifts in the media landscape with a seemingly never ending stream of global media pitches. And let's not forget consumers rampant appetite for all things mobile and video.

The point is this. Change happens. Every year, every month, every day. And it's often seismic. Sometimes that change is challenging. Every time, it is an opportunity to think about your job, your team and your business.

With that in mind, here are some of the areas where I anticipate seeing change in 2017. However, after the year that's been, there is every chance we could come back to see a completely different picture this time next year...

Mobile won't stop growing

Mobile will continue to explode. Estimates by eMarketer* show that in 2017 the volume of smartphone users (53.1%) will become the majority of all mobile users for the first time. With the number of global connections closing in on 8 billion according to the GSMA, and smartphones set to dominate, marketers and publishers will have to up their mobile game in the next 12 months.

Let's consider also that the 'phone' element of smartphones is becoming less important, as it is also an entertainment screen, an image sensor, and a wallet – to name just a few. Looking at these unique capabilities of mobile, some of the more exciting areas of opportunity we see come from the emergence of new ad formats – in particular 360, virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and live video, which will all become ubiquitous as we enter an era of 5G - and marketers reaching mobile users in more diversified, sophisticated and holistic ways.

Video continues to dominate

Growth in video, and mobile video especially, has been exponential over the past two years. According to Cisco's Visual Networking Index (VNI) 2016, having already surpassed 50 percent last year, three-fourths of the world's mobile data traffic will be video by 2020. Next year that growth is expected to grow by an 11-fold increase once again.

This growth is because sight, sound and motion remain one of the most engaging ways to reach consumers across any device. Hand in hand, video and mobile are going to dominate media in 2017 and for many years to come. Along with the aforementioned 360, VR, AR and live video, I hotly anticipate new video technologies to be adopted by consumers and shake up the way we marketers think about trying to engage them in 2017.

Publisher power

In the past, most technology platforms in the ad ecosystem have been developed as advertiser-first. However, in 2016, we saw stronger tools emerge for publishers, giving them more flexible platform technologies, more consumer-centric formats and advanced targeting capabilities. This has helped them move from being largely direct response-focused. Now, they can deliver on the KPIs that advertisers want.

Header bidding and automated price floor optimisation (PFO) are a couple of the better examples. Both have become more prevalent in the last 12-18 months, helping publishers boost their own yield. And they're doing it through programmatic. Before, there was sometimes a hesitance to push inventory through those tools. But now they can do that because they can secure a premium or the best price for each impression in real time. As traffic continues to be consumed off platform, technology platforms will become ever more important in solving the monetisation piece for publishers continue to improve how publishers actually get paid fairer prices for their own content in the coming year.

Data matures

In 2016, we saw brands and publishers step up to improve consumer touch points by creating quality ads and content that audiences find valuable, personal and relevant. This is in part because consumers are increasingly mobile, and marketers need to reach them where they are through improved premium ad experiences while giving them control if they are to successfully engage.

This is a trend that will continue as creatives will move more quickly to fully embrace data as a foundation and guiding force, using it to develop concepts that directly align with the value audiences seek in their content, and understand how technology can be utilised to create personalised experiences, in order to keep up with the industry. New technologies will reshape video, mobile advancements will unlock personal touch points, and an emphasis on the consumer will drive the industry forward.

Accountability & Trust

The C-suite is demanding as much accountability from their marketing investments as they are for all other types of investments, and CMOs are under pressure to deliver measurable ROI. The growth of technology into advertising has simultaneously created new threats to media accountability as well as opportunities for advertisers to show more actionable information.

In order for CMOs to answer these demands, they need to trust that investments are not wasted on fraud and can be effectively evaluated across channels. As such, media and tech providers need to enable brands and agencies to use preferred measurement vendors of choice, and not lock them into a 'walled garden'. Expect to see an increasingly vocal industry push for more open transparent working relationships that are accountable and ensure trust.

* eMarketer data, September 2016