6 digital trends to watch out for in 2016

The digital juggernaut continues to roll on. It has been an interesting year for the digital ecosystem. There was some introspection as there was a rude awakening from age old concepts, while exciting new prospects gained even more popularity. With India having overtaken the US as the second largest internet population, the stage is all set for digital advertising.

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Jan 18, 2016 9:10 AM
6 digital trends to watch out for in 2016

The digital juggernaut continues to roll on. It has been an interesting year for the digital ecosystem. There was some introspection as there was a rude awakening from age old concepts, while exciting new prospects gained even more popularity. With India having overtaken the US as the second largest internet population, the stage is all set for digital advertising.

As we welcome in the new year, this would be an opportune time to consider the digital revolution taking in the country. 

As more and more marketing dollars are being invested on online campaigns, brands and marketers have also started to look for smarter ways of using this medium.  Concepts like mobile advertising and programmatic buying are also maturing with both publishers and networks starting to understand that old concepts of buying and selling will not apply to the new ecosystem. The disruption caused by platforms like Twitter and Facebook has also been interesting to follow in 2015 and these will continue have a major impact on digital advertising going forward.

Content Is King of Online
The old adage of re-using content from offline media online has thankfully fallen out of favour. As 2015 showed, creativity can be applied to online content, irrespective of what is being done on print or TV. The year saw a number of interesting digital only ads that captured everyone's imagination. Also, as brands like Nissan, carried out big budget, digital-exclusive campaigns, it further provided an impetus to agencies to use the medium more creatively. With long formats ads becoming more popular, we might see even more creative expressions on the online medium. 

Social Media is No Longer just about Twitter Or Facebook
Twitter and Facebook have long been the most important social platforms for brands. In fact, a number of brands usually restrict their social campaigns to just Facebook. But with Twitter recently bringing their self serve ad model to India, we have seen a rise in popularity of the platform towards the latter half of 2015. This will only further increase in 2016. 

LinkedIn gives app a Facebook makeover

But it is not just Twitter that has seen a surge in popularity. Though Facebook still remains the favourite social platform, other platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are also increasing in popularity. With both Instagram and Pinterest debuting an ad business model in 2015, brands can now carry out targeted campaigns on both platforms. Snapchat is another platform that has yet to be explored but promises exciting opportunities for marketers. 

Speaking about Instagram, Gautamm Mehra, VP and Head (Social Media) at iProspect India says, “It is a very visual medium so it is a great way of telling brand stories. There is a huge interest for it since last year among brands. We have seen CPM for Instagram grow by 20-30 per cent since the launch of Instagram Advertising (in September 2015).”

LinkedIn has also given its flagship mobile app a makeover, making it more like Facebook, with a clear focus on content and newsfeed. The intention is clear; to make it more attractive for users and, thus, improve LinkedIn's standing with potential advertisers. As the online audience gets more fragmented and as brands look for increasingly more effective ways to target this audience, all these platforms will be important additions to a brand's social media strategy.

Brands Will Rethink Display Advertising
Ever since Google announced late in 2014, and then reiterated it in 2015, that more than 50 per cent of all ads on its network are not visible, brands had a rude awakening of sorts.

 Since then, viewability has become one of the most talked about concepts in digital advertising. This is also causing a lot of thought to be given about the nature and scope of traditional display ads. As brands look for more interactivity, rich media ads and more creative display options are becoming popular. 

The rising popularity of ad blockers is also a cause for brands who just indulge in traditional display advertising. Though display advertising might not die off any time soon, it is an era is definitely drawing to a close.

A change that this is causing is in the way publishers and advertisers now approach digital advertising. The era of the traditional ad network if fading. We have seen, in India, over the course of last year, many traditional ad networks either shutting shop or getting bought and assimilated by bigger organizations. This consolidation is likely to continue in 2016 as both publishers and advertisers get more savvy about digital advertising.

As traditional ad networks become obsolete, media agencies bet big on programmatic ad space

“Increasing views cannot always be the sole or primary objective for any advertiser or brand. It is critical to find the right balance between addressing the correct audience segment, providing a positive user-experience and enabling high audience-engagement to ensure great return on investment,” says Ankit Rawal, GM (India) at InMobi. 

Lavin Punjabi, CEO of Affinity, also agrees that banner blindness is a major cause for concern for all digital advertisers and something that can only be addressed by more creative use of ad inventory and ad formats. 

“Newer formats should be an on-going endeavor for all publishers. Going native is one example of this. But improving quality of creatives is another very important route where publishers / agencies need to start putting the foot down and maybe start rejecting poorly designed creative,” opines Pancham Endlaw, Head (South Asia) at Opera Mediaworks. 

Virtual Reality, Wearable Technology Will Be the Next Big Thing
Facebook is already working hard on Occlus Rift and Mark Zuckerberg has identified it as a key focus area for the company in coming years. Brands and digital agencies have been carrying out their own experiments with virtual reality in a bid to see how this revolutionary technology can be used to communicate with consumers in a more interactive and interesting way. Wearable technology is also becoming a more ubiquitous as the Internet of Things comes closer and closer to becoming a reality. These are exciting times for technology enthusiasts and marketers will be waiting to cash in on these emerging technologies.

Video Will Be Big, Of Course
To say that video advertising will draw a major share of digital budgets is a given. As we mentioned earlier, marketers are increasingly looking at creating long format content to engage customers. We have already seen the likes of The Viral Fever and All India Bakchod working with brands to create branded content. Subtle, and not so subtle, plug- ins are all part of the game. 

“Video content is going to be huge. It is something everyone is talking about,” said one digital publisher, who did not wish to be named.

Digital agencies and advertisers are already excited about the prospects and we can expect a lot of interesting things once 4G networks become more easily available to all.

2015 saw a number of new start ups in the digital content space. Well known entrepreneurs like Ronnie Screwvala and personalities like actor Suresh Menon, have also invested in this space, showing that it is a potential that everyone recognises. Netflix has also recently entered the Indian market and the presence of experienced players like Netflix will further help the digital content ecosystem to mature.

The Programmatic Ecosystem Will Continue to Mature
The programmatic advertising ecosystem is still relatively new and hence still prone to encounter hiccups. But with ad tech firms and publishers pushing for more efficient ways of monetizing and serving ads, there is a change in the offing. Google is expected to launch a “booking feature” in India, wherein advertisers can pre-book ads programmatically for a future period. This concept is certainly going to interest media agencies and brands and is also something that is being spoken about in ad tech circles. Publishers have also started building teams to develop their programmatic capabilities by hiring experienced talent and this trend will continue in the coming months. In 2015, Times Internet launched the Colombia Traffic Network, to leverage its extensive digital content properties. For a premium publisher, it is a smart move as it reduces dependency on external agencies. Expect more of the big publishers to come out with something similar in 2016.

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