Internet speeds are faster, more data is being mined and consumers are smarter, more tech-savvy and less susceptible to irrelevant information. Online users can choose what they want to see and choose to ignore what is shoved in their faces. In theory, re-targeted programmatic advertising solves the problem of irrelevant content – we use your online behaviour to sell you products that you already show interest in, right? 

Wrong. I fear that the effectiveness of these types of ads will decline in 2016 simply because of the hard-sell factor. Instead of using data to add value, programmatic ads are using it to sell products. The use of browsing data in display ads is largely seen as creepy. From what I have seen, the general sentiment is that corporates are spying on online users in order to sell more products. In our current climate, where privacy is of major concern, this will eventually alienate consumers and spur the further development of ad-blocking software, something that has already taken off on a mass scale. The novelty of retargeted ads is over and we need to find a way of selling products without being seen as bullies who use personal data to dupe users into buying products. South ParksTruth and Advertising" episode perfectly summarises the current state of online advertising in my opinion.

Instead of using this data to sell, we will need to use only the relevant information to give users “snackable” (easily consumable) content that will add value to their lives. Brands will need to play nice in order to gain trust and create brand-love. If your consumers love your brand they do the selling for you – everyone has an audience these days.

But how do we go about this? According to the IAB, South Africa’s mobile video consumption increased by 42% in the last year. This is the second highest growth rate recorded in their survey of 24 countries – first on the list was the US with a 50% increase. According to a report by Diode Digital, video promotion is 600% more effective than print and direct mail combined. They also claim 60% of site visitors would first watch a video, if available, before reading any text. We’ve seen evidence of this in our social media campaigns – video content gets much better engagement rates than text or image based posts.

In the past, South Africa’s general Internet speed was an issue when working with online video, but this is no longer the case. Our connection speeds have increased from a maximum of 21mbps in 2010 to ±150mbps in 2015 and it keeps getting faster. All the evidence points toward video being the future of marketing. Combined with the power of personalisation based on browsing behaviour, video will become an incredibly powerful medium for marketing. I’m not just referring to programmatic video advertising where we’ll show semi-relevant ads to users who already show intent, but completely dynamic, personalised video content. Using retargeting technology and dynamically adapting video to speak directly to individual users will dramatically change the way in which we communicate to online audiences.

Targeting will get increasingly narrower until we eventually speak to an audience of one, targeting individuals as opposed to the traditional target market or audience. There are already a number of tech companies working on using personalised video technology to generate content such as billing information and induction videos by using the recipients’ actual data, dynamically populated and served in real-time. My prediction is that 2016 will see video marketing, such as YouTube pre roll ads, become completely personalised. Brands who understand how their consumers think will take this further by feeding their online consumers personalised, value-added content, rather than ads. Brands who misuse big data to shove ads down consumers’ throats will carry on alienating them, just with a new medium.

The full Grey Trends 2016 report is available here.

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