The blurring of the lines between communication and technology will set up new opportunities in the advertising industry that will ignite greater personalisation of news content and analysis of user behaviour by marketers, as well as the development of strategies for wearables.
Yet mid-way through the first quarter of 2015, it is still native advertising that is the phrase on everyone’s lips, especially in light of the huge leaps forward the approach took last year.
Towards the end of 2014, The New York Times experimented with a native ad wraparound for Shell on its print product, which was widely praised as being both interesting, well-designed content and not misleading for readers.
According to Felix Krueger, custom solutions commercial manager at Fairfax Media, brands will take a giant leap toward successful content marketing.
“The driving force behind this trend will be publishers that enable brands to become publishers themselves, not only via native advertising, but also by offering content production services for brand-owned platforms,” Mr Krueger said.
Publishers and advertisers will begin to realise that wide reach on one particular platform is less important than creating strong audience engagement across titles on mo-bile, tablet, desktop and print platforms alike.
Fairfax Media launched its Brand Discover platform for native advertising in 2013, and the company’s innovation services product director Adam Mather said the success of that approach would lead the company to move beyond the confines of desktop sites.
“What we’re trying to do … is create smartphone- and tablet- optimised products, different approaches that work for those formats,” Mr Mather said.
NZME – formally APN NZ – launched its own advertising platform last year, Brand Insight, on the website of The New Zealand Herald. Late in 2014, the format changed from articles mixed in with regular editorial to a dedicated section on the site.
After this change, native advertising stories became some of the most shared and read content on the site, like ‘Married But Available’ – a first-person feature on the pace and the academic rewards of completing a Masters of Business Administration, funded by the University of Auckland.
Donna Gurney, agency sales director at NZME, said the results of their Brand Insight experimentation suggests that in 2015, native advertising pieces will become a destination for readers, rather than something publishers try to camouflage.
“Some might call native advertising a dressed-up advertorial, but true native partnerships go much deeper and, from what we’re seeing, also delivers exceptional results. Partnership is the key word here – great brands working collaboratively with content teams to create content that is authentic and engaging is a must,” Ms Gurney said.
“Articles are clearly marked as [being commercially funded] – we aren’t in the business of fooling our audiences. The fact is that good content is good content.”
Ms Gurney joined a number of other experts contacted by The Bulletin in flagging the rise of data collection and analysis as a key new role for agencies and publishers through 2015.
“Digital advertising will naturally start to divide into two distinct groups – programmatic/ data-led buying, and complex rich media/content/ bespoke campaigns,” Ms Gurney said.
Attribution modelling will also be key to the digital space, using browsing data such as cookies to trace the consumer behaviour process leading up to a purchase, according to Starcom media agency managing director, Annick Perrin. “
It helps us understand what happens before the last click,” Ms Perrin says. “It’s like on a soccer field – when a striker scores a goal, it’s not all him; there are four or five people who have made it happen,” Ms Perrin said.
“We’ve used it across multiple clients and it influences your buying mix, so it’s critical.
“Google has been working on a model to do it across platforms which would be the holy grail.”
The key to making relevant content, Ms Perrin says, is the right data. Starcom uses first-, second- and third-party data collated from media partners and clients to deliver the right advertising content at the right time.
“It’s about connecting all the dots – content, programmatic, audience segmentation, platform, social – and bringing that all together,” Ms Perrin said.
“This year there will be a huge focus on understanding data better, including cross channel analytics, which help us understand which part of the mix is the most effective.
“When you connect the content and data it’s very powerful.”
Global CEO and Australian executive chairman of Mediabrands Henry Tajer says the capability of technology to liberate data in ways not previously possible would continue as the major influencing factor within the industry.
“At Mediabrands we have … developed capabilities and entire businesses that complement our traditional service- based approach with technology-based solutions for our clients,” Mr Tajer said.
“Investment in intelligent attribution products that create automated, real-time decision making capability is a core focus for 2015.”
He said the key challenge for agencies in adapting to the changing print and digital landscape is to make sure organisations can clearly see where they need to be, and what they need to change to get there.
In 2015, agencies will need to shift from being communications experts to being providers of technology solutions, according to Mr Tajer.
“The continued evolution of our industry will be dependent on three factors: firstly, our ability as professionals to combine forces to ensure we are riding the technology wave, not caught in its rip,” Mr Tajer said.
“Secondly, as individual businesses, we need to be brave enough to reinvent ourselves as future-proofed, technology- centric organisations, a major departure from where we have been,” he said.
“Thirdly, having the right people to drive the thinking and intelligence behind the technology. This will be the differentiator.”
A merging of technology and communications is a theme also raised by Gai Le Roy, the director of research at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).
“I know it has been said before, but it is no longer art versus science – it is an exciting era of art and science,” Ms Le Roy said.
“I am really hoping to see some killer local creative this year that leverages data in cool new ways.”
Ms Le Roy also drew special attention to video consumption on mobile devices, saying the demand for video inventory remains strong.
She said agencies must “provide safe environments and accurate reporting” for video use on mobile devices, and that video and TV campaigns must be developed for multiple “screens.”
“The incredibly hot SVOD [subscription media on demand] space will continue the battle for media companies to find the best mixed revenue model for their business,” she said.
The increasing interest in the technology world on intelligent software that can track and understand the needs of its users is also a natural point of focus for publishers this year.
This is an area that News Corp Australia’s head of innovation Mark Drasutis is keenly following.
“With the number of signals in relation to a reader’s interests, passions and likes ever expanding with social media, mobile apps and cognitive computing, we can start to look at anticipation engines across the world of media content,” Mr Drasutis said.
“Targeting the right content, at the right time, on the right device is something we are looking into across all of our digital offerings,” he said.
Mr Drasutis highlighted the buzz around the ‘internet of things’ – connected appliances and wearable technology constantly online – and said that such technology would allow publishers to beef up engagement around editorial content.
“The ‘tap on the shoulder’ is critical to the success of great journalism and truth cutting through the noise, and in 2015 this will become further evolved … to tie together anticipation [engines] and wearables,” Mr Drasutis said.
“This will tie together your daily habits and also learn what content you prefer to consume, when and where,” he said.
“The world will move to omnipresent connectivity, so … providing the best content offering via the right channel will become key for media organisations and marketers. It is no longer good enough to offer the same content in all channels – there will be a need to understand how the internet of things is driving the preferences of customers and readers.”
With the Apple Watch set to launch this April, Mr Drasutis poses a question that publishers all over the world will be pondering: “How do you package breaking news for a watch?”
Starcom managing director Annick Perrin says the organisation will look to connect with clients on a more personal level in 2015.
“We’re focusing on helping our clients with content development – ensuring we understand their audience segmentation and that we’re sending out content through digital or other areas that are relevant and tailored,” she says.
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