Q&A with Russ Rickey, PhD, VP Strategy, McCann Canada
I’ll dust off the old crystal ball and share what I see. Come back a year from now and call me out on where I went wrong, but don’t forget to share kudos for all I get right.
What role do you think streaming platforms will take as we move into the new year?
While Netflix and Disney+ introducing ad-supported tiers to their platforms made all the news over the past year, we’ve all been living with the master of them all for some time now—YouTube. And you would be hard-pressed to see a digital media plan for a video-content campaign not include YouTube in its mix.
Adding new platforms to your media mix will still rely on understanding what audiences they reach and the return on investment you get from each. In a space that has seen tried-and-true methods of segmenting and targeting consumers diminish—from Apple introducing the do-not-track option to Google’s ongoing initiative to end third-party cookies—streaming platforms' data on their audiences will only increase in value to advertisers.
Add that the cord-cutting revolution is only picking up steam, with over a quarter of Canadian households now completely off cable and many more with a mix of cable and streaming platforms. Connected TV is a market more and more brands will look to explore. That said, not everyone on those platforms will look for ad-supported versions. Brands will have to understand if the consumers they look to reach are opting-in to the new ad-supported tiers or if they are remaining with the pricier ad-free options they have grown accustomed to.
What trends do you think will continue to grow and/or fizzle out in 2023?
Two of the many trends that will define 2023 are the growth of AI and metaverses.
For AI, the launch of text-to-art AI platforms such as Midjourney or DALL-E 2 has shown the world the fantastic ability of generative AI art. The recent announcement of ChatGPT showed off similar generative AI capabilities for text-based content. All these platforms, and the many others that are quickly coming to market, are remarkable and will radically open up how advertisers and brands approach their marketing. Art generators allow for rapid visualizations of an idea, while text versions create content on demand. But we are just on the cusp of what this technology can do and the potential dangers that come with it. From copyright
infringement to plagiarism, there are many social and political issues that these technologies open up that brands will have to navigate carefully.
Metaverses, and the plural is intended, also gained traction this past year and will continue to do so. The many concepts that fall under and beside metaverse make this a fun one to tackle, which is why it will be one to watch for 2023.
Video gaming, and the culture that surrounds it, continues to grow as an area where brands can connect with communities. The active metaverses continue to be gaming platforms like Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft. While they offer an opportunity to brands to reach customers, they inspire new virtual spaces for advertisers to experiment in such as Decentraland and The Sandbox. And it should be that, experimentation, as there are no guarantees which platform will truly capture the general public’s imagination, and it’s far too early to push all your efforts, and budget, into one.
Virtual and Augmented reality (VR/AR) also will be a hot area for brands to explore into 2023. Whether connected with the gaming world or other uses, this technology is in its infancy. Just as mobile technologies took several years to become the dominant digital space for consumers, VR and AR will likely need several years to grow into a more mature space for brands to play in. In the meantime, brands should continue experimenting but be aware that audiences are still small, and the only guarantee is change. Watch for when Apple comes to market—rumoured to be in 2023—with their headset to see if they can propel this next-generation technology.
Two related trends that are slowing down are NFTs and cryptocurrencies. These Web3 players taking a hit in 2023 by no means suggests that the decentralized ownership and control of the next wave of the internet is going anywhere. Web3 will continue to grow, but it will coexist with our current web for a long time. But the recent fall of FTX, the poster child of cryptocurrency exchanges, will likely dampen enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies for all but the most die-hard advocates for some time. And lustre on NFTs has also waned. Both technologies seem fraught with stories of people being taken advantage of, and frankly, are markets that most people don’t get. They won’t disappear by a long shot, but from an advertising perspective, they appear set to take a step back in 2023.
I fear that the trend that may fizzle out is Twitter. Love it or hate it (and really, most of us active on the platform do both) are tiring of the ongoing dramatics of its new owner. As many look for a suitable off-ramp, there has yet to be a clear winner that successfully replicates Twitter’s ability to find communities focused on the same thing in real-time with the ease of use that allowed so many to participate. But if that happens, many will likely abandon the daily controversies that Elon Musk has brought to the table.
With many consumers being wearier of data and cookie tracking, what advice would you give to brands on how to strategically use their dollars?
While consumers claim to be weary of data collecting, the real change will happen as the platforms we use eliminate third-party tracking. Apple has already done so with Do-Not-Track, and Google has postponed third-party cookies’ death from 2023 to 2024.
First, take a deep breath and start planning. The sky did not fall when Apple made their move, nor will it do so when Google follows.
And we should be honest. Cookies aren't the only technology used today to track users across the Internet; they won't be the last.
That said, now is the time to plan how to grow and make the most of your first-party data. Consumers want, and should have, control over the data they share with brands. Brands that build relationships with their customers and earn trust will have an incredible advantage whenever Google pulls the plug on third-party data.
And we will all have to watch and wait. The end of third-party cookies does not mean the end of tracking. The need for true end-user consent to process data will endure long after third-party cookies have been replaced. Google has made some first forays, mostly unsuccessful, in testing what comes next—hence the postponement—but they will come up with something.