Three top marketing trends to watch in 2022
Despite concerns about how the pandemic would impact its prospects, the advertising sector rebounded in 2021 with a 6.3% spike in spend across Europe. In fact, recent reports show marketing budget growth climbed at its strongest rate in four years, with over 25% of IPA Bellwether respondents reporting increases in Q3. These figures hint at a digital marketing and advertising industry that firmly regained its footing through last year. Nevertheless, the landscape continues to experience persistent shifts. As innovation powers ahead and COVID-19 changes roll on, new content consumption habits are evolving into higher customer expectations. At the same time, greater demand for meaningful marketing and messaging is making strong brand purpose a permanent priority. For those who weathered ongoing transformation during 2021, ensuring success in 2022 will require greater understanding of the biggest industry trends. Here is our pick of the most important areas to watch in the year ahead:
CTV scale and sophistication soars
Standing as strong as ever, TV and video viewing figures averaged at about 5 hours a day across the world in 2020. Moreover, TV has become more versatile in its offerings. Already playing host to more than just linear programming before COVID-19, video on demand (VOD), short-form video, pay-per-view TV, and connected TV (CTV) are all growing in importance: the number of UK users accessing CTV at least once a month surpassed 41.1 million in 2020, while more than 50% of European households now own connected TVs. Unsurprisingly, this surge in adoption has led more marketers to increase their CTV buying: from H1 2020 to H1 2021, there was a recorded rise of 50% in global open programmatic ad spend. As pandemic habits persist and CTV takes its place as a key feature of media plans, we can also expect this mass usage to bring greater focus on enhancing efficiency at the buying and measurement level. Indeed, recent TVSquared data from the US shows a growing demand for clarity around performance, as well as more streamlined solutions – with cross-platform TV measurement and attribution (86%) and integrated campaign management across linear and streaming (89%) high up in terms of priorities. Despite these challenges, however, the CTV sphere is evolving to align with expanding requirements. Recent years have brought increased focus on the need to revamp traditional measurement approaches — such as panel surveys and gross ratings points — as well as positive progress. For instance, 2021 saw the UK launch of Comcast’s CFlight: a universal metric for online and offline impressions, adapted for pan-broadcast use by Sky, Channel 4 and ITV. Tying in with BARB’s Project Dovetail, the initiative blends linear TV and broadcast video on-demand (BVOD) data with delivery insight from individual sales houses to provide post-campaign analysis of cross-channel TV impact: covering total incremental reach, as well as frequency. Moreover, greater determination to refine targeting precision in privacy-secure ways is also poised to push development further ahead. Building on existing addressability advances, innovations in micro-cohorts — encrypted aggregates of up to a few hundred individuals, sorted by geographical location or household — will be a particularly interesting trend to watch. With more CTV consumers demanding more content than ever before, micro-cohorts may be the answer to key questions around precision targeting.
Enter the metaverse
An interest in convergent technologies carries us through to the next trend: the metaverse. Facebook’s recent rebranding as Meta promises the hybridised virtual space that audiences have been waiting for since Neal Stephenson first coined the term in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. As such, the global tech giant has positioned itself at the cusp of digital innovation, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg setting out his potential vision for a future “embodied internet”. Within Meta’s planned ecosystem, users will go beyond current 2D environments and be present in online spaces, instead of viewing them through screens – mostly via virtual reality and augmented reality (VR and AR), but also through apps. The metaverse, though still largely undefined, is destined to be a space of opportunity, with expansive potential from business and fitness, to education and entertainment. Zuckerberg wants to build a world for communities and creators where individuals can work, play, and interact with each other in one unified digital space. And while this vision might still be in its nascent stages, we are already seeing how marketers could thrive within an evolved metaverse. Games giants David Baszucki, CEO of Roblox, and Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games have professed their support in words and actions; both games have already initiated virtual gatherings in the form of concerts, embracing the metaverse in terms of products and services. This immersive and consistent engagement holds unprecedented prospects in terms of access to data, audiences, and refined targeting. As Fortnite has demonstrated by developing one-off events into a whole series — such as the Soundwave Series — there is scope for brands to use virtual experiences to attract and relate to their audiences in new, creative, and interactive ways.
Aligning messaging to consumer sentiment
The pandemic has made its mark on consumer attitudes and preferences. Brands that want to maintain a strong connection to their audience need to balance moving towards recovery on one hand, while presenting consistent commitment and focus on contemporary issues on the other. Across Europe and the US, data reveals that people are keen to broaden their horizons where they can; professionally, financially, and personally. Amid nearly two years of ongoing and variable restrictions, and a growing urge for new and rewarding experiences, many are eager to invest in themselves; whether via career pivots, prioritising quality time with family and loved ones, or spending more on plans to live out dreams, when the opportunity becomes available. To leverage this appetite for greater fulfilment and enjoyment, brands will need to ensure the experiences they offer create a sense of playfulness and exploration, in addition to personal meaning. Some forward-looking players have already moved to start creating more inspiring advertising efforts. Key among them are recent Lexus collaborations with music artists highlighting the freedom its smart technology provides for greater self-expression, as well as PlayStation’s celebration of gamers who defy the rules and play without limits. Alongside an increased eagerness to seize the moment, there has been a rise in conscientiousness for the planet. Environmental issues and responsible action have come to the fore amid a pandemic-amplified focus on personal values and events such as COP26. Spurred on by these developments, over half of UK customers (52%) have adapted their priorities and begun opting for brands with better eco credentials. In turn, many well-known brands, such as Samsung, Levis, and Nike, have already stepped up to the task with their various reuse, resell, and repair initiatives. As environmental awareness grows, this shift will continue; making it a priority for brands to show the authenticity and commitment consumers now expect. Remaining consistent in sustainability, as well as in environmental efforts, while simultaneously maintaining genuine brand messaging and voice will be key. There are many forces currently vying for attention in the marketing world, each as important and transformative as the next. Developments in technology and all things virtual will bring interactions between consumers and brands to dizzying new heights. There will be opportunity for more insights into customer behaviours, as long as these abilities are harnessed properly and in line with ongoing privacy concerns. Finally, individuals are poised between excitement, exhilaration, and awareness when it comes to future purchases. Brands need to keep multiple plates spinning in order to stay in the game, and these three areas are a good place to start.