China Insights

Digital & Media Predictions 2015

Duncan Southgate

Global Brand Director, Digital

Digital 22.01.2015 / 09:30

Since 2009, Millward Brown experts from around the globe have offered annual predictions for the coming year – forecasting the hottest digital and media trends and providing recommendations.

Predicting the future isn't easy, but Millward Brown's media and digital expertise allows us to provide reliable insights into the important emerging trends and their implications for our clients and the world of advertising.

In 2015, we foresee ever-greater tension between four competing channel-planning perspectives. New technologies are emerging all the time that give media agencies greater control over how and when consumers are exposed to brand messages, but there are still huge challenges surrounding how to connect plans across media silos and how to reduce and make sense of digital data complexity. Creative agencies have a more exciting box of tricks and more ad formats to play with than ever before, but telling a coherent, consistent, and connected multiscreen and multimedia story across different audience generations is no easy task.

With many marketers increasingly placing the machine in control, programmatic buying can result in smarter targeting of messages based on location and behavioral learning, yet there remain many questions about whether programmatic campaigns can add up to a meaningful brand-building story. Will programmatic and brand building simply compete, or can they potentially complement and enhance? Finally, there are more planners keen to place the consumer in control, ensuring that brand messages fit neatly into their consumer's lifestyle and that the brand is there for their consumers whenever and wherever they choose to reach out.

At the center of these silos are brand marketers looking to build their brand's differentiation for the long term, steering a steady course through new and uncharted waters. We hope these predictions help you make sense of the changing digital and media landscape for 2015 and beyond so you can remain on top of the latest important trends without being distracted by every shiny new thing.3

1. Second screen syncing brings greater multiscreen control

by Hannah Walley

New second screen sync technologies offer great potential to amplify your own TV spend… or to hijack that of competitors!

Last year, Millward Brown predicted that meshing (simultaneous viewing of related content across multiple devices) would give birth to a new era of multiscreen advertising. Since then, multiscreen advertising has indeed exploded, with marketers increasingly taking advantage of these user behaviors. For 2015, we expect this to go one step further with controlled second-screen syncing set to appear on more and more media plans.

Second screen syncing is planning your media so that within seconds of your TV ad airing, a complementary ad appears on consumers' digital screens. Time-synced digital media plans use listening technology to identify when a specific TV ad airs; the technology then triggers the ad server to buy up available inventory across a network of sites, and the digital ad appears for a short period following the TV spot. For example, an automotive display ad with a link to book a test drive could be synced with the TV spot. Ideally, buying ad space in this timely way will increase the chances of simultaneously reaching your audience both on- and off-line. Most syncing technology can run digital ads across desktop, mobile, and tablet, so advertisers are able to reach their TV audience by the second screen of their choice.

Syncing provides brands with the opportunity to amplify their message and improve exposure, thus increasing ROI on their advertising spend. It's important to note that syncing shouldn't be just about amplification and frequency, it's also a new storytelling opportunity. Brands should continue the story online and add extra value for those who have just watched the TV spot. This should hopefully reduce the potential feeling of stalking that some consumers may experience when TV and digital screens behave in a connected fashion.

This technology can also be used for competitor ad targeting, so you can plan your digital ad to run at the same time as a competitor's TV ad and deliver targeted counter-claims. Syncing could also be used to promote products complementary to those being advertised on TV, for example a Coca-Cola digital ad following a Smirnoff TV commercial. It is an exciting time of change for media planning and buying, and the true impact of this form of targeting will be measured over the coming year as its use increases, and the impact on brand and behavior becomes known.

2. Breaking down social and mobile silos

by Ali Rana

The fragmented and competitive social and mobile landscape drives advertising innovation but brings with it inefficiencies and challenges.

Social and mobile media are hardly "new" media in 2015. But even as the brand dollars flow in more consistently and in greater volume, marketers are spending energy developing siloed strategies for each platform. These media have yet to achieve the sophisticated measurement of their more established counterparts-most platforms can only offer peeks inside their own performance. To prove their collective value, social and mobile platforms need to offer a more coordinated look at the landscape they occupy. 2015 will see the start of a transformation from "walled garden" marketing and measurement toward cross-device, cross-platform, and cross-media approaches that evidence the full impact of these platforms on brand equity, consumer behavior, and sales.

Individual platforms will provide more open, connected data, which links ad exposure to brand attitudes, consumer behaviors, and sales. Linking this data to established consumer panels will allow ever more fine-grained insights into the effects of all social and mobile marketing. Further consolidation in media ownership may also help standardize these data and processes.

Marketers can already grasp some threads of performance through standalone audience and attitudinal measurement.

Cross-platform measurement will not achieve the granularity of standalone measurement in 2015, but it will start to deliver insights into how brands and their media agencies can best harmonize their overall social and mobile strategy.

3. Not just big - intelligent

by Margaret Hung

In 2015, marketing will experience a mind shift in focus from "big" data to streamlined "intelligent" data.

Marketers are data rich but insights poor. Despite the promise of Big Data, investments in powerful data processing platforms can be costly and, at best, only marginally useful when marketers lack a firm understanding of the quality of the data and appropriateness of its applications. In 2015, we'll see brand marketers culling big data assets to "must haves," investing in analytic talent, and applying predictive analytics to orchestrate investments across retail and communication channels to drive brand equity and sales.

We also expect to see ever-greater collaboration between different platform owners to enhance consumer relevancy. China's online video platform, iqiyi. com, already uses Baidu's search data to inform pre-roll video ad targeting decisions; online giants Youku and Alibaba partner to link video ad exposure to online sales. If these partnerships are to succeed, the metrics at the core of these systems need to be smart, focused, and predictive of sales improvement.

Through exploration and experimentation, focus next year will shift from "big" to "intelligent" data. Human knowledge and expertise applied to big data assets and infrastructure will be recognized as key to translating the hype over Big Data into reality.

4. Paid advertising propels micro-video into the mainstream

by Jackie Bartolotta

Micro-video platforms provide smart paid marketing opportunities, but only brands who know, learn, and love those platforms will succeed.

Brands spent much of 2014 working to find a place on social micro-video platforms like Vine and Instagram. Their efforts so far have been earned media, as consumers rewarded their creativity with likes and shares, but there is now some movement into paid placements. Micro-video platforms will become more important as an ad channel in 2015, but brands will need to tread carefully to avoid consumer backlash for invading their personal space.

Micro-video is already transcending the online realm and starting to influence TV advertising. HP this year aired a 30 second commercial in the US that was made up completely of "Vinelebrities" from HP-sponsored Vines. Many more brands are tagging television ads with their Twitter or Instagram handle. In 2015 we will see more brands blurring these lines, and perhaps airing simple, 5-10 second TV creatives that mimic a Vine or Instagram style.

Brands embracing paid micro-video should be aware that these shorter ads might actually require more effort to be effective. Poor creative could have a negative impact, as consumers may become annoyed by clutter invading their personal territory. To optimize engagement, creative agencies will need to develop stories that work well across multiple micro-videos, and media agencies will need to learn how to optimize the new paid targeting options and the role of micro-video within a broader media campaign.

5. Digital advertising at 21: marketers get savvier about multi-generational multiscreen marketing

by Joline McGoldrick

Optimize across devices by aligning branding objectives with learning about how screen usage varies by generation and contextual task.

In digital advertising's 21st year, multiscreen marketing across TVs, laptops/ PCs, smartphones, and tablets will finally become more unified. People's relationships with all of the screens in their lives (and most folk have at least three) are not fragmented at all-they're integrated. In 2014 audiences figured out how to harmonize their various screens, and in 2015 marketers will catch up. In 2015, the savviest marketers will invest in understanding what drives screen preference so they can match these drivers with the branding outcomes they hope to achieve.

Recent Millward Brown research in the US on multiscreen preferences found that two factors played a key role in driving screen preference: generation of the audience member and task load (the amount of time and concentration required for a task).

When exploring the role of generation in multiscreen preference, we compared the screen preferences of Millennials (born 1981-1996); GenXers (born 1965- 1980) and Baby Boomers (born 1945-1964). Millennials have clearly migrated somewhat away from TV and laptops towards smartphones. Only 77 percent of Millennials reported watching TV (traditionally) the previous day (compared to 86 percent of GenXers or 91 percent of Boomers). The trend was similar for laptops and PCs. Only 58 percent of Millennials reported using the internet on their laptops or PCs in the previous day (compared to 67 percent of GenXers and 71 percent of Boomers). Instead, Millennials preferred to access the internet on smartphones, with 77 percent of Millennials using the internet on their smartphones in the previous day (compared to just 60 percent of GenXers and 42 percent of Boomers).

However, demographics or psychographics alone are not sufficient since marketers also need to better understand the role of task length in multiscreen preference. Our US research indicates that for low-attention, frequent-touch activities, audiences prefer smartphones (38 percent of US multiscreen users say smartphones are their preferred device for checking weather and 34 percent for visiting Twitter), but they still go to their laptops or PCs when it's time for high-attention activities like product research or purchase-and yes, this is even the case for Millennials. Ninety-six percent of respondents preferred smartphones for tasks between zero and five minutes, for tasks between five and 60 minutes they were divided with a slight preference for tablets, but for tasks over an hour a majority of respondents (53 percent) still preferred laptops. Clearly, the laptop is not dead.

In 2015, successful multiscreen marketers will take these findings on screen preference and overlay branding objectives to optimize multiscreen campaigns. For saliency, where low-touch and high frequency matters, smartphones could be a great medium for advancing these objectives-particularly among younger audiences. However, for more complex brand messaging where the goal is to build greater differentiation or drive further research or acquisition, smart marketers will balance their efforts across smartphones and laptops- particularly for older audiences.

6. Programmatic gets creative

by Drew Myers

Programmatic advertising evolves by merging smart and engaging creative elements with existing media buying algorithms.

Historically, programmatic ads have been simplistic and formulaic to enable the adaptability required of the format while processing the available information on a given person, but the ads themselves must now become more engaging to break through the clutter each of us experiences every day. To meet this need in 2015, creative agencies will increasingly partner with developers or build up their own advanced programming capabilities and cross-functional abilities to produce and deploy smart ads with customizable creative elements. The best of these executions will not seem "robo-generated" but will enable a new kind of dynamic, relevant storytelling based on when and how they are delivered.

Picture an existing programmatic model-you place an electric razor you are considering in your Amazon shopping cart. You later notice that several Facebook friends like that razor company. Banner ads start appearing for that razor across websites as you surf. A day passes and you receive an email with a coupon for 10 percent off your order. All of these "hints" ultimately lead to purchase, but it's the 10 percent offer that sealed the deal. What if instead of these hints, an emotional connection could be built by delivering compelling, targeted, and timely creative? If this leads to the sale and could be scaled, an extra 10 percent margin would be the result-an attractive opportunity to reduce the cost of acquisition and sufficient motivation to get programmatic brand-building right. In addition to increased efficiency, the ability of programmatic to target very specific people at known points in the purchase journey should make the impact of delivering the right messages much more powerful. For example, bespoke messaging could be delivered to entice active considerers of specific competitive brands.

What will this evolution look like? In the near term, creatively adaptable programmatic will start with customized color schemes and verbiage to set the proper mood and tone. A next step is evolving video to be customized with distinct vignettes with smart sequencing or a "choose your own adventure" style determined via your digital behaviors and psychographics. For example, an individual execution could be made up of four variable elements such as color, message, vignette/scene, and product each with a number of options-three options per element would yield 81 creative variations (3^4 =81). Different permutations would be employed via real-time availability based on programmatic targeting variables such as age, gender, site visitation, and previous ad exposure. The result is a creative "tool kit" with smart options deployable instantaneously at key moments in the decision making journey, driving increased meaning because of the context and sequence in which they are delivered.

7. Programmatic increasingly contemplates brand

by Jerome Shimizu

Marketers will question whether programmatic optimization is damaging or enhancing brand building.

Programmatic advertising, which relies on algorithms to determine in real-time whether or not to engage a consumer, is a staggering innovation. However, those algorithms often rely on limited digital touchpoints, which ultimately overweight the importance of direct-response metrics and KPIs. Brands are becoming aware of this overweighting, and in the next year, they will increasingly demand that these programmatic algorithms also consider softer measures of brand health.

To overhaul programmatic bidding inputs is a major challenge, but marketers will achieve this incrementally in three stages:

1. In the near term, advertisers will use new methodologies to conduct brand effectiveness evaluations of programmatic campaigns (ensuring that campaigns optimized solely based on behaviors are still delivering well on brand metrics).

2. In the medium term, advertisers will encourage programmatic partners to feed normative brand effectiveness learning data analyzed by site, ad, creative, and audience into programmatic targeting algorithms.

3. In the long term, advertisers will push to enhance programmatic algorithms beyond existing industry targeting variables to include richer audience psychographic and attitudinal data such as existing brand favorability.

8. Consumer-focused location-based marketing blooms

by Matthew Jorgenson

Location-based marketing opportunities are powerful when brands focus on consumers' interests rather than on their own.

The evolution of the smartphone has provided us with unparalleled convenience and access to data, but this access goes both ways. Never before have the likes of Google, Facebook, and their advertisers had more access to information about us, and increasingly, about where we go. If you are carrying an iPhone or Android device and the location services are active, chances are Apple and Google are tracking your every move. It was only a matter of time before advertisers started to cash in on this wealth of data that is being collected 24/7.

McDonald's China partnered with Angry Birds to create a location-based promotional game to entertain and reward restaurant visitors. Players were able to vote for their favorite McDonald's location in China, and the most popular branch had a gigantic Angry Birds slingshot attached to the famous golden arches.

The implications for the marketing world are enormous. Advertisers will be able to use this data to better understand consumer in-store journeys and dwell times - not to mention giving media owners the ability to accurately measure the level of exposure to POS displays or OOH sites. Service providers such as airlines and banks can make use of the technology to enhance customer experience in increasingly competitive industries, while retailers will be able to tailor a personal shopping experience for each and every customer. In 2015, giving the customer what they want at the right place and the right time will be a key differentiator for cutting edge brands that seek to build personal relevance and meaning with their consumers.

9. Native advertising more often gets it right - but choose wisely

by Jon Salm

Native advertising-online ads created to blend in with a publishing platform's format-will be huge in 2015. However, not all native solutions are created equal. The worst are perceived as blatant propaganda and are as boring as your parents' vacation slideshow. But the best evoke positive feelings, resonate with consumers, and drive brand impact. Advertisers should identify publishers getting native right and then partner with them to execute best-in-class solutions.

The Atlantic's early foray into native advertising left much to be desired. The magazine published a native ad called "David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year." The Church of Scientology paid for the piece, which was resoundingly criticized for its overwhelming bias and for only including a single note that it was sponsored. Other publishers sometimes seem to disown their native advertising by including excessive indicators that the content is sponsored. Whether deceitful or disowned, this sort of native advertising is unlikely to deliver a strong return.

On the other end of the spectrum, The Onion and Forbes strike an effective balance between advertising and editorial by explicitly mentioning that content is sponsored and perfectly matching their sites' regular tone and style. Within the walls of The Onion headquarters is Onion Labs, a full-service agency that produces content. Similarly, Forbes offers their BrandVoice platform for both print and digital clients. Onion Labs boasts clients such as 7-Eleven, Microsoft, and YouTube, and Forbes has produced BrandVoice content for financial powerhouses including TD Ameritrade, Merrill Lynch, and Northwestern Mutual.

Research from Sharethrough and IPG Media Lab indicates that native ads consistently outperform their standard counterparts - consumers look at native ads 52 percent more frequently than banner ads and are more likely to share with friends and family. And as marketers begin to understand the benefits that native solutions offer, they are beginning to spend big.

Marketers spent $4.7 billion on native ads in 2013, and this number is expected to more than quadruple to $21 billion by 2018, according to research from BI Intelligence and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The smartest advertisers will use the best platforms to get the most out of this money, but the worst will see it go to waste. Brand effectiveness research in 2015 will start to uncover whether the promise of native is being consistently delivered.

10. Analog goes digital

by Kelly Pellico and James Galpin

Brands must leverage mobile-enabled connectivity coherently through every aspect of their marketing programs.

Conventional wisdom says that our mobile phones are the vessels by which we bring the digital world into the physical, but we've moved beyond the point of intersection. From the places we take them to the apps we choose, our phones know us as few others do. They have come to represent us- our digital avatars.

Accordingly, mobile devices are transforming traditional media forms into interactive digital touch points-in short, connected mobiles turn everything digital. Through simple response mechanisms using QR codes, NFC chips, audio recognition, and beacons, the ownership of a smartphone potentially makes everything easily interactive. Every brand touch point, however "analog" it seems, can now be readily digitized. And consumers increasingly expect them to be so, whenever they want them to be.

As adoption widens in 2015, analog's modern-day design will truly take shape. A fresh look will be given to these channels and their ability to reach consumers at the right time and place. Marketers must think about ways they can leverage digital technologies across all elements of the media mix to make their message personal and contextually relevant, their brand accessible, and the purchase easy.

11. Winning in the digital age

by Marc de Swaan Arons and Hugo Schurink

Winning organizations will court innovators, focus on digital, think collaboratively, and see the big picture.

Through Millward Brown Vermeer's Marketing2020 research in association with Google, we have realized that winning marketers understand that digital has transitioned from simply a channel choice to a powerful marketing tool-but not all organizations can make brands win in the digital space. Fortunately, several trends will distinguish winning organizational models in 2015 and beyond.

Winning organizations will seek innovative, fresh perspectives to disrupt the streamlined thinking that plagues lethargic organizations. Adaptive, agile minds are necessary for the difficult task of managing the spread of touchpoints and allowing an organization to anticipate the market's ever-changing structure.

Success also depends on training in digital-starting with the CMO. In fact, 71 percent of successful organizations have marketing leadership that understands social and digital marketing. Winning organizations will be avid recruiters of digital natives-millennials-and they will work to inspire and retain these employees, thereby equipping the brand with people who understand the perspectives of this highly valued demographic.

An organization's vitality lies in its ability to be fluid; concrete structures and divided communities are not poised for success. On a structural level, overachievers will move from centers of expertise to global communities where digital is immersed in the business. Further, overachievers will outsource to five or more different agencies-relying on the collaboration of all rather than on the expertise of one.

Finally, while they sprint to innovate and lead in digital, the very best marketers will step back and look at the bigger picture. The myriad of digital possibilities can dazzle even a full-time digital professional, so brands should ruthlessly examine the impact of digital campaigns on the hearts and minds of consumers. What are consumers' motivations for engaging with our brand? What are the choices they make throughout the day across devices? How can we connect with our consumers through the onslaught of brand impressions?

Across the board in 2015, we will see winning organizations take a more holistic approach to creating networks across team members, internal functions, and external agency work, but they will not lose sight of the need to engage with consumers in a meaningful and different way. The people capable of driving digital forward and seeing the big picture may well be different, so finding an appropriate balance to this inherent tension will be key.

Author Bios

Hannah Walley

Hannah conducts cutting-edge brand measurement and analysis for some of the world's most powerful industry players. Her specialties include digital ad effectiveness and multi-media campaigns.

Ali Rana

As the Head of Millward Brown's Emerging Media Lab, Ali leads company thinking on emerging media trends and digital strategy. His team creates and scales measurement approaches for new digital platforms.

Margaret Hung

An early player in online ad effectiveness and cross-media measurement, Margaret is an expert in digital ROI measurement. She leads Millward Brown Digital's Intelligence Solutions and Strategy.

Jackie Bartolotta

Director of Strategic Intelligence for Millward Brown, Jackie is an Information professional with experience in market analysis, brand strategy and competitive intelligence.

Joline McGoldrick

A long-time authority in studying how audiences respond to digital advertising, Joline is a product designer and marketer with a passionate focus on understanding the digital audience.

Drew Myers

Drew helps cross-industry clients make the most of their research and media budgets. He specializes in research analytics and effective storytelling.

Jerome Shimizu

Jerome is a pioneer in developing innovative data-driven research solutions to inform marketing strategy. His expertise includes digital advertising ROI analysis methods.

Matthew Jorgenson

Matthew is an expert in creative development, including digital copy testing and in-market evaluation studies. His focus includes helping clients grow their brands through strong and impactful campaigns.

Jon Salm

With particular focus on client research and analytics, content marketing, and data journalism, Jon is an authority on visual content and a leader in native advertising.

Kelly Pellico

Kelly leads mobile strategy and production innovation for Millward Brown North America. Two key areas of her focus include app measurement and the use of location to garner in-the-moment feedback.

James Galpin

With more than twenty years of brand marketing experience, James has an expert understanding of how to leverage media and digital investments to grow brands and drive marketing ROI.

Marc de Swaan Arons

Marc is Senior Partner of Millward Brown Vermeer and works with many of the world's most prominent CMOs. He has authored the best-selling marketing book, The Global Brand CEO.

Hugo Schurink

Hugo is at the frontlines of media and digital branding and psychology. He focuses on representing the customer in an increasingly complex world and facilitating meaningful brand relationships.

Editor Bios

Duncan Southgate

Duncan has 20 years brand, communications and media research experience and has been involved in digital marketing research since 1997. He is currently responsible for growing Millward Brown's digital and mobile business.

John Svendsen

John is responsible for growing Millward Brown's cross media effectiveness business by providing expert media consultancy and improving tools and approaches, across both traditional and new media opportunities. He is approaching 30 years of research experience gained in advertiser, media agency and research agency roles.



Source: Kantar Millward Brown

Editor's notes

* For more information about Millward Brown's media & digital solutions, please visit:

* To know more information, data and analysis of China's digital advertisement market and brand communications, please contact us.

* Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive news alerts.


Latest Stories

Since November, 2017, Chinese visitors have had the option to purchase goods with the mobile payment platform WeChat Pay at Camden Market in London.

In the three months by October, the top five brands – Huawei (including Honor), Xiaomi, Apple, Vivo and OPPO – make up 91% of sales in urban China, compared to 79% a year earlier.

P&G, Yili and Mengniu bought by over 150 million Chinese families.

The power of WeChat is so strong that doctors install fewer medical apps, because they find subscribing to medical accounts is enough.

Related Content
Social Network