What trends and developments can we expect to see in digital and social media this year? We catch up with Jai Kotecha, Ogilvy UK Managing Partner & Global WPP Lead, to find out his predictions, which include greater opportunities for brand engagement, developments in AR and VR, and cracks in the Fakefluencer bubble.

More opportunities for brand engagement as voice service providers look to monetise, and access grows

As the efficacy of voice-activated technology continues to improve, its service providers are rapidly developing new applications to monetise this capability. And, ultimately, this trend will provide new opportunities for brands to interact with consumers. 

Already, the number of devices equipped with a voice assistant has ballooned – with nearly half of online users using voice tech in some way (Global Web Index). Nearly a third of the daily 3.5bl Google searches are now led by voice, and most predictions forecast an even greater number of voice-led searches for 2019 (Comcast).

Unsurprisingly, the two tech titans, Amazon and Google, continue to blaze the trail by including a voice assistant feature in as many devices as possible, making the capability increasingly more accessible to consumers. Considering the new wave of new devices announced at this year’s CES show in Las Vegas, voice is poised to become a fundamental method for interfacing with our devices. 

Basically, your thumbs may be getting much more rest very soon. You’ll talk instead of type.

Currently, only a handful of brands have developed voice products. So far, most of these have been commodity-led. Dominos, for example, has leveraged the technology only as another means to easily order a pizza. These sorts of interactions, while novel, are short and superficial.

With this in mind, it’s clear that the challenge brands now face is using voice to interact with consumers in a more meaningful way.

But, beyond the confines of a single brand, voice-activated technology need not be restricted to purchasing a product from one particular brand.

Of course, Google is the leader in online search. And what we Google helps advertisers understand what consumers want – in a direct, measurable and unfiltered way.

Now, voice has the potential to build on this dynamic. For example, if a consumer performs a voice search about Greece, they could be shown tailored airline ads - served on YouTube, in sponsored search engine results, or elsewhere. 

Further opportunities also lie ahead. Google and Amazon are launching more voice enabled smart displays, which supplement consumer voice interactions with convenient visual content. With this in mind, and a reduced barrier to entry thanks to growing product integration, voice service providers are set to offer more ways for brands get involved with these experiences in hopes to monetise and grow their services.

AR and VR moves beyond gaming

Largely driven by demand from the gaming industry, the development of both VR and AR technology has quickened its pace. As both technologies mature, inevitably lowering costs have begun alleviating barriers to entry.  

The result? An explosion of new VR and AR applications – and a growing base of users.

According to a Global Web Index report, 23 per cent of internet users in the US and the UK had used AR/VR in October 2018.

At first glance, this figure may not seem very impressive, but it’s more than three times as many users as in 2016. This rapid change in consumer behaviour is a strong indication that its popularity will soon extend far beyond gaming.

The main driver for the increase in VR users has (arguably) been the increased affordability of headsets, and other associated hardware. But the accessibility of the technology has increased the scale not just of users, but also of its developers. Familiarity with the technology has begun to unlock the potential of new interactive environments – the places where a VR headset transports its wearer.

VR has broken out of the niche realm of gaming and exploded into other industries, including real estate, healthcare and tourism, among others. Anyone can now be transported anywhere in an immersive way; meaning an architect can ‘step inside’ a property still in its design phase, or a tourist can glance around an exotic island they’re considering visiting.

Soon, VR technology will only be limited by the number of places users want to go, whether for work or for pleasure.

Of course, the popularity of AR began for pleasure, with the search for Pokémon – as smartphone wielders began hunting for these fantastic creatures, overlaid onto images of the real world – but now AR too has moved beyond gaming. It has found applications across social channels in the form of filters and overlays (most famously on Snapchat) and integrated into our phones via Google Lens visual search. 

As Google and Apple have rolled out AR developer kits, more and more brands have been able to easily create experiences that provide real value and entertainment to consumers. Most notably, Ikea Place, which allows users to see how furniture would look in their home before purchasing it, even providing a means to virtually step into the famed warehouse itself via a hidden magic wardrobe. (Flat-packed, naturally.)

Cracks begin to break the Fakefluencer bubble 

The influencer economy, fuelled by branded content, has flourished across social platforms thanks to minimal regulatory involvement. This has led to a lack of transparency for consumers around whether a product/service is truly endorsed by an influencer, or instead is simply paid promotion. 

However, the age where influencers can run amuck with endorsements that are not evidently paid for content is creeping in. There are several drivers.

Firstly, the ASA’s CAP code for non-broadcast advertisements has meant brands and influencers must provide clear indication of endorsement. With the resulting rise in consumer complaints, both brands and influencers have been fined and publicly shamed for activity that does not adhere to guidelines.

Secondly, social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have rolled out tools to make it easier for consumers to tell if content is paid for. As a major incentive for brands, these tools provide measurement methods for ROI –  which is particularly important, as many commercial relationships were often highlighted using hashtags such as #spon, and easily lost within captions. At the start of 2018, a study by the ASA also found 49% of UK shoppers weren’t aware of such hashtags or language used to disclose commercial relationships.

Instagram also recently announced a clampdown on all third-party apps that help creators attain inauthentic followers, fake likes and comments. This means Influencers adopting the ‘fake it before you make it’ follower gather approach are also on the way out. The growing problems around fake followers and engagement means it’s more important than ever for marketers to stand up and take action, reflected by the EConsultancy Influencer Marketing 2020 study which found that ‘fake followers’ ranks as number one concern for marketers.

Finally, brands and agencies are working more closely together. In light of the above, more advanced tools and measures are being applied to identify the right type of influencers to ensure both brand and consumer safety.


These trends were also published in The Holmes Report here.