Predictions for marketers and brand managers in 2016

The crystal ball has been de-smudged. Let’s take a look at emerging trends for the year ahead.

Untitled Document

The start of a year means a new slate of predictions.

We were pleased with how the last two years of predictions turned out. (See our prognostications for 2014 and 2015.)

Here are some key things we expect to see in 2016:

1. Networks and advertisers will realize engagement is key. Though some measurement organizations continue to opine about the value of measuring conversation on Twitter and Facebook and how that affects TV/advertisers, 2016 will mark the year when networks and advertisers wise up to the fact that most people don’t talk on social media.

So, if you’re measuring talk, you’re missing the big picture. Focus will turn to measurement of “engagement” more broadly defined to analyze and measure the signals that all users of social media actually do, not just the hyperactive users who represent the majority of content on everyone’s feeds. In our view, conversation is just a subset of engagement.

2. Companies will resist processing too much information. The first use cases of social media data in respect to driving business decisions was a game of cherry-picking metrics and flipping a coin to get meaningful business results. Over the years, we’ve championed looking at the complete picture of metrics as the only way to get meaningful business results.

Though many people in the industry now agree, looking at 2,000+ social media and digital metrics also has its set of challenges. Brand managers who analyze and make use of the right curated and derived metrics will provide the advantage of coming to most business decisions more quickly, digging into lower-level metrics only when they need more specific analysis.

RELATED: Escalate your social media game at Ragan’s Disney best practices summit.

3. Chat platforms will embrace their value. Younger social media users are shifting their attention to chat platforms (WhatsApp, Snapchat, WeChat, Viber, Kik, etc.). There is a great and exciting opportunity to hyper-target audiences; however, you must do it correctly.

Chat platforms will look to build the right native ad products and, more important, the right measurement to gauge engagement. Brands’ stories must align with how the platforms work, not be repurposed or syndicated from other platforms.

4. New measurement tool will excite and confuse. The entire TV/advertising industry is waiting with bated breath for Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement—the magic solution to cure the ills of declining TV viewership. (It’s not declining, but rather moving to new platforms: tablets, mobile, computers, OTT devices, etc.).

We know it’s launching in 2016 and will, no doubt, have glitches that everyone will complain about. Hopefully there will be compassion out there for this massively complex undertaking.

This year will therefore be a big year of education and testing in this world:

  • Education—because everyone has to learn exactly what this is measuring, all the vocabulary and all the features.
  • Testing—because these data have never been available to the marketplace, so packaging and pricing will be all over the place.

5. Network advertising will go old school. Harkening back to the days of sponsored programs, networks will expand advertising inventory for integrated experiences and other non-30-second pod advertising opportunities. This year’s Pepsi/Empire collaboration will be unleashed in many different forms by major networks and advertisers to cut through the clutter, avoid time-shifting behavior and make a meaningful impact.

6. TV programs will evolve into brands living in a post-viewership world. Though we’ve been saying it for years—and someone (Philippe Dauman in Viacom’s earnings announcements) finally said the same thing—the notion of selling 30-second pods is not the way of the future.

With the realization finally sinking in that consumers can interact with shows (beyond watching 30- or 60-minute episodes) every day across social media platforms, expect that network execs will make moves as simple as selling native posts on network-owned feeds, releasing sponsored mobile games inspired by the shows, or creating real-world sponsored events with talent and non-episodic content.

7. The “audience targeting/programmatic” honeymoon may wear off. The ad world will continue to focus on hyper-targeting and addressability of everything—linear and nonlinear, across different screens and devices. The question is whether all the time and financial investment going into these technologies will reap premium ad pricing to sustain the continued investment and evolution. Industry pros might be asking for it, but that doesn’t mean they’ll put their money where their mouths are.

On that front, brand managers will be forced to reconcile which initiatives drive conversion and which ones drive brand. Driving conversion clearly drives the bottom line; this will lead to more questioning of the role of brand marketing that’s not tied to conversion and the weight it receives in advertisers’ marketing strategies.

8. The industry will up its game so consumers don’t want to block ads. Ad blocking is a hot topic, but the conversation will shift from, “How do technologies stop it or enact it?” to, more critically, “How does the industry change the ways in which ads are conceived and put in front of consumers so that consumers don’t want to block them in the first place?”

9. Election year will usher in a new era of social media analytics. Social media data will be finally be used in meaningful ways to project contest results, including the race for the White House. Though we are not sure we’ll see something as sophisticated as Nate Silver’s 538, these data signals are definitely heading in that direction.

Jonathan Farb is chief product officer at ListenFirst Media, a data and analytics company. A version of this article first ran on

Topics: PR

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.