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 to help advertisers move confidently into the coming year. Predicting the future isn't easy, but Millward Brown's media and digital expertise allows us to provide reliable insights into emerging trends and their implications for our clients and the world of advertising. So before we move into predicting what 2015 has in store, we have asked our experts to evaluate our 2014 predictions, which focused on making sense of the multiscreen world. We have lots of evidence that many of our multiscreen predictions came true, but as always, the year offered a few surprises.
What we got right. 2014 was a big year for micro-video. While we did see growth across a fragmented set of platforms, Vine, Instagram and Tumblr continued to dominate. Vine added 27 million new mobile app users (+ 23 percent) from December 2013 to May 2014; Instagram also grew 25 percent over the same period – and it started out with a larger base than Vine. The traffic on these platforms has remained mobile-focused: 97 percent of Instagram usage is mobile, and even though Vine has launched a desktop app, its traffic remains 99 percent mobile.
Branded content is largely being spread organically: 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies now have Instagram profiles, 40 percent of the top 1000 "liked" Instagram videos are posted by brands, and branded Instagram content has gained 416 percent over the last two years. And commercialization has begun: in October of 2014, Instagram launched paid video advertising on the platform – Disney, Activision, and Banana Republic were all early adopters.
What surprised us. We didn't expect micro-video to emerge as the most popular marketing approach in Millward Brown's 2014 AdReaction multiscreen research (ahead of other multiscreen tactics such as TV ads with hashtags)! We were also concerned that marketers would be seduced by the longer timeframe of Instagram videos, thereby losing opportunities with the unique audiences of Vine and Tumblr. For now, it seems that marketers are experimenting with all of these platforms.
What we got right. Wearable technology has started to break into the mainstream in 2014, but is still far from ubiquitous. Consumers have yet to embrace wearable devices in large numbers, but they are interested. According to PwC's research, more than 80 percent of consumers polled said that an important benefit of wearable technology is its potential to make their lives more convenient.
The health and fitness market has continued to play a key role in bringing wearable technology closer to consumers, and several new fitness-related wearable devices were launched. In October, Microsoft entered the market with a device called "Microsoft Band" that allows US users to monitor their fitness.
As expected, Google Glass expanded its restricted "Explorer Program" to a wider public launch and began shipping to users worldwide in May 2014, at a unit price of $1,500 USD. They are expected to sell more than 20 million units by 2018 and to add more than $10 billion in revenue.
In September, Apple announced that sales of its long-anticipated Apple Watch would start in early 2015. Though fewer than one million smartwatches will have been sold by the end of 2014, this number is projected to leap to 13.6 million as Apple drives the market.
What surprised us. We hadn't anticipated that Apple's marketing focus would be mainly about the watch as a piece of jewelry – or that the very wide range of models would include a gold watch likely to retail for well over $1,000 USD!
Beyond Apple we also didn't discuss how smartphones would essentially provide a barrier to the growth of wearables. For example, Jawbone (the makers of a range of wearable bracelets) recently decided to launch a version of their software app which is compatible with smartphones, essentially transforming their business into a software play. There is clearly a limit to how many phones/bands/watches/bracelets etc. an individual will carry, so it makes sense that sector competition will gradually turn to applications rather than hardware.
Finally, relatively little progress has been made toward a media marketplace within the wearables space, though this may change next year as devices such as the Apple Watch bring greater scale to that opportunity.
What we got right. 2014 has seen marketers increasingly leveraging technology that ties together the pieces of the multiscreen puzzle. Digital data assets are gradually enhancing our ability to know how all brand encounters are uniquely and synergistically impacting sales and brand perceptions. While the perfect single-source data set (containing all of an individual's exposures, attitudes, and actions) does not yet exist, 2014 did indeed see lots of new and exciting developments in the marketing effectiveness space.
What surprised us. The approaches that emerged evolved in unexpected ways. First we saw significant growth in data fusion or stitching efforts. These approaches leverage metrics or "hooks" that are common across data assets for the same individual or household to transfer information from one data set to another. The second approach that emerged starts with the premise that a viable single-source data asset is unlikely to ever exist or to be created by fusion techniques – there is too much noise in the data across assets. Instead, this approach uses the granular insights that we can now see about particular behaviors from our digitized data collection and uses them to inform creation of "virtual" data. This virtual data will follow mathematical properties seen in each of our new data assets about sales, media, and brand perceptions, so it will "represent" what we think we should see in a single-source asset.
What we got right. Consumers are spending a lot of time in front of the TV with digital and mobile devices (our 2014 AdReaction multiscreen study suggested 35 percent of all screen time is simultaneous use of TV and another digital device). Social media is one of the main ways people are interacting with TV content, and TV content is a staple of social media conversations (a Kantar Media study analyzing a year's worth of UK Twitter data analysis showed 40 percent of all UK Twitter traffic at peak time is related to TV). The 2014 World Cup perfectly demonstrated this symbiotic relationship. TV viewing figures broke previous records in many countries, and with 35.6 million tweets, the astonishing #BRA vs. #GER semi-final was the most-discussed single sports game ever on Twitter. The World Cup as a whole was also the most talked-about event in Facebook history, with 350 million people generating three billion World Cup-related interactions.
Twitter further enhanced their social TV offer this year, making it easier for marketers to link their TV and social media campaigns. Marketers can show promoted tweets to Twitter users based on the shows they've watched and the TV ads they've likely seen. They also launched "tailored audiences," allowing advertisers to reach users who are most similar to their existing best customers. In addition, Twitter Amplify had over 70 media partners as of October 2014 – this format allows seamless integration of TV content and sponsors in the online environment.
Facebook also made strides in building a closer relationship with TV. They issued research via Second Sync showing that contrary to previous assumptions, most (60 percent) of TV-related Facebook posts happen within the show airing, and that 80 percent of TV-related chatter on Facebook is generated from mobile devices. [Interestingly, Twitter then promptly bought Second Sync.] Facebook has also put more effort into surfacing trending topics which relate to TV and have redoubled efforts to work with TV networks and producers—a new feature on NBC's "TODAY" showcases what's trending on Facebook. The product has been enhanced so the "what are you doing?" feature now includes a "watching" option with a list of specific TV shows – when selected the post automatically generates a thumbnail image of the show, and information on what episode is being watched as well as providing a link to the show's Facebook page.
What surprised us. At this point it surprises us that not all advertisers are coordinating their TV and social media activity. According to Advertising Age, still only 65 percent of US TV advertisers have used social media advertising in conjunction with TV (although a further 13 percent plan to in the near future).
What we got right. Holding the attention of the younger generation is notoriously difficult, but the smartphone is the center of their digital world and offers a very promising connection point for youth-focused marketers, particularly via social media platforms. Globally, our 2014 AdReaction multiscreen study showed that 16-24 year olds claim to spend 155 minutes per day accessing the internet via their smartphones and only 101 minutes spent watching TV (among 35-45 year olds, the equivalent figures are 118 minutes for both smartphones and TV). In addition, we found that 16-24 year olds are more likely to be distracted or "stacking" while watching TV; 47 percent of them reach for a device to "fill time during the ad breaks" (vs. 39 percent for 35-45s), and 42 percent "keep up with friends on social media for unrelated content" (vs. 32 percent for 35-45s).
Since constant innovation is key to grab their attention, we expected youth-targeted mobile ads to be noticeably different from conventional TV ads or even online ads in order to demonstrate that the brand is on-trend and up-to-date. This was typified by the Japanese campaign for the horror movie Carrie Call which won in the mobile category at the Festival of Media global awards this year. To engage with high school girls, a "Carrie Call" phone line was used. On dialing the number you hear Carrie scream painfully—tempting and exciting a target audience that likes to face fear head on. They wrote about and shared Carrie Call in large numbers on Facebook and Twitter and over 100,000 people called the Carrie Call line.
What surprised us. Snapchat has rapidly matured beyond a short-term fad. The audience remains youth-focused, but according to July 2014 polling by NuVoodoo it now has more 14-17 year old users in the US than Twitter (37 vs 31 percent). The platform has also rapidly moved beyond "Snaps" (photos and videos which disappear in less than 10 seconds). According to Business Insider, sharing of Snapchat "Stories" (photo and video content that last 24 hours) increased 100 percent in the two months to June. Stories are now getting one billion views daily, while 760 million Snaps are sent daily. Marketers are taking note and brands including Audi, Taco Bell, McDonald's and streetwear retailer, Karmaloop are all active on Snapchat.
What we got right. 2014 did see strong growth in online video multiscreen advertising, up from $8 to $11 billion globally according to Magna Global. Reflecting this heavier spend, within Millward Brown's CrossMedia effectiveness database, we also saw a 25 percent rise in the average reach of online video campaigns (up from 16 to 20 percent). We continue to see more clients deploying unified media measurement approaches to identify suitable investment levels for TV and online video. Within these studies we consistently see online video delivering cost-effective reach among light TV viewers, and are generally (but not always) seeing more cost-effective contributions to brand metrics for online video than for TV.
We predicted more video advertising would be created to work well across all screens, and at this year's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Microsoft showcased several campaign case studies that told multiscreen brand stories through episodic programming across laptops, Xbox, and tablets. Among them was a campaign for Lexus that promoted its web-based extreme sports series, "Ride with the Other Me."
What surprised us. We didn't expect a Cannes Lions Cyber Grand Prix to be awarded to a 24-hour-long online video, but that's what Pharrell Williams achieved with 24hoursofhappy.com. Nor did we anticipate a complete absence of TV ads from the Cannes Lions Grand Prix winners, where the list was dominated by online films for Volvo Trucks, Harvey Nichols, Chipotle and Honda.
What we got right. Though our predictions focused on the multiscreen environment of 2014, we did caution advertisers against becoming too obsessed with multiscreen alone. The most successful marketers continue to be those who implement truly integrated multi-channel strategies that stretch well beyond screen media. In Millward Brown CrossMedia effectiveness studies, the biggest synergies often arise between screen and non-screen media, such as out-of-home, print, and point of sale. According to Millward Brown's CrossMedia database, magazine advertising in particular continues to pack a punch well beyond its weight class.
A great example of this was the mobile grand prix winner at Cannes – a print ad for Nivea. The magazine ad turned into a wrist bracelet which parents could use in conjunction with a smartphone app to track their kids on the beach and ensure they stayed safe. This campaign also won "best use of digital" in the Festival of Media LatAm awards, serving to illustrate the biggest winners in 2014 were those who embraced an integrated approach to advertising.
What surprised us. Nothing – we were on pretty safe ground with this prediction!
When predicting the future, it is always best to plan for a few surprises. However, by identifying the short-term phenomena which will become long-term trends, marketers can ensure that their short-term media experimentation will lead to long-term rewards. This is where Millward Brown's media and digital expertise helps make life easier. Identifying which short-term trends are emerging is less important than understanding how and why they are emerging, and from that predicting the longer-term implications for the changing media and digital landscape. If we can confidently anticipate what is coming, then we can better prepare to meet the future with dexterity and confidence.
To help marketers prepare better for the coming year, we've released our predictions for 2015. Read here.