By Stephen Lepitak and Jessica Davies
Last year, marketers were spoiled in the UK for events to pitch their wares around, with the Queen's Jubilee offering an excuse to get all red, white and blue and stick the union flag on packaging, a feeling that was extended by the London Olympics and Paralympics, but alas not by the England team competing in Euro 2012. However, this year would be dubbed as Empty 13 due to its lack of major occasions - apart from the imminent arrival of a new member to the Royal family that is.
Empty13 became a discussion point, steered by global marketing services agency Bite, to assess just what marketers would aim to do with their spend during the expected downturn. Only this expectation has failed to materialise, with the boom of mobile and tablet, still in their infancy, but never the less, propping up advertising spend.
Smartphone penetration in the UK has risen from 24 per cent in 2010 to 62 per cent by 2012 and is forecast to reach 75 per cent before the year is out, according to Dan Cobley, managing director for Google UK, speaking at an Empty13 conference. He added that when consumers switch to smartphones their behaviour is seen to change radically and described phones as "the digital cigarette" with people using them to fill the downtime.
He also cited figures such as Christmas spend where 30 per cent of smartphone users bought something through their phones, worth around £920 million in total, but admitted to being shocked at the IAB report that 43 per cent of top 100 companies still don't have an optimised website. He also stated that those who "grasped digital faster" were found to be 26 per cent more profitable than those who did not.
Twitter UK's Bruce Daisley has seen the social media platform truly come into its in UK as a second screen conversational tool during the major events, including turning TV programming into major discussion points, citing the recent controversy where Eden Hazard apparently kicked a ball boy as one popular real-time trending topic this year already.
"It’s important to acknowledge the different patterns of people tweeting depending on the TV show genre," he went onto explain of TV activity. "For example, patterns of tweets will be more consistent during shows like the X Factor, where activity will dip in the ad breaks, wheras with something like Downton Abbey the behaviour is totally different and here it is important to note that need still to escape from world of connectivity – as shown with the tweeting patterns. This is where people tweet before and after rather than during as with The X Factor. They have very different patterns."
Tess Alps from Thinkbox echoed the point that TV is a major source of discussion, describing the content as being more important than the platform, and revealing that more people text when talking about a programme still. She dismissed the notion that VoD will displace scheduled viewing completely and believes that the advent of multi-screen viewing has made real-time TV even more of an event.
The founder of Peer Index Azeem Azhar spoke about the value of influence, again driven by social, and highlighted how influence could be driven by cash incentivisation – although he did advise caution and research in implementing such a strategy, as effective as he believed it could be for brands, citing a Twitter campaign by American Express offering $10 a retweet.
Discussing what he saw as ‘the mobile challenge’ for 2013, Jon Mew, head of mobile at the IAB predicted that three quarters of the popular would own a smartphone, but said that tablet adoption was growing at a faster rate, revealing that 4.5 hours a week were spent by people shopping on their tablets.
He added that there was still ‘a lack of understanding’ of how mobile could be adopted by brands, claiming that ‘mobile is eating the world’ and that those who didn’t pay attention – Jessops, HMV, Game and Waterston’s for example, would suffer.
The majority of advertising impressions are also expected to be driven through mobile devices,, creating a real challenge for publishers, brands and agencies. “Those not thinking about it and doing it now are going to be in serious trouble by the end of the year,” warned Mew.
A panel session continued the discussion around the impact of mobile and how it is being used by companies and brands. Participating were IAB chairman Richard Eyre, Tottenham Hotspur head of social media Roberto Kusabbi, Peter Clare from Bacardi, Alex deGroote, media analyst at Panmure Gordon and Justin Pearse, head of innovation at Bite.
According to deGroote, despite a ‘gloomy’ economic outlook for this year, media share prices were trading near all-time highs, while the UK and US stock markets and digital markets were buoyant. He did however conceded that there was ‘an element of bubble’ about the digital economy.
The discussion covered the growing importance of strong online content within social in driving brand engagement and sales, which Pearse stated had to have ‘an authentic’ tone of voice which Clare echoed, adding that it must also add value.
The structure of companies and their use of social and digital communications was also under scrutiny, leaving an opinion that the largest companies struggled to adopt new technology and communications platforms, and were being left behind due to their speed of communications as a result.