Predictions for 2014: meaningful experiences, marketing industry skills gaps and the evolution of content marketing

As part of a series of predictions for 2014, industry thought leaders share their thoughts on the big advertising and digital trends for the year ahead.

Nick Wilsdon, head of content, iProspect

Since the beginning of advertising, marketers have used content to support commercial or brand objectives. Whether the content has informed, inspired or simply entertained audiences, its role has been to build relationships with consumers and ultimately increase sales.This role continued throughout the time of mass media but was revolutionised by the internet. Barriers to publishing were overcome and amateur content producers reigned. Digital channels, such as SEO and social media employed content marketing to further their objectives, at a time when many content professionals were struggling to find work.We are now entering a new phase of evolution for content marketing, where quality, editorial direction and professionalism have returned as guiding principles. While there is still room for the amateur, brands and their agencies need to quickly take this disciplined approach to their publishing.Content will continue to drive digital performance objectives, but at the highest level content will drive loyalty and brand awareness. The key will be aligning content to audiences, through insight and data to tailor media to their interests, needs and obsessions. Digital channels have always been slightly envious of the brand building capacity of traditional media; aligning across content marketing could give them similar abilities.

Nick Hewat, commercial director, Guardian News and Media

The news industry has moved on – anyone who continues to think solely through the prism of newspapers is doing their clients a disservice. Every day, we’re publishing agenda-setting journalism across a multitude of platforms and we use a range of media to tell our stories.Technology has changed people’s habits and the way we consume news. We’re hurtling towards a change where mobile platforms will claim a majority of our consumers’ media time. This growth is astonishingly fast – more than doubling in two years – and is unstoppable.That habitual change has to be addressed by our industry, where the money has always followed the eyeballs. It means we will see more integrated and smarter planning.It will become impossible to ignore ‘native’ or ‘content’ advertising this year. This represents a real opportunity for news brands, who have been telling stories for over 200 years. This means managing the trend sympathetically to editorial integrity, the backbone of any news organisation worth its salt. For those that do, this should translate into closer relationships between brands and media owners, and original and compelling advertising that has a greater resonance with the reader.

Daniele Fiandaca, head of innovation, Cheil

2014 will see an evolution from materialism to a meaningful experience – and this will be evident across all disciplines. We’re already starting to see this shift in retail, which is becoming as much about the experience in-store, online or on mobile, as it is the commercial transaction.That’s not to say we’re finally becoming a post-materialist society. Far from it. But we are entering the age of ‘stuffocation’, as author James Wallman puts it. Wallman argues we’ve had enough of stuff and experience matters more than ever, in an entertaining book that posits we’re overwhelmed by the stuff we’ve bought or accumulated and people are starting to look to redress this to focus on what’s important.Desire and aspiration still constitute a part of our psychological make-up, but rather than stuff being the driver for expressing who we are, an emblem of our achievements if you like, it will be experiences that give us our status, a move that is clearly fuelled by social media. The value of experience is undoubtedly in the ascendancy; in retail, providing a meaningful experience will no longer be an option for retailers, but an expectation for its audiences. This evolution will be pivotal in how all relationships are run, be it agency/client, people/brand, shopper/retailer.

Dave Roberts, deputy MD, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment

I imagine my year will begin with a series of calls from increasingly desperate representatives of crossover Latin musicians looking to ‘partner’ with ‘like-minded’ brands in the run up to Brazil 2014/2016 (delete as appropriate).You can hear the pitch now “Shakira loves…” or “Ricky is so passionate about…”. Thanks guys, but perhaps a year or so too late?South American songstresses aside, the year ahead is sure to see an increased demand for Entertainment partnerships rooted in a genuinely mutual benefit.In the music industry we’ll see increasingly savvy artists and managers approaching brands direct – often bypassing labels, whose roles looks ever more unclear as traditional revenues continue to fall.Film distributors, who’ve traditionally had a better understanding of the value of partnerships, will start to become a victim of their own success.More deals means more clutter, more clutter means reduced effectiveness, which in turn means more disgruntled partners. If the industry is smart, a renewed focus on delivering tangible results for both parties could quickly rectify this.And here lies the crux of it all – purveyors of entertainment may need to begin searching for something more measured.

Zoe Osmond, CEO, Nabs

As a result of the many lay-offs and redundancies that have hit the industry during the recession, we expect to see a skills gap open up across managerial levels in the year ahead, which could be hugely detrimental to the industry’s increasingly under-pressure workforce.As managers continue to get younger, the skills gap will widen and will be heightened by a lack of broader experience including business and life experience, people management skills, corporate memory and experience of changing business trends and environments built up over years.In an industry where 45 per cent of workers are under the age of 30, and where a huge 95 per cent are predicted to have left the industry by the age of 50, there’s a real need for the experienced middle manager to provide a steady hand.There are many benefits that we can gain from having a young, enthusiastic workforce. But at times when the pressure is high, a skilled, calm and experienced head can be an invaluable component to a team. In the new year, industry heads should consolidate their position on this issue and look to up-skill their less experienced, whilst also reinstating a more balanced management profile, once again embracing the benefits older and experienced leaders can bring.

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