By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

February 4, 2019 | 7 min read

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The age-old tradition of predictions following the New Year bells is a firm staple across the board. This year is expected to be the year of Amazon, influencers, data, and privacy. We sat down with industry experts at The Drum’s annual Predictions Breakfast in New York, to dish out the what’s ahead with some of the bigger issues and opportunities in those areas and beyond that agencies and brands are facing in 2019.

The Drum's 2019 Predictions Event at Ogilvy in NYC

The Drum's 2019 Predictions Event at Ogilvy in NYC

US Editor Ginger Conlon led the discussion with Jim Mason, senior partner, Ebiquity North America; Emma Armstrong, managing director, iCrossing New York; Rachel Paley, vice president of sales US, Precise TV; Erin Jaeger, director of product marketing, Yext; and Jess Kimball Leslie, chief futurist at Ogilvy.

Data, data, data

In the space of a year, a U.S. data privacy legislation similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) seems to be on the horizon, with Congress increasingly pressure to implement a U.S. federal data privacy law.

One prominent trend that Mason believes will take center stage in 2019 is data and privacy. He expressed how there’s a blissful ignorance about the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and what's coming down the pipeline in potential federal legislation.

“At Ebiquity, we’ve been meeting with some senior marketing staff and they just don't understand. They’re not aware of what is coming their way. The second half of this year there is going to be an 'oh my god moment' where people will shift a lot of money into this space and realize we have to do more. Consumers are expecting that legislation as mandating.”

On the agency and client side, when it comes to the quality of data, Armstrong hopes to see more breaking down of silos and real change in management across companies collectively. “Being able to collaborate will be the differentiating factor for most people, whether agency or client.”

What’s in store for the ad conglomerates?

Amazon has been shaking the waters for a good few years now and just last week, The New York Times reported that its advertising business is worth about $125bn. Kimball Leslie expressed how Amazon is the ad conglomerate of the future. “They are building a business that is exponentially scaled compared to a lot of the capabilities of now,” she explained.

“Entire industries are cross-breeding, having babies with other industries and developing products that haven't seen a real precedent for analyzing. Amazon's ad conglomerate is that they also own the production. They not only own the marketing, but they also own the objects’ production, with the conglomerate.”

Viewing voice across devices

Looking at cross-device customer experience, Jaeger says that it shouldn't be a surprise now that devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home and voice in general, has had such a huge wave that is going to continue to influence customer experience.

She said: “We're seeing with many of the voice technologies out there, the companies that are running them are the same as those that are behind search or our mobile devices. Thinking about one consistent experience, whether I'm asking Google Home a question or searching Google on my phone or desktop, is going to become increasingly important.”

She suggests that brands should look at their holistic presence across all of these devices rather than optimizing for each individual channel or each individual device — this will be essential in 2019.

Nurturing the desire to learn

Education has to be lifelong in terms of bridging the talent gaps, said Kimball Leslie.

“You cannot hire people who think that they went to college and that's it,” she expressed. “The people who are super hungry to keep on learning, how do we build that into the workday? How do we work that into the people who work from home, etc.? That's a great thing for managers to be asking.”

Armstrong suggested that, now more than ever, cross industries are having the same issues. The talent pool is small. “The pace of change of what you need to know to truly be effective is exponential. You're not joining a company, having a job, and getting promoted every year or two years in this very linear way.”

At iCrossing, they talk a lot about taking responsibility for your own education, making sure that you are constantly reading and learning. She added: “Companies will have to and will continue to support that across the board with more formalized training. Collaboration and curiosity are so much more important than getting promoted to your next spot every year.

“The most successful companies already know that. I hope there’s a further trend of companies moving in that direction over the year; otherwise, they'll fall behind.”

Opportunities in 2019

Sometimes you need to take a chance and grab at the opportunities that many others haven’t. News ‘got crappy,’ Kimball Leslie explained, because every paper started giving it away. All of a sudden, paywalls became the answer. She said: “Paywalls will happen, there will be a version of Google Maps that you pay for and it won't blast your location out to the planet. The problem then, though, is that it becomes exclusive; only people who can afford it can use it and then we get this tiered version of the Internet. So, it's not perfect.

“We have to find a way to design a new-fangled business model that's more democratic. That's an example of a new opportunity that nobody is taking.”

Paley expressed that there needs to be a shift in the data conversation to make things more relevant to consumers, when it comes to AI powered platforms, and break through the clutter in the marketplace — which will only become more cluttered as the industry moves forward.

“We've had a lot of conversations with brands, marketers, and agencies about how to use AI to make things brand safe and compelling to advertisers. But how do we use it to make things compelling to our consumers? How do we shift into contextual relevance, more personalization and a focus on that?

She concluded: “That will only be powered by the data and what the likes of Amazon and Alexa tell us.”

You can purchase The Drum's predictions 2019 supplement magazine here.

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