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5 hot topics you should take seriously in 2018


By Debbie Klein, UK CEO

December 20, 2017 | 7 min read

In the marketing calendar, December is a time for reflecting on the year that’s been and working out priorities for the next. Here’s my take on five hot topics that agencies and clients need to be giving time to in 2018.

Debbie Klein

Debbie Klein is CEO of Engine Europe and Asia Pacific

Facial recognition

Frequent flyers will be familiar with the growing use of e-passport gates at airports around the world – but 2018 could be the year that facial recognition technology stops becoming a novelty and enters the mainstream.

Facial recognition can be a game-changer for marketers, but until now the number of sectors and brands making full use of it has remained surprisingly low.

For retail and consumer goods brands, facial recognition has the potential to transform the payment process. KFC, for example, has already been using face ID at one of its outlets in China to enable customers to pay for their meals more efficiently, but this is an isolated example.

With the new iPhone X incorporating facial recognition as a standout feature for Apple Pay, and the UK on the verge of becoming a cashless society, the stage is set for a surge in the number of brands using this technology to create a more personalised and seamless customer experience.


The introduction of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May looms large on the horizon, presenting businesses with the biggest adjustment in data protection laws since the Data Protection Act 1998. While GDPR is not exactly a trend, it’s likely to be weighing on the mind of every marketer and should be top of their agenda in 2018.

GDPR is a new set of standards designed to give individuals greater control over their personal data – a timely intervention amid a growing number of data hacks this year, from Uber to Wonga. All companies possessing customer data will be required to meet strict regulations, or face hefty fines of up to €20m or 4% of annual global income.

Today’s connected consumers leave a trail of data everywhere they go, and GDPR is a potential minefield which must be navigated with utmost caution by advertisers and marketers who rely heavily on customer data and insight to build relationships, deliver campaigns and drive sales.

The most effective campaigns today are driven by data – in fact Mastercard has described it as “the new oil” – but brands will need to get to grips with GDPR as soon as possible in order to comply with the law and ensure they are handling data with appropriate care, while using it responsibly to deliver more personalised experiences for customers.

Age diversity

2018 may be the year that the advertising industry finally brings its most underappreciated demographic – over-50s – into the spotlight.

Gender and ethnicity diversity have been the top of the agenda this year. And rightfully so, considering there are still only 31% of senior positions in creative agencies taken by women, and 11.4% of industry jobs filled by black, Asian and minority ethnic people. But there’s a missing piece in the diversity puzzle – and that’s age diversity.

Just 6% of people working in the advertising industry are over 50, compared with 30% working in other knowledge industries like law and finance. Creative agencies and brands are bursting with great awards programmes and cultures targeted at young people – from '30 under 30' programmes to action-packed team away-days – but they lack the equivalent rewards for older people, and too many over-50s end up pursuing other avenues, such as a highly paid client role, writing or directing.

Agencies need to harness the potential of over-50s. This age group is a valuable source of creativity which also has the experience to spot mistakes and pass on their expertise to younger colleagues, and to help produce work that properly reflects our society.

Over-50s command huge purchasing power, with their spend accounting for over £320bn of UK spending. Brands should be waking up to this and looking at better ways to capture the potential of this age group properly in 2018.

Gen Z

With $44bn (£28bn) in annual purchasing power in the US alone, Gen Z is already ushering in a new era of disruption. Composed of those born between 1995 and 2010, this generation is different to millennials and presents a brand-new set of communication challenges for brands.

Although the terms Gen Z and millennials tend to be overused, it’s still genuinely important that brands factor in these different behaviours when reassessing their communication strategies.

While millennials have been accused of killing everything from banks to the diamond industry and spending too much money on avocado toast to afford a home, Gen Z are more cynical and practically-minded.

They’re used to being bombarded with endless messages on a multitude of different channels, and are savvier than their millennial counterparts, making it harder for brands to snap up their attention. They also aspire to financial independence and security, and are more self-sufficient.

Brands will therefore need to embrace data to identify more personalised and intelligent ways to give this up-and-coming group the seamless experiences they crave.


For an increasingly digitally-savvy audience, traditional sports viewership is falling out of favour. There’s a new rapidly growing entrant to the sector which all brands should be taking seriously: eSports.

Consisting of video game players competing against each other to win money and prizes, eSports is already taking the sports market by storm and will grow to stratospheric proportions in 2018. According to BI Intelligence findings, roughly 300 million people globally tune in to eSports, and that audience is expected to grow to nearly 600 million over the next three years.

With ESPN and Turner already broadcasting eSports tournaments and competitions, this phenomenon offers a new and exciting platform for brands to reach audiences at scale, particularly millennials and Gen Z. The events themselves also provide brands with great product testing grounds and opportunities to offer discounts to event attendees and viewing audiences. It’s a no brainer for any brand wanting to reach this demographic.

If there’s anything marketers can learn from the rising popularity of eSports, it’s that consumers are increasingly craving experiences that are social, participative and involve gamification. Whether they’re trying to appeal to sports fans or not, brands need to be focusing more on creating immersive and innovative experiences for their audiences in 2018.

Debbie Klein is CEO of Engine Europe and Asia Pacific

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