SQAD POD: 5 Game Changers Every Advertiser Should Know – August 2017

Industry news and insights podcast curated from the world of advertising and marketing trends.

We’re speeding through August and back-to-school is right around the corner; but before all the kids are shipped back to class, there are still a couple precious weeks left to hit up the beach and ride the last waves of summer. This month, the surf is up in the world of advertising as we look at virtual reality ads, the Discovery-Scripps merger, Amazon’s amped up advertising game, voice-based search, and advertising’s return to TV.

1. Let’s Get Virtual

It looks like the future of advertising is finally here and we’re living in a day and age where we are no longer restricted to two dimensional ads on display screens. With the advent of virtual reality (VR), it was only a matter of time before we had virtual reality ads. Maybe you put on your VR goggles and the next thing you know, you’re making your way through different spaces furnished, stocked, and decorated with branded items – there’s a Crate & Barrel dining table; there’s a baby blue Kitchen-Aid mixer; look over there, it’s a Dyson vacuum. It’s all here, in virtual reality, and ready for you to experience. Looking to make a splash is the VR development company, Unity. They recently announced an interesting experience where VR users will suddenly see a floating door in their virtual world. If they choose to enter, they will surrounded by a whole new branded world, separate from the VR experience they were just in. If you think this all sounds crazy, just wait. You can bet, this is just the beginning of a whole new way to engage consumers.

2. Discovery and Scripps: A Love Story

For the past few months, all eyes have been fixed on Discovery and Viacom’s battle over the acquisition of Scripps Network. After much negotiation, Discovery has finally emerged as the victor, shelling out $14.6 billion worth in cash and stocks to acquire Scripps (which owns Travel Channel, Food Network, and the home-renovation channel we’re all guilty of binging on, HGTV). If approved, the union of Scripps and Discovery (which owns mega-channels including Discovery Channel, TLC, and the Oprah Winfrey Network) could have a major impact on advertisers because the new conglomerate would control around 20 percent of the ad-supported pay-television audience in the US. Perhaps even more compelling, five of the top female-focused networks would fall under one company. It’s hard to say what the long term effects will be, but you can bet we’ll all be watching to see how the cable TV advertising game changes.

3. Amazon is About to Shake Things Up

Last month’s Game Changers included talk about the seemingly unstoppable duopoly of Facebook and Google, and how advertisers were anxiously awaiting a third player to swoop in and shake up the balance of power. It looks like Amazon is emerging as a worthy challenger. As its connected services business continues to expand in every direction, it’s also gaining ground in terms of its advertising game. The online shopping giant is helping companies leverage their brand in effective and creative ways – by getting users to write reviews for products, offering ways to make products more visually appealing on their listings, and brainstorming how companies can utilize voice-activated search to connect with consumers. More advertisers are flocking to Amazon, drawn by the opportunity to make their products and brand more visible and of course, the prospect of increased ROIs. Even advertising executives foresee more agencies offering Amazon-focused services. There may come a point when Amazon reaches total retail domination, which begs the question: Will Amazon go all-in on advertising, next?

4. Alexa, How Will Voice-Based Search Change Advertising?

Right up there with virtual reality, voice-recognition is paving new roads in the world of marketing innovation. With Alexa, Siri, Google Now, and Cortana ready to answer your questions, we’re watching an evolution in the way people are searching for things online – shifting away from the screen and into a voice-only world. Google stats show 20 percent of Android searches are now done through speech, and Gartner predicts by 2020, 30 percent of web browsing will be done UI-free. That’s going to position A.I. virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Home to control the content and ads we get served. Maybe you ask your AI device a question about gardening soil… will they respond with paid content from Miracle Gro, or a suggestion for a 15-pound bag of Nature’s Care (conveniently available at the grocery store your Siri knows you shop at)? There is little doubt that voice-based ads have the potential to change the game of paid search, the real question is, when. As the balance shifts from screen search to voice, the volume of consumers using voice search will drive the biggest innovations in the space. Time will tell.

5. Advertisers Return to the Living Room

Digital content publishers are all about creating short, digestible content for mobile platforms nowadays, but YouTube is making a U-turn and bringing its attention back to the good old TV set. In 2016, YouTube saw its viewership on TV screens increase a substantial 90 percent compared to 2015, and predicts it will rise yet another 90 percent this year. People are “channel surfing” again – though not quite at the levels of television’s heyday – putting the living room back in the spotlight for advertising dollars. Why the reversal back to TVs? The answer is quite simple: they’re now equipped with smarter technology and streaming options that make it easy to pop content right onto the big screens. Set-top boxes like Tivo, Roku, and Fire TV have placed streaming content side-by-side with traditional broadcast content – and advertisers are noticing. According to video ad tech platform Freewheel, four years ago, connected TV devices accounted for only 2% of ads that ran alongside premium digital content… now it makes up 32% of those ads. The numbers show a trend that advertisers can’t ignore.