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New York Advertising Week 2017: Key takeaways

by Lewis Leong on Oct 12, 2017

Advertising Week in New York brought together industry leaders for a week of panels and workshops for marketers to hone their skills. The conference was spread out across Times Square, appropriately surrounded by the bright lights of larger-than-life advertisements.

While there’s no particular theme assigned to Advertising Week conferences, two topics dominated the conversation: emerging platforms and the dominance of mobile. With AR and VR now democratized by things like Apple’s ARKit and VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, it’s natural for the discussion to revolve around how advertising must adapt to the increasing popularity of these emerging platforms.

Mobile continued to be a focus during the conference as more people will have mobile phones (5.4 billion) than electricity (5.3 billion), running water (3.5 billion), and cars (2.8 billion) by 2020 according to Cisco. The advertising industry has been mobile-focused for a number of years now, but consumer behavior continues to evolve with consumers settling into using just a few core apps and platforms.

While it’s impossible to go over everything that was talked about during this year’s New York Advertising Week, the clear recurring theme was that marketers must be more curious and data-driven. Here’s why.

Consumers want experiences and stories

Marketers must be great storytellers in the age of increasingly shorter ads. Long gone are the traditional 30-second TV ad spots where marketers could take their time. The move to shorter format online video on platforms like YouTube and Facebook means marketers have only a few seconds to make an impression on potential customers.

But visual ads aren’t the only formats that need to adapt—audio is making a comeback. Products like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and the upcoming Apple HomePod have brought audio back to the limelight, forcing marketers to think seriously about creating a voice and audio strategy.

In order to figure out which stories to tell, marketers need to be data-driven. A good example is Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, which was born out of surveying women about whether they thought they were beautiful. “Only 4% of women said that they were beautiful,” said Ogilvy & Mather COO Tham Khai Meng. It was this data-driven approach that allowed Dove to craft an effective decade-long campaign to celebrate beauty with women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities.

Video still dominates, but voice is next

Mobile video continues to grow and marketers are naturally creating more and more video ads. Currently, mobile video accounts for over 60% of total mobile traffic data and is expected to pass 78% in 2021, according to Cisco.

While mobile video ads continue to grow, marketers should realize that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to cut it. “There’s still a mindset that ‘video is video,’ said Carolyn Everson, VP of Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook. “But we cannot talk about video as one thing.” Instead, Everson urges marketers to create videos for specific platforms and to have different goals.

Snackable videos like the ones you see scrolling through your Instagram feed need to convey a story immediately. Marketers can try more involved video ads for platforms where people will be settling down to watch for extended periods, like with TV shows and movies.

Advertising Week - Facebook future of video panel

This shift can be daunting for companies and brands, but is necessary to change the advertising landscape. “It’s going to take experiments from smaller brands,” said Andrew Robertson, CEO of advertising agency BBDO. He recommends giving parts of your organization or brand the autonomy to push boundaries and experiment.

While video still dominates, voice and audio are emerging marketing channels that can’t be ignored. Voice assistants now live in our home and are forcing marketers to rethink and adopt voice and audio strategies. For many, voice is the new touch screen, providing users with a new way to interact with devices.

According to Pandora SVP of Strategic Solutions Susan Panico, it’s not just young people adopting these voice assistants either. Panico says a quarter voice activated devices are being used by users who are 55+ years old.

Panico recommends not porting your radio spot directly over as part of your voice strategy. “You need to understand that context in which you’re reaching someone,” she said. “When you interrupt an experience, you have to be aware that you’re interrupting an experience that people are very passionate about, which is music.” For music apps like Pandora, you don’t want to inundate a person with ads before he or she settles into the groove of listening to music.

VR and AR are still experimental platforms with potential, but 360-video is a stopgap

Virtual reality was supposed to change everything when it launched in 2015. Two years later, VR adoption has stagnated due to high prices for VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but also because the content created for the platform just isn’t compelling enough to convince people to buy into the platform.

AppLovin animated AR kit

“VR has moved past the ‘cool’ factor and now has to be truly useful,” said Bachir Zeroual, Head of VR Marketing at Samsung. Now that VR has had time to mature, marketers and content creators alike need to find out how to create unique experiences and to tell compelling stories.

While VR hasn’t taken off, the success of 360-degree video has marketers hopeful that VR will eventually become the dominant platform. According to Zeroual, VR is twice as engaging as 2D video, but 360-degree video serves as a good in-between for now. Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter allow users to enjoy 360-degree video without the need for a clunky headset.

Wrap-up

Taking a step back and examining the themes of New York Advertising Week as a whole, the main takeaway is that marketers need to be curious and data-driven now more than ever. As consumers adopt new technologies and platforms, marketers have to catch up to user behavior to deliver effective marketing strategies across the board, whether it’s traditional TV, in-app, or VR advertising.

By looking at data, marketers can make their best guess at what types of advertising will succeed instead of relying on a gut feeling. At AppLovin, we follow the same philosophy when it comes to ad creatives, and we’re constantly testing to see what ads are actually performing the best.

While there’s still merit in following a hunch, you must have data to back it up. Being wrong will still provide a great learning experience, as you can learn more from your mistakes than your victories.

We don’t know how advertising will change in the future, especially with emerging platforms like VR and AR, but data-driven experimentation and creativity will give marketers the best chance at adapting to the changing landscape.

Lewis Leong is AppLovin’s Content Marketing Manager.

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