My 2019 Advertising & Marketing Trends Predictions

My 2019 Advertising & Marketing Trends Predictions

AR, VR, AI, Voice Search, algorithms, brand purpose, machine learning, Amazon, Alibaba, Uber, self-flying cars, self-driving planes, micro-influencers, nano-influencers, meso-influencers, macro-influencers. With that out of the way, let’s get to my 2019 Trends Predictions.

I hit my marks on my 2018 trends predictions, but I don’t think I really stuck my neck out. For my 2019 predictions for trends in marketing and advertising, I’ll try to push the envelope a bit - but still be correct in the end. Here we go.

1. Facebook will receive a legislative kiss of death

Facebook is becoming a lame duck. The Instagram guys bailed. The Oculus Rift guys bailed. It’s shedding its user base. Engagement has declined (although that’s not as bad as it sounds for the ol’ ad revenue). California has led the charge on passing stringent privacy laws at a state level, leaving Facebook and other tech companies at the mercy of Federal law that'll most likely come in 2019. Facebook will lobby administration officials hard for leniency (which might, to be fair, work). If Democrats take the house, expect to see the Senate Intelligence Committee or the Energy and Commerce subcommittee (or perhaps some sneaky, otherwise minor committee with young guns on it) set its sights on Facebook, the most effective, subversive means by which propaganda was spread in the 2016 and 2018 elections. Unlike the embarrassing Congressional hearings from earlier this year, young bloods and newly minted representatives will come in hot with an informed bone to pick.

Facebook has few if any redeeming qualities. We already have de facto social media addiction harm reduction popping up, and we may indeed see full fledged social media detox programs emerge. With renewed vigor, House Democrats will look to get revenge on Facebook because they won't don’t know how to use it effectively for their own purposes, relative to the right.

By the end of 2019, the wheels will be set in motion that will squeeze the life out of Facebook. To be clear, I don't expect changes in the user base alone to affect Facebook. As an ad machine, it's too powerful to be taken down simply by user decrease. But more stringent privacy laws would deal Facebook's data exchange business a fatal blow (this is where I'd put my betting money). Regulation on ad spend, a crackdown on Facebook's foray into tangential markets and technologies, or scruitiny for culpability in political corruption would stymie its ability to continue to grow and squeeze out revenue.

2. Amazon will announce its USPS killers, Amazon Post and Amazon Parcel

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This should actually read, "Amazon will announce its USPS killers; Donald Trump will be pretzeled and rattle on about supporting the best people at the Postal Service for a week or so until he loses interest."

I made a call a couple of years ago that within 5 years, Amazon would compete logistically with the USPS and private shipping companies - through an owned air and ground fleet, distribution and processing facilities, and a network of hired gun endpoint delivery service. I think we're there. Not that it could compete with the USPS. That it will actively do so.

Amazon is a logistics company at its core. It has built the infrastructure to squeeze the space. It's established the perceived reliability and speed (read: trust) thanks to Prime that enough folks will elect to ship things via Amazon Post, and Amazon's brutal focus on simplicity and ease of use will serve as a stark contrast to the USPS.

Non-Amazon-based businesses and drop shippers will reap the benefits of Amazon's data & cloud services - as well as a streamlined Amazon fulfillment interface - as part of Amazon Parcel, further squeezing USPS and private carriers. Amazon is poised to zero in on the movement of consumer goods in the United States. We'll see if Amazon wants to take on Maersk...

3. Memes will be the way by which we communicate online

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Not a way, but the way. Like, the primary, only way. Yes, even amongst old people.

Memes are one subset of shared, cultural references - think inside jokes, wink wink nod nod - that have flourished as a means of communication online. Internet memes are the leading means by which fringier web-based subcultures have communicated in the last few years, especially the right - Pepe the frog, cucks, triple parentheses and the like - subversively, communicating in a pseudo tongue in cheek way: innocuous enough to get away with it and gaslight outsiders who catch on, serious enough to have meaning to those who are in on the (non)joke.

But I'm not interested in the tensions and polarity of memes as a political communication tool, because internet memes are poised for their time in the absurdist limelight. They will be the #1 way by which we communicate online in 2019, tagging each other in and creating meme derivations that reflect our taste for the seemingly meaningless absurd.

In the last couple of years, the internet meme as a device has gone mainstream, if not broken the fourth wall - memes' lifecylcles have shortened and will continue to do so in 2019, and become a part of the meme's experience. The birth, life, death, and overkill of memes will be entertaining narratives in their own right. Meme creators and their social accounts will be the new "storytellers" of 2019.

Don't get any bright ideas: branded memes will suck, and brands that try them will fall flat on their faces. Brands that get meme culture and have the right person(s) at the Instagram and Twitter helms will do well.

Have you seen the rise and fall of moth memes (September into October 2018)? I have, and I have seen the future. This network of IG meme makers provide the fodder by which disillusioned, absurdism-loving youth today derive some sort of pleasure in life. Moth memes got picked up in articles by Buzzfeed and Elite Daily, among others, pointing to the budding interest amongst more mainstream internet circles. This memery isn't for everyone just yet but it's coming. The scales will tip towards us following the network of meme accounts and making their own vs. reading up on memes in aggregated web articles. 2019 will find our grandparents clued in and sending us the 2019 equivalent of shrimp and moth memes. Absurd.

Speaking of absurdism...

4. 'Absurdism' will be the catch-all we use for our cultural taste for meaninglessness - societal numbness seeking the social edges at which we might feel something because we don't like the world we live in

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Yikes. Stick with me here, though. 'The youths love absurdism' will take over amongst marketing strategists and trends watchers as a way to articulate the fact that people on the internet like exceedingly weird, seemingly meaningless shit. And it's because the world around us seems like exceedingly weird, seemingly meaningless shit.

No, I'm not projecting here. We've crossed the threshold where meaning doesn't need to have meaning, and power enables those who have it to alter collective memory and interpretation of events through brute force and repetition in no more than a 24-hour newscycle or two. Social life is really, really weird. We turn to absurdity for grounding, and find solace in giving substance to something empty.

Really, it's because there's an underlying sense of unease and restlessness in our lack of a coherent future. To both the right and the left, the bad guys are in charge. That sense of disenfranchisement has spawned a keen disassociation from reality: what we want reality to be is far different from what it actually is, for both sides of the aisle. Political rhetoric aside, to Millennials and younger, the world seems bizarrely stacked against us, to the point of futility. Camus wrote that trying to find meaning in an inherently meaningless human existence was inherently absurd. And thus, here we are. Surreal memes and disillusionment galore.

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5. Agencies will keep pushing ‘video-first’ even though it's bullshit. Or, Marketing will still be full of shit because it's too far down the rabbit hole not to be

So it turns out that Facebook (who, don't forget, will be dealt a kiss of death) both grossly overestimated and over-reported the premise and metrics upon which it spawned the "pivot to video" media strategy & mentality. It's uhhh bullshit. The idea was that videos were wildly more successful than print or non-video content in sucking users in and getting them to consume content. I see how this could make sense on its face. Facebook was wrong, and they lied.

This had real consequences for publishers who went all-in on video. Remember when Fox Sports lost almost 90% of its audience within a couple of months after it flipped the switch to all-video? And yet, agencies still - and will still - push video as the primary means of content delivery for brand communication.

The reality is that video isn't inherently better than other media forms. Please don't misread me: video certainly can be best for particular marketing tasks. Video is great for many things. But the days of video uber alles need to be put behind us. A shitty video is no more or less effective than shitty copy by virtue of media form alone. Video isn't intrinsically better than copy or audio.

And yet...we will continue to see agencies who push video above all else. And it may be that some of them deal only in the types of campaigns and engagements for which video is naturally suited as the best form of communication. Fair. Still, there will be many others who will have little choice but to continue to push video-first because they have done so for as long as ad platforms and best practices told them to, and the trust they've built with their clients and in the industry is too rooted in what has existed to date. They'd get caught with a black eye and their pants down if they admitted that they've been wrong all along, even if it was Facebook's fault.

Agencies too inept to make video all this time? They should embrace this new premise, and act like they knew all along. The stragglers might suddenly look like the leaders.

6. We will reach peak jargon

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This is probably more wishful thinking than anything else. I hope and pray that client-side marketers are tired of agency bullshit to oversell and deceive about what we actually do. What if...we stopped hopping up the shit we do and just use plainspeak to explain our decisions and what we do? Sitting in meetings about media planning and targeting can sound like we're plotting drone strikes on high value ISIS command centers. We're not. Let's talk like normal people.

The problem, of course, is that jargon is great for covering up when we're full of shit and want to hide it. It’s rampant. Brand folks: hold our feet to the coals. Agency folks: don't be full of shit.

7. Data will still be a cover for lack of creative talent and human empathy. Or, Planning will be more important than it's been in a while

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I do think the tide is turning on data and tech vs. creativity. Here's my armchair theory: back in the day, there was enough creative talent and few enough brands with marketing dollars that the ad world was able to hum along quite nicely. Supply met demand. The Golden Era, if you will. There are now a zillion brands with marketing budgets, and there are more and more marketers to spend that money...but creativity - read: the volume of talent that makes a difference in this industry, and the quality of produced ideas - hasn't kept up. The talent threshold is lower than the dollar threshold, so we have more marketers with less creative talent with more money.

This has led to an over-reliance on data, technology and 'objective' predictability (and jargon!) over creativity. This led to the rise of direct response digital marketing in the last 15 years, the proliferation of sales-centric advertising over brand building, and the explosion of adtech. 'There are more marketing channels than ever before!' - because there are more people looking for more ways to spend marketing dollars than ever before, and more people and companies looking to cash in on their piece of the pie. That doesn't mean that those channels, methods, or the content on them are more useful for communication.

We've already witnessed a return of creativity and ideas to more nominal prominence, but we'll see if that takes hold in practice and agency structure. Adtech and data will still rule the day in 2019, as personalization and 1-to-1 brand conversations will blossom...even though the agencies that led that charge have already found them ineffective in the marketing ecosystem as we know it. We can change that, though.

It's our job as planners to continue to push back against the bullshit. Put on your hard hat and bring your lunch pail everyday; we'll be throwing a lot of cold water on a lot of hair air in 2019.

8. Pinterest will become legit

While social media might be ripping us apart - and we might be ready to rip it apart - one platform stands poised to rise from the settling dust...enter Pinterest, stage left. Sure, you'd be right to contest whether Pinterest is a true social media platform in the vein of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et al., but that's the point. While other platforms are under deserved scrutiny for preying on the worst of human frailty, Pinterst has just been over here happily offering up inspo for our latest design projects and creative ideas. It couldn't figure out how to properly monetize - and it will benefit from it, because the others figured out how to do so in the most basal, harmful ways possible.

Those other platforms will be checked for it, and we won't forgive them. Pinterest will rise above the fray because of its own past ineptitude. Call it a slow play. Advances in social commerce and product identification, coupled with Pinterest not being able to be evil in the past even if it wanted to, put it in a unique position to emerge as a good guy in the era of social platforms. I have a feeling that Pinterest is set to be a player (the player?) in the product and idea discovery space, and to make money moves that will position it as a real player in the platform game.

9. I won’t feel good about the economy, and will be working on making my brands recession-resistant

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I'd like to explore this further in a more in-depth post so I don't sound like a crank. But whatever, I'll crank ahead for now. I'll posit that the last two administrations have pretty exhaustively maxed out their ability to pull economic levers to push the American economy forward, outside of out and out war as an economic stimulus. Tax stimuli and spending increases did their part for now, and consumer confidence has helped to keep things chugging along optically. Trade deficits and the lived squeeze on the American population - while America gets wealthier, most Americans ain't getting wealthier - will make things trickier for the Fed who must manage interest rate policy. A slip up on their end could set off an avalanche of macroeconomic consequences, sending the country and global economy into recession. There's also the looming possibility of a trade war with China and America's other chief trade partners, thanks to a general lack of savvy where it matters most.

Were a recession to set in, it would not be good for most brands and businesses. Duh. Perhaps Dollar General and the like are poised to crush it, while true luxury brands remain largely unaffected. Most companies will need a gameplan to weather the storm. I'll be writing a blog post on the principles of recession-prepping that I've gathered sometime in the near future.

10. Brand Experience will be the name of the game. Most agencies will not be good at it

We're on the home stretch of this post. Brand experience - heretofore known as BX because it looks sexy, a requisite for marketing jargon - will be fully en vogue in 2019. It'll encompass branding, ads, marketing, CX, product, visual design, and other elements I'm forgetting. Agencies, squeezed by in-house resources and consultancies, will embrace the notion that marketing and brand extend beyond, well, marketing and advertising.

They will shift their attention to other touchpoints along the way and peddle the notion that every interaction is an opportunity to reinforce and further the brand. They'll be right, but they'll sound like smug, jargony assholes. Agencies who have lived this for a while will trumpet it from the top of their mountains/mole hills, and it will be annoying. Those agencies suddenly discovering this revelation will sell the shit out of it, and then fail the hell out of delivering it. If they haven't been good at it yet, they won't be good at it now, outside of acquiring niche shops to stitch together fuller brand competencies. Even then, they'll still suck. Because they'll peddle data and tech at the heart of it, rather than human empathy and creativity.

Alrighty, I think that's all I've got. I'll check back in in a year and see how things have shaped up. Holler with your thoughts.

So How Do Ads Work?

So How Do Ads Work?

Looking Back on My 2018 Trends Predictions

Looking Back on My 2018 Trends Predictions