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7 Digital Trends That Will Change Business Forever.

The outlook for the second half of 2017 reflects the “new digital-led normal,” as businesses continue to adapt technologies to compete on an increasingly crucial user experience.

Some of our early 2017 trends have come to fruition. The Year of Mobile, for example, is here. “At last. We can throw away the T-shirt,” said Greg Paull, principal and co-founder of R3 Worldwide. Peak mobile penetration appears close at hand, as we forecasted in December. According to ZenithMedia’s latest forecast, mobile Internet use rose only 2.7% last year and growth will be flat this year.

Other forecasts are still works in progress, with questions around how blockchain will gain purchase in omnichannel commerce and how to establish ROI accountability for digital efforts.

Even without the effect of the Olympics or election campaigns, most forecasts still call for increased ad spending globally. According to PwC’s forecast for 2017 to 2021, both entertainment and media revenue and global advertising revenue will grow worldwide 4.2% every year, on average, just short of its GDP forecast. 

In that slow-growth environment, user experience will be key, experts said. Paull noted that consultants such as Deloitte and Accenture have invested more than $7 billion acquiring marketing capabilities to execute on their market knowledge. “They’re already in the door with the CEO and the CFO, so it’s a logical step to move onto the CMO,” he said. “Media agencies have to become more involved in the customer journey and help marketers evolve the customer interface.”

What more can we expect? Read on for seven sizzling digital trends to follow for the second half of 2017.

Battling Bad Bots

After years of increased awareness about ad fraud, the industry appeared to see signs of progress in early 2017. The latest ANA and White Ops baseline study estimated a 10% reduction in losses due to bot fraud in late 2017 and said media agencies had improved controls on programmatic buys.

“The platforms cut the head of the snake,” said Cory Haik, publisher of Mic. Bad actors who leverage ad arbitrage by publishing fake clickbait and collecting ad revenues are being weeded out, she said.

That’s all very promising, but don’t expect the industry to claim victory and lower its guard. Experts are quick to point out that bad actors test and learn. Bots are getting better at looking like humans, despite efforts to authenticate users online, said Dave Yovanno, CEO of Impact Radius/Forensiq.

“Fraudsters are continuing to find new ways to commit fraud on mobile and the majority of current detection techniques are lagging,” Yovanno said. “Advanced fraud detection on mobile devices is a new challenge for the industry and requires dedicated focus.”

Focus On Image Recognition

If 2017 is the year when voice-recognition goes mainstream with Alexa and Siri running the connected home (witness Apple’s recent announcement of the HomePod), it’s also the start of a new trend to leverage the mobile phone’s camera and combine image recognition with all kinds of artificial intelligence, thanks to the release of Google Lens.

Major industry players are integrating real-time data, location and object recognition to create new forms of marketing, said Tom Edwards, chief digital officer, agency, at Epsilon. He explained how Google Lens combines the power of Google Assistant and the ability to overlay computer vision, which can be the basis for contextual augmented reality and links to various services, such as content, purchases or bookings based on traffic and other environmental factors.

This year also will see more pairings of voice and visual experiences come to market to further enhance Alexa Skills and Actions on Google, as marketers begin to shift their attention from Millennials to Gen-Z, Edwards said.

“Voice has led the way in 2017; 2018 will be the year of computer vision-powered experiences,” he said.

Now You See It …

... Now you don’t. In expectation of the release of Google Lens, many platforms are experimenting with augmented reality applications. “Augmented reality is going to play a very different role in the way we go about things,” said R3’s Paull.  

Apple’s new iPhone 8 coming up soon will be very AI-centric and with Google Lens coming in about the same time, “the whole role of augmented reality is going to go through a Pokemon summer again, like we did last year,” Paull added.

AR is still not quite ready for prime time, but many groups are testing it and getting ready to go, said New York Times SVP advertising and innovation Sebastian Tomich. The Times plans to get into the AR space by the end of the year, he told a NewFronts audience.

“For any brand looking to get into AR, it is a premature space,” Tomich said. “It’s coming, but at the moment, it is for stunt work.”

VR Now Just One Of The Gang

After the initial rush, reality has set in—on virtual reality. At the 2017 NewFronts, virtual reality was presented as just one more tool in the toolbox; a VR capability was table stakes but not the top priority for content development. Rather, VR’s focus has shifted to the delicacies of creating content and where it is appropriate, with less focus on the novelty of showing off the technology. “We’re waiting for 3.0,” Paull said.

Don’t feel bad for VR techies, though. VR gaming and VR video are projected to grow to about $2 billion in revenue each this year, according to PwC’s forecast. The forecast estimates consumer VR will grow into a market of more than $15 billion in revenue by 2021. Over 257 million VR headsets will be in use by then and over 88% of them will be portable goggles used with mobile phones.

Gaming is a natural medium for VR, but as more, cheaper mobile headsets enter the market, video will begin growing at a faster rate. PwC expects VR online video to grow revenue faster than VR gaming and to become the largest segment of VR by 2019. 

“The challenge with VR is it needs to become social,” Paull said. “Once the speed is there and you can be in an immersive environment with other people, then it’s going to be very compelling.”

Pour Some Content On Me

In 2017, cooperation and joint ventures between players—even competing ones—is the way to go. Look no further than Twitter, which announced 15 different deals at the NewFronts and expects to have 24/7 live-streaming available this year. The idea is “reimagining sports, news and entertainment programming for a mobile-first audience,” said Matt Derella, VP of sales.

Many platforms stress that the demands of producing quality content for multiple channels and adopting multiple technologies are often more than one company can handle. Social and streaming platforms need content and legacy publishers need to develop technological capabilities; meanwhile, agencies need to connect both to their clients, even as they launch labs that compete.

Many publishers noted their calling card is the brand cred of their publications. But with users increasingly accessing the content on-the-go and getting most of their information from their social media feeds via their phones, publishers need access to that pipeline.

Chief revenue officer Brad Elders said Time Inc. values cross-platform deals, so it will promote them. “Ultimately, our success is tied to yours,” he told the Newfronts audience. “We have skin in the game.”

It’s (A)Live!

Live-streaming content is all the rage. Nearly every platform presenting at NewFronts launched or expanded live video content via the various social media platforms, such as Facebook Live and Twitter feeds or on their own.

The Newfronts represented “something of a watershed moment for our industry,” said Chris Kuist, SVP of research and impact at the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Over-the-top video has gone mainstream and so has mobile video, he said.

“Hulu can now be your first source of television,” said CEO Mike Hopkins, launching a new service on the platform that offers live and on-demand viewing of Scripps Networks, such as Food Network, HGTV and The Travel Channel.

“We don’t need Nielsen to tell us OTT is growing fast,” said Bloomberg chief revenue officer Keith Grossman. The company positioned its deal with Twitter as another way to reach an audience that increasingly doesn’t watch TV.

“It’s about consumer behaviour,” Twitter’s Dorsey said. “Consumers come for the content and stay for the conversation.”

Personalisation Gets Emotional

Between the drumbeat of resistance to the new administration in the US, the anti-Brexit backlash in the latest British election and the results of the French election, the polarisation of Western society seems to have no end in sight. 

In this fractious environment, personalisation isn’t just about demographics or even context anymore, experts said. It’s about appealing to belief. Christopher Graves, president of the Ogilvy Centre for Behavioural Science, noted that people tend to stick to their beliefs and they listen to messages that jibe with their views. These days, new technologies enable AI to judge the flavour of content online based on its emotional appeal and tone, opening the door to targeting based on attitudes and emotion.

Thanks to the same algorithms that build the echo chamber that bolsters consumers’ beliefs, marketers can now target them based on those beliefs. Marketers are abandoning demographics for “cultural cognition”—targeting based on how people view the world in “a deeply empathetic way,” Graves said.

All animations in this article were created with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects CC.