drum | ‘A more secular and wiser internet’: Are marketers facing a new type of online user?


We brought together a panel of marketing leaders from the digital and social space for The Drum’s Predictions Deep Dive. their predictions? The rules of engagement online will continue to change as audiences mature.

We are now ankle-deep in The Drum’s forecast week. But when we brought together agency leaders in the social and digital space to look through the proverbial crystal ball, their number one priority was to tell us that certainty is a rarity in their world.

“It’s unpredictable, especially on social,” says Hannah Anderson, managing director of Kyma Media. “Social platforms change their minds every other week. If you make a prediction at the beginning of the year, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you asked me three years ago if TikTok (at the time, Musically) would win, I would have said no. Back then, long-form content was king, and Facebook was meant to be the new Netflix. Overall, the predictions are all potentially meaningless.”

Well, here’s a pinch of salt. But setting aside lofty visions for the future, there’s a lot the panel can agree on. In particular, we are now witnessing a shift in the hearts and minds of our online audiences.

generation wise

According to at least one of our panelists, the wave of long-term builds is peaking. “We are suddenly seeing a more secular and sensible internet,” says Kevin Joyner, head of data strategy at digital agency Croud.

Joyner continues. As the audience’s “skepticism and distrust of the media grew, people became more accustomed to automation. With the power of AI making things; With fake content and cybercrime, privacy concerns are a concern. Their expectations are rising. The important thing in the year ahead has to do with responding to worldly and sensible concerns. This means using your creative to foster trust, security, and authenticity. When you talk to someone who is mature, someone who has been through a lot, speak with greater respect. Advertising is going in that direction.”

That said, marketers are now dealing with a generation of Internet-enabled users who are all too familiar with the rules of the online game, especially who sells what to whom. “People are more aware that there is an exchange of value online,” said James Mortimer, Paid Social Director, iCrossing. is value exchange.”

Some elements of this psychological paradigm emerge as a kind of online armor. People are more aware of how data about them is collected and traded. They are better at spotting fakes. They are getting bored with lazy retargeting of products they have already bought. And their subconscious mind is adept at filtering out all the noise of unimaginative advertising (which manifests itself in more powerful banner blindness than ever before).

But our panel says it would be a mistake to regard this ‘wise’ generation as simply resisting online advertising. “They don’t mind ads that are relevant,” says Adam Connett, Head of Digital at AgencyUK. In fact, as we learn more about the digital economy, Connett says, in some cases advertising is more receptive than ever. For example, deepening the parasocial relationship between online creators and their fanbases, watching ads the entire time, clicking on them, or using a creator’s discount code can increasingly feel like “a kind of advocacy. It’s a true exchange of value.” ”

From this series of observations, the panel reached various conclusions, including: Creativity in digital advertising is more important than ever. Community and advocacy will grow in importance. Privacy and data sharing concerns are real, but they won’t end the digital economy. “People want to laugh,” says Liz Cole, VMLY&R’s US Social Director. They want to have fun. They want to be nice. They want to feel like they belong. It’s all very basic. That stuff often supersedes more philosophical considerations.”

The Singularity of Digital Culture

“We’ve crossed the threshold where so-called Internet culture and general culture are no longer different,” says Cole. It’s not hard to come up with examples to prove that digital culture has truly broken its limits. Reddit users are influencing the stock market. Movies made from viral threads; America’s first meme president.

It’s important for brands and marketers alike to take note of these cultural shifts, says Cole. “We need to shift from a very channel and format oriented approach to planning content, ideas and campaigns to a much more consumer and culturally driven approach. Use these platforms as palettes in a variety of ways. We hope to tell a story and resonate far beyond the people we actually interact with on our original platform.”

All of this speaks of yet another change. That is, a shift in power towards communities, creators and consumers. Their agendas and interests will be well tracked by marketers. Predicting them will be difficult, but you shouldn’t pay attention.

For more information on the coming year for marketing agencies, check out our agency forecast hub.

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