question of the week

2024 Media Trends: Search, Community-Powered Partnerships and Creative Planning

With GenAI, search, the death of cookies, and creativity all big topics in 2024 we ask the industry what the year ahead will look like for media innovation

By Dani Gibson

Exciting transformations loom on the horizon for media innovation in 2024, with AI positioned as a key driver in the year ahead.

As AI adoption continues to become more widespread across the industry, it holds the potential to unify the sector. This will encourage creative agencies to explore AI-driven media solutions, while media agencies delve deeper into creative development.

Despite its notable significance, search often finds itself playing second fiddle to other digital channels. However, with platforms such as TikTok seamlessly incorporating search functionalities, we anticipate search diversifying even further.

Moreover, the emergence of community-driven collaborations like the Peloton/TikTok Fitness partnership marks a departure from traditional marketing alliances. These collaborations transcend mere promotions, actively influencing cultural trends and forging new avenues for growth.

The mainstream adoption of large language models (LLMs) in 2023 continues into 2024, promising to reshape media usage on a wide scale.

Creativity in media also deserves attention. Advertisers are increasingly recognising the crucial role of integrating media, creative, and production processes to effectively engage and captivate target audiences—a pivotal aspect for campaign success.

We asked media experts to delve deeper into the forthcoming shifts in media innovation for 2024.

Geoff de Burca and Richard Kirk, joint chief strategy officers, EssenceMediacom

Search has the biggest share of the UK advertising market – not far off 40 per cent of total UK adspend. But it’s one of the least discussed – the constant, reliable workhorse of performance plans, delivering great results with none of the controversy surrounding some other digital channels, and less publicly visible than big broadcast formats.

2024 is the year we should all be looking at search as this will be its most exciting year yet: Google has driven this market for years with a series of powerful innovations, and that will definitely continue – from fun things like the ‘circle to search’ image function, to increasing integration of generative AI technology to improve the quality of answers.

Search will also continue to diversify: TikTok’s 'It starts on TikTok’ campaign pushes the app’s search functionality, and we think it’s safe to predict it will be coming to market with a commercial proposition; organic search will be massively impacted by the rise of AI-driven content and those who seek to game the rankings; and with so many searches starting on retail sites, retail media will innovate and grow too.

So, if you’re not paying attention to search right now – you should.

Lucas Brown, chief strategy officer, Total Media Group

2024 promises to be an exciting year of change with a consistent theme in the agency world - and that is how to embrace artificial intelligence, and this focus will undoubtedly lead innovation this year.

AI presents the biggest opportunity for our industry since the development of the internet, but unlike the internet the foundations of change are already in place, so the speed of adoption will be significantly faster. The introduction of ChatGPT, which grew to 100 million users in 2 months, illustrates the likely speed of this change. If social media took fifteen years to mass adoption, then I would predict that AI will take five or less.

The adoption of AI might start to bring our industry back together again, encouraging creative agencies to expand into activating AI-based media solutions, while media agencies activate more creative development.

AI is a broad church though and the one area that will rapidly grow in 2024 is personalisation. AI will drive both speed adaption of creative and the ability to scale ads to a personalisation level. We've seen its potential in India, where thousands of local stores created personalized ads featuring Shah Rukh Khan, promoting local shopping in a Cadbury campaign.

Google's strides in AI-driven personalisation offer another glimpse into the future. They're enhancing advertising personalisation through real-time behavioural insights, allowing advertisers to input multiple headlines and descriptions linked to a person’s interests and motivations.

In 2024, AI isn't just an innovation component – it's the core. If we liken innovation to a cake, AI is both the sponge and icing, making other innovations mere sprinkles.

Michael Florence, chief strategy officer, Gravity Road

2024 innovations? Here goes - insert Linkedin bingo here: Today with Gen AI! Tomorrow with Gen A-lpha, The Future is Barbie Pink?! Joking aside, instead of five innovations, I predict five words: “I want one of those”.

The desire? Community powered partnerships. Ventures like Crocs x Minecraft and Peloton x TikTok Fitness. Hang on?! Partnerships have been a marketing mainstay for years. True. But until now, the primary purpose of partnerships has been to drive clout and context. Community-powered partnerships extend way beyond typical planning checklists. Done right, they can shape culture, enable brands to show up authentically and most importantly accelerate new growth opportunities.

Take Peloton x TikTok. By jumping into #Fitness, with over 401B views, Peloton avoided the trap of playing back fitness of yesteryears. By putting communities first, #TikTokFitness #PowerByPeloton envisions the future of fitness. Leaving the world of gym bro culture at the door and welcoming #hotgirlwalk as part of a new regime.

This new type of community powered cultural energy is so potent it can drive instant commercial impact and in turn move market cap.

The era of community powered partnerships beckons, and the time to seize its potential is now. Say it with me “I want one of those."

James Shoreland, chief executive officer, VCCP Media

The biggest thing to shape the industry in 2024 is not an exciting media innovation in its own right. It will, however, have far reaching consequences in how we think about media planning.

We have reached peak social media. In key markets usage is in decline. Along with the financial pressure the tech giants had in 2023, we are going to see them shove more advertising inventory into fewer opportunities thus increasing both cost and clutter.

This will force advertisers to place a greater emphasis on planning media, creative and production together in smarter, more strategic and creative ways. Starting out in social media, this will evolve into connected TV and in how we think about all media, especially as addressable opportunities increase at the expense of long-established media modes of consumption. The channel used to be a byword for how advertising would work in media, but that is no longer sufficient. We need to plan for how people attend to the content, not the channel. Imagine planning our TV around the creative message in one genre versus another for example!

This is the year we start planning for creativity, and indeed the creative, in media.

Brian Williamson, senior social strategist, AMV BBDO

2024 will be a year of adapting to the downstream effects. It’s going to feel like a year of incredible change in media, even if no new innovations appear.

Though large language models went mainstream last year, the real impact will be the million-and-one future applications of them, which will shape media and interactive experiences in new ways for years to come. Similar to the early days of the iPhone, we’re still mostly using them to do old jobs faster and cheaper. That’s already exhilarating and terrifying for creative industries, but we should expect even more strange and wonderful things to come as LLMs begin to make things possible which we could never have imagined possible before.

A practical consequence of LLMs has been to push more social and media platforms to become walled gardens, heavily restricting access to data that was once public. Combine that with the death of cookies, and brands are going to be left with fewer free sources of data to use for understanding and targeting people online. To reach specific people, we will have to be much more creative about drawing in consumers with entertainment, working with partners and creators, finding clever contextual opportunities, and perhaps even planting our own gardens of consumer data.


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