4 digital marketing trends to watch from GroupM's Rob Norman

Social networks to be 'foundation layer' for online marketing, says GroupM global chief digital officer, Rob Norman

Marketers must make smart use of technology to create powerful ad experiences for consumers, according to GroupM global chief digital officer, Rob Norman.

“I urge you to think about the opportunity to create powerful experiences just as much as you’re thinking about the opportunity to watch Humpty Dumpty fall off the wall and turn into a thousand little pieces and create value out of all of those data fragments,” Norman said at an Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) event in Sydney.

“While simultaneous reach may be a challenge in the future, the creating of shared experiences is going to be extremely powerful.”

Norman commented on several recent and emerging marketing trends, including mobile and 3D printing. Here are a few key takeaways from his remarks:


Social networks could soon become the priority channel for ads, above TV, print and search, said Norman.

Also read: Focus on people, not social platforms: Klout CEO

Social networks have succeeded because they’re easier to use, have created great utility for users, and provided large return on bandwidth and costs consumed, he said. Norman listed Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and – increasingly – Pinterest as the key social networks to target.

“Those particular folks who are massively distributed in many markets have a huge amount of first-party data, which is as we all know is super valuable, and that’s going to become the foundation layer for most forms of online marketing,” he said.


“Advertising on mobile [phones] is still extremely difficult,” said Norman. “There are more people that have accidentally clicked through to mobile websites than have intentional ones.”

Also read: Adopting mobile marketing for the masses

To have any success, marketers should use as a model the Facebook newsfeed, which displays mobile ads in a stream and provides a full-screen ad experience. In addition, advertisers should try to build data partnerships with companies like Facebook and LinkedIn, he said.

Branded mobile apps are unlikely to get much notice in an increasingly crowded app marketplace, Norman continued. “I wouldn’t build a business model about it unless you are just trying to get out of that business within the next year.”

There are about 1.3 million unduplicated apps in the Google and Apple app stores, and only 1000 have 50,000 or more regular users, he said. Also, only about one out of every 100 apps gets opened for a second time, he said.


“The transformation of the media industry from a faith-based to a data-driven market in the last 24 months is incredible,” said Norman. However, he claimed there are “aspects that have gone too far”.

The importance of data can be “overrated” for the selling of physical goods like shampoo and toilet paper, he said.

Data is most valuable when it opens new revenue or segmentation opportunities, or creates “an information asymmetry where you know something the seller of the inventory perhaps doesn’t know, or your competitor doesn’t know, and you can use the data to exploit it and exploit it at speed”.

Also read: First-of-its-kind report benchmarks global data-driven marketing efforts

3D printing

“Craft has made a comeback,” said Norman, who believed dropping costs of 3D printers have created a “whole world of the collision of individual craftsmanship and technology”.

“What we don’t know yet is what the impact overall on industry and marketing is going to be in the short term – and we think it’s relatively small – but it’s our sense that it’s going to be very large over time,” he said.

Adam Bender covers digital marketing and emerging technology for CMO and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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