19 digital marketing predictions for 2022

In this hefty industry round-up featuring marketing leaders, industry experts, agency thought leaders, adtech and martech vendors, CMO explores what's in store for digital marketing in the post-Covid era

11. Advertisers and publishers embrace targeting alternatives

DoubleVerify country manager A/NZ, Imran Masood, predicts more privacy-friendly solutions that offer precise forms of measurement outside of cookies ushering in a new approach to targeting.

“With Apple iOS shifting away from identifiers, brands will need to move away from user-level targeting towards contextual targeting – presenting a content-based approach to both align brand suitability and reach the right audience. However, that won’t be the silver bullet to replace cookies,” he says. “In addition to contextual targeting, we believe there will also be demand for privacy-friendly attention metrics that go beyond traditional KPIs, such as viewability and clicks, and provide granular insights into user presence, engagement and ad presentation.” 

Magnite senior VP and head of JAPAC, Juliette Stead, advises advertisers and agencies to develop and test new identity solutions in the upcoming year to ensure a smooth transition to a consent driven, privacy compliant world.

There will also be demand for privacy-friendly attention metrics that go beyond traditional KPIs, such as viewability and clicks, and provide granular insights into user presence, engagement and ad presentation

Imran Masood, country manager A/NZ, DoubleVerify

“Publishers will double down on building out their first-party data capabilities, while the buy-side will work closely with their suppliers to activate more effectively based on first-party data,” she forecasts. “The issue of identity will need to be solved by cooperation and collaboration across the industry and we should look at this process as an opportunity to create a sustainable, consent-driven, new identity regime.”

Even as first-party data becomes the name of the game, the industry is going to need ways of targeting consumers that can’t or choose not to be identified. Xander account director, Cecilie Moseng, says brands will learn to love “incognito users” in 2022 and beyond.

“What is clear is the more consumers are given the choice, the more they choose to remain anonymous,” she says. “Without a thoughtful approach to anonymous audiences, brands will likely miss out on both reach and results.

“Sophisticated brands have already started testing new technology designed specifically to deliver brand outcomes without relying on any identifiers. Some have tested next-generation contextual targeting that has delivered better performance than cookie-based targeting. Others have adopted optimising to attention time rather than historical vanity metrics, such as click-through rates, and found it significantly improved upper-funnel performance. Several are taking advantage of content metadata from publishers as a different way to reach an audience in the right moment.

“New technologies are already available to test, and the majority of advertising still has an identifier attached to it so they can compare the results of new approaches with what they have done in the past.”

But for this to materialise, Lotame managing director A/NZ, Luke Dickens, says identity partners will need to “stop the infighting”.

“ID solutions for the open Web are going to be invaluable for publisher monetisation, so in 2022 collaboration will dramatically increase. ID partners in 2021 operated in the identity arena like a circular firing squad. Everyone claims their privacy is better than others, and everyone who has a solution wants to say theirs is the only one that works. In reality, all have to work together,” he says.

“Put down your arms, identity vendors, publishers and marketers. Instead, let’s focus on our common goal of giving the consumer transparency and control while making everything more efficient.”

Even as third-party cookies disappear, “The reality is that third-party data will continue to stick around because the alternatives that will crop up in its absence aren’t feasible for smaller publishers,” Dickens says.

“The industry as a whole seems to have forgotten about smaller publishers since they’re pushing ideas that won’t work for them, instead of ideas that will work for everyone. In 2022, the screams of these publishers will be better heard.”

12. Commerce-first social approaches dominate

Another growing trend set to accelerate in 2022 is commerce-charged social.

“Brands and retailers are already prioritising social commerce and are only set to increase their social commerce efforts over the next few years,” Bazaarvoice CMO, Zarina Lam Stanford, says. The vendor’s research found 67 per cent of brands and retailers citing social commerce as important to their online strategy today.

Another Bazaarvoice survey in 2021 found almost three quarters of consumers agreed or strongly agreed they are more influenced to shop via social media now than pre-pandemic.

“Brands and retailers need to ensure they are enabling product discovery, serving consumers with the content they need to purchase, and engaging with them post-purchase to create loyal advocates,” Stanford advises.

For AKQA’s Vella, ‘Social commerce’ will no longer be about creating commercial avenues and opportunities in existing social environments. “Instead, we will see the rise of commerce-first social spaces. For example, the beauty app, Flip, and Taobao, a Chinese aggregator,” he predicts.  

It’s no surprise FatTail’s Huntington is predicting social and ecommerce platform competition as a result.

“Consumers who cut their teeth buying on Amazon now expect to be able to buy anything, anywhere and anytime,” he says. “Suppliers in pursuit of new, less cluttered distribution channels are being increasingly drawn to social commerce sites and the corollary benefits they provide, such as enhanced engagement and precision targeting.

“Ecommerce platforms, seeing the writing on the wall, will begin mounting competitive responses, including increased M&A activity.”The next race is differentiation and creativity in commerce." 

With ecommerce regarded as critical, 2022 is therefore going to be a year of becoming more creative with commerce, Vella says.

“Investment during the pandemic went into establishing foundations and just enabling businesses to keep doing business. Now, brands need to ensure that investment continues towards innovation in order to differentiate. The next race is differentiation and creativity in commerce.”

Growing B2B commerce digitisation is another expectation off the back of this rapid shift. “B2B payment and procurement innovation are hot topics as retailers now prioritise commercial customers to build on momentum post-pandemic,” Vella says.

The next race is differentiation and creativity in commerce

Brian Vella, AKQA

“For years, how trade customers interact with retailers has been de-prioritised on everyone's roadmaps. But over the last 20 months, a renewed focus in the retail industry coupled with an explosion of new fintech and payment innovation hitting the market is driving businesses to rethink their payment strategies.”

Read more: Shoppable livestreams as the next wave of ecommerce innovation

13. Marketplaces boom

Then there’s the explosion in ecommerce marketplaces to contend with. Again, this trend has been driven by acceleration of online shopping, heightened expectations of personalised shopping experiences and rising costs to acquire customers, says Impact.com managing director APAC, Adam Furness.

“To remain competitive, brands must develop long-term marketplace strategies, alongside other channel strategies, to ensure they continue to reach consumers how and where they shop,” he recommends. “Marketers will also have to have the right technology in place to be able to fully track, measure and optimise the performance of this rapidly evolving channel.”

For Alpha Digital commercial director, Tobey Bower, marketplaces offer brands more digital shop windows to occupy. These brands are also starting to recognise the potential of staking a claim in the data wars, he says.

“There have been a few doing beta testing to date, but I expect we'll see even more jostling for position in the first half of next year,” he predicts. “Brands that focus on offering value to customers are the ones that are going to come out on top, by pulling consumers to site offers no one else can provide.

“We've seen further acceleration of D2C brands and that’s because they have fewer taps syphoning data along their customer journeys. There are lessons to be learned in how they are succeeding with engaging with consumers for all brands, big and small.”

Read more: Why Barbeques Galore is investing in a marketplace strategy

14. NFTs and blockchain proliferates

Labrys founder and CEO, Lachlan Feeney, sees the marketing industry harnessing the power of blockchain on a major scale in 2022. A big way is through non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Whether it was global brands like Nike, Coca-Cola or Dolce&Gabbana getting into NFTs, or local Sydney or Melbourne shopping centres, NFTs emerged as an exciting, innovative and experiential marketing medium in 2021.

“It helped brands target new customer segments, differentiate their offering and even capitalise on novelty and hype. Expect to see many more marketers utilising NFTs - and the appeal of the scarcity they provide - in the year ahead,” Feeney says.

According to We Are Social’s Think Forward report, 8 per cent of the world’s social media users have bought an NFT, while a third of Gen Z on social platforms have spent money on digital clothing.  

By removing the intermediary between two parties, like Google, blockchain allows brands to go straight to source - their customers.

Lachlan Feeney, CEO, Labrys

“This is the new ‘new’ money, and it’s redefining the status symbol for life online. The potential for brands to get involved is unlimited, but the rush to be in the first wave might not be the smart strategy,” the report advises.  

Beyond NFT hype, blockchain has wide-ranging benefits that should have digital marketers excited for years, argues Feeney.

“By removing the intermediary between two parties, like Google, blockchain allows brands to go straight to source - their customers,” he explains. “As an immutable distributed ledger that cannot be altered or hacked, blockchain makes it easier to identify real from fake engagement. What’s more, blockchain can alleviate issues related to Intellectual Property by providing proof of ownership of an idea, campaign or piece of content.

“So whether it's the excitement of NFTs or the unheralded – but arguably more significant – benefits of blockchain, expect 2022 to be the year blockchain establishes itself in the digital marketing arsenal.”

15. A growing marketing metaverse

Complementing this is the metaverse. Facebook’s Metaverse rebrand in 2021 and significant investment into commerce, gaming and virtual reality was a hefty indicator of the growing importance this mixed reality realm is gaining in consumer/brand interaction. All this promises new ad placements, formats, access to audiences and innovation opportunities from 2022, says Forrester Research.

“But the interoperability promised by the metaverse has yet to take shape: Most virtual worlds operate on private platforms,” the analyst group states in its Media and Advertising in 2022 report. “In Forrester’s August 2021 Consumer Energy Index and Retail Pulse Survey, less than one-quarter of US and UK adults expressed interest in spending time to explore the metaverse. If you are among the 20 big brands unable to resist the buzz, invest in adapting your marketing playbook to the virtual world first.”

Doddle CMO, Kitty Poole, believes interactive content and connecting with consumers in a visceral way leads to higher propensity to buy and greater brand loyalty. “AR and VR are providing ways to make content interactive,” she says.

“In 2022, we’ll see more brands using these tools to give consumers memorable experiences by merging physical and digital marketing. It will offer really fun and unique content opportunities that will see consumers taking the ‘how the product is made’ experience into their own home or give them the chance to workout with The Rock.

“With this in mind, we’ll also see brands and retailers producing far less content than they have in the past. Instead, we’ll see unique and higher quality pieces at a slower pace. Providing more relevant and engaging content will have better impact than bombarding consumers with too much.”

Related: Explainer: What is the metaverse?

Gamification methods are another way to cut through the noise, particularly for B2B marketers, Lenovo ISG Asia-Pacific CMO, Sachin Bhatia, says.

“It’s no secret enterprise customers are bombarded with too much ‘me-too’ content and are hungry for new ways to consume,” he says. “Gamification methods are used across all points of the customer journey to drive customer acquisition and retention by teaching customers about products, solutions and services in a fun and interactive way.  

“While gamification was frequently used in community led sites to engage key influencers and stakeholders in 2021, product companies, ed-tech and e-learning companies are expected to increase their uptake in 2022.”  

16. Connected TV becomes more programmatic and transparent

Alongside traditional digital media channels are a growing array of connected TV options. Index Exchange regional managing director APAC, Adele Wieser, sees programmatic TV at the centre of digital marketing disruption into 2022.

“Marketers are funnelling their dollars to follow audiences across the broad range of available formats and environments, searching for flexible buying options, operational efficiency and enhanced data targeting options that only programmatic has the opportunity to provide,” she says.

“When we look at channels like connected TV [CTV] representing $278 million in Australia in 2021 alone, the future is bright. The opportunity for programmatic to do for TV what it did for display is bigger than ever before.”

Such innovation has Samsung Ads Australia general manager, Alex Spurzem, spying smarter insights and more robust measurement tools that enable brands to form a clearer picture of the total TV viewer.

“Time spent streaming had an explosive growth during the last 18 months, and many of these new habits will stick and fragment further across linear and other forms of video on-demand,” he says. “Nationally projected data has a critical place in the ecosystem, as a means of planning, trading and measuring TV campaigns. But it can only tell half the story.

“Pairing this with deterministic, first-party data, that reflects actual user behaviour at scale, will allow marketers to know exactly how people engaged with their campaign, and through which connected devices, meaning campaigns will even have more attributable calls to action.”

The opportunity for programmatic to do for TV what it did for display is bigger than ever before

Adele Wieser, MD APAC, Index Exchange

Lotame’s Dickens posits 2022 as the year of CTV. And 2023, 2024 and 2025 as well. “More inventory will become available as identity and connectivity solutions come to the forefront. And praise be, no third-party cookies to battle over. Ever.”

TV Squared’s Converged TV Report found 26 per cent of Australian buyers planning to advertise across six or more TV platforms in 2022. Yet 94 per cent agreed TV needs to be easier to transact across linear and streaming platforms.

“The growing CTV market is resulting in louder calls for cross-platform measurement and attribution capabilities to source advanced, always on consumer insights, prove ROI and truly capture how people watch TV – across multiple platforms and screens,” business development director, Praful Desai, says. “To meet increasing demand, we can expect converged measurement to be a priority as we move into next year.” 

17. Sustainability concerns spill into the digital supply chain

With the obvious shift towards marketing with purpose comes the need to think holistically about sustainability of the entire supply chain. It’s for this reason AKQA’s Vella expects company leaders will pay more attention to the carbon footprint of their online properties in 2022.

“For context, 1.6 billion trees are required to offset the pollution caused by global email spam and the unused data collected alone,” he says. “While the concept of digital sustainability is not new, it’s only just entering our consciousness on a macro level. Companies aren’t only thinking about reducing carbon emissions from within their operations but reducing carbon emissions created by services they provide.

“Significant opportunity lies in reducing our digital carbon footprint by reconsidering the digital experiences we create. Agencies and clients can be measuring and monitoring the ‘footprint’ of their owned media. This is within our control.”

DoubleVerify’ Masood connects this to a “media investment for good” movement. “Advertisers are increasingly focused on responsible media investing – paying attention to ESG [environmental, social and governance] topics when deciding where to place their money,” he says.

“For example, 50 per cent to two-thirds of ad briefs received by the BBC are now focused on sustainability. Publishers are also launching dedicated properties, including newsletters and sites, to specifically focus on ESG issues and monetise interest.

“Next year, marketers will continue to invest in these types of media to build positive brand alignment and halo-build, to the benefit of publishers. Contextual technology will also play a key role here, enabling positive targeting.”  

Read more: Demarketing: How marketers avoid becoming a sustainability problem

18. The return of holistic, brand-led marketing strategy 

As a result, a much more holistic marketing strategy and investment approach will be required in 2022 that repositions the role of digital marketing across the funnel.

Digital marketing has been trapped in this suffocating performance paradigm – at the bottom of the funnel – for a really long time now, with creativity and sometimes strategy sacrificed on the altar of conversion optimisation.

Ben Hourahine, AnalogFolk

“Brand building, we’re told, needs investment in TV and yet each year the percentage of digital in the optimal marketing mix grows and grows,” AnalogFolk strategy partner Ben Hourahine, comments. He points out Magic Numbers UK shows return on revenue is now significantly higher when 40-50 per cent of budget is spent online. 

“Digital marketing has been trapped in this suffocating performance paradigm – at the bottom of the funnel – for a really long time now, with creativity and sometimes strategy sacrificed on the altar of conversion optimisation,” he says. “Digital marketing won’t be able to eat cookies in the future and the end of this addiction leads to my prediction: Digital marketing will start eating itself out of the funnel and become a recognised and exciting arena for innovative, future-focused brand building in 2022.”  

Nintex director of field marketing, Asia-Pacific and Americas, Eileen Tan, says marketers will look to fine-tune digital marketing strategies in 2022. The list includes paid search, digital advertising, content syndication, social media engagement and more.

“Marketers will be aiming to be much more targeted by role and persona, and incorporate video content to capture more eyeballs,” she predicts.

Ground Control managing director, Phil Zohrab, goes further, predicting holistic marketing approaches on a larger scale.

“Digital is no longer an adjunct, or something to run separately, it’s part and parcel of most businesses and customer experience is all encompassing,” he says. “Despite proven advice from previous economic downturns to continue to invest in marketing when the marketing budget is heading down, many brands were spooked by Covid and slashed marketing budgets. This often took a toll on brand budgets in favour of short-term tactical campaigns to have an immediate impact on the bottom line.

“Many marketers who started out as digital natives and relied on performance advertising to grow have discovered they hit a growth ceiling using digital channels only. The path to growth is to invest in their brand, especially using offline media channels.”

Quantcast head of marketing APAC, Rachael Townsley, sees brand awareness activity driving digital media investment growth. 

“In the new ecommerce driven world… online advertising channels will drive growth and provide a big opportunity for marketers to engage with audiences effectively,” she says.  

19. Market mix modelling gets an overhaul

But without better measurement, it’s difficult to grasp how marketing is driving incremental value.

Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO, Gai Le Roy, sees a resurgence of traditional measurement techniques such as market mix modelling (MMM) as well as panel-based solutions, as well as a reimagining for the more fragmented media environment expected in 2022 and beyond. This will need solutions that are both faster and more cost effective, she says.

"We’ll also see new approaches for identity and cross media measurement. Overall, it will be a year where many in the industry will have to reset their benchmarks and identify new metrics and models that work for their businesses," Le Roy says.

Zohrab claims over a third of CMOs simply don’t trust their marketing data. "Their CFOs probably don’t trust the CMOs as a result,” he says.

In 2022, Zohrab therefore sees marketers looking beyond market mix modelling (MMM) and econometrics.

“The inability of these traditional modelling techniques to quickly adapt to the fast changing market dynamics we have seen in the past two years including changes in media pricing, media consumption and consumer purchase behaviours, plus growing desire for mid-sized players to have a solution that works with digital-heavy media plans, means the new breed of SaaS players are rising to prominence, differentiating themselves as ‘total marketing modelling’, ‘dynamic MMM’ or ‘holistic measurement models’,” Zohrab says.

These next-gen modelling platforms will be assisted by a new breed of technologies that clean up the data quality issues affecting digital measurement, he says. Server-side tracking solutions, for example, help recover cookies lost due to devices, browsers and ad blockers, while machine learning techniques help block and clean data associated with invalid traffic. 

“For all the talk of the promise of ML and AI, the machines are not coming for your marketing jobs. But they have become indispensable in the pursuit of the holistic understanding and optimisation of marketing and all its interconnected variables,” Zohrab adds.  

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