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

Digital acceleration, the metaverse, NFTs, social commerce, a connected and streaming TV explosion, the final cookies curtain call, growing criticality of first-party data and increasingly AI-driven automation are all trends that gained ground over the course of 2021. And they’re going to be instrumental to propelling digital marketing and advertising to new heights in 2022.

As the industry shakes off a second year of adapting to global pandemic conditions and an ever-more digitally savvy and socially aware consumer, it’s clear digital marketing faces another evolution in 2022. Agility, a willingness to embrace new technology and channels and strong data-driven consumer approaches will be pivotal to riding the digital marketing wave next year.

CMO has canvassed a wide array of predictions from across the industry to find out what’s on the cards for digital marketing in 2022.

1. Marketing activities adapt to suit the Covid hangover

From supply chain issues to a more socially conscious and connected consumer, the long shadow of Covid-19 continues into 2022. Kantar is one of many outfits recommending brand offerings be reshaped to suit the changed realities of consumer behaviour.

“Brands, products and services will need to meet new consumer needs for convenience, value, sustainability and innovation,” the consultancy advises. “Brands that invest in data, insights, people and marketing will flourish. The most successful will embrace the differences – diversity and complexity – of the audiences they’re seeking to reach. This presents a great opportunity to develop in this recovery period: Explore deeper segmentations and engage with communities beyond their existing audience.” 

GoDaddy Australia senior director of marketing, Suzanne Mitchell, says the global pandemic has undoubtedly been a period of reflection.

“For so many Australians, that has meant a reconsideration of what matters to them in their professional and personal lives,” she comments. “Our research told us that in the wake of the pandemic, 70 per cent of Australians believe it’s more important to pursue a career they’re passionate about. A further 45 per cent said they would consider leaving a well-paid job to follow a dream.

“And as the New Year approaches, we’ve noticed a growing sense of optimism, excitement and entrepreneurialism. As many emboldened Australians consider turning their passion into their purpose, they’re not simply looking for a product, service or software; they’re looking for a brand to be their partner, who understands their motivations, challenges and aspirations and supports them on their journey.”

This has direct bearing on how digital marketing channels and interactions are harnessed in 2022, Mitchell says. “When they embark into the 'new new’, these customers will want to work with brands that can demonstrate they are there with them,” she says.  

Tecala senior marketing specialist, Jemma Healy, agrees marketers need to fully appreciate the modern value exchange between brand and consumers. She describes this as a shift away from incentives and discounts towards an alignment of values and beliefs.  

“Only brands that act with transparency and authenticity will gain the trust to thrive into 2022, where to generate any campaign cut-through the messaging must resonate with what is meaningful to that person and their idealisms,” she warns. “It’s no longer about if the price is right, but how much a brand aligns with the social, economic and environmental beliefs.”  

2. Gen Z gains more buying power 

Alongside the near-term impact of consumer behavioural change fuelled by the pandemic is maturity of the Generation Z consumer. InMobi Marketing Solutions co-founder and CEO, Abhay Singhal, points out this digital and social native demographic have more influence on the economy and media landscape right now than many may have expected.

“They’re in their formative years with building brand loyalty and over the next four to seven years, they will begin to fully realise their earning and spending potential,” he says. “They’re going to different places to consume information; I doubt The New York Times ever thought they’d have to use TikTok to share the news. It will soon be the same for retail and politics – if you look at data, Millennials will take over with purchasing and voting power in 2024 and Gen Z will be right on their heels. They will drive how we think about products and ad formats and how we build Web 3.0.

“Both advertisers and publishers that have platforms and audiences will have to really work to deliver engaging content that provides value to the audience beyond just advertising. Content development will be bigger and more important than it used to be; brands will need money and to invest in creating content that is sticky and keeps up with the pace.” 

Read more: Menulog: The four steps we took to win over Gen Z

3. Everyone goes all-in on cookie-less  

Google may have delayed the demise of cookies to 2023, but there’s no doubt finding ways to eke off cookies for digital advertising delivery has to occur in 2022.  

33Across CEO and co-founder, Eric Wheeler, suggests publishers have as much as 80 per cent of their revenue at stake with primarily cookie-based monetisation. He spies massive amounts of innovation in first-party, contextual, deterministic and probabilistic solutions from both the buy and sell-sides to bridge the pending, massive revenue gap.

“In recent years, major browsers have forcibly placed themselves as the intermediary between publishers and consumers,” Wheeler says. “In 2022, we’ll see publishers take a portfolio approach to monetisation, with more investment in identity solutions and contextual targeting that will disintermediate the browser role from monetisation.”

For head of operations at independent media agency Half Dome, Catherine Smith, depreciation of third-party cookies and device IDs, coupled with shifts in government and private sector approaches to privacy, compromised many analytic and targeting capabilities.

“What was once critical in allowing marketers to understand touchpoints with their brand off-site, and informed the overall conversion pathway, will now create gaps in the marketing strategy,” she says. “There are still intelligent ways to navigate the new landscape, and the optimistic marketer will see opportunities to differentiate and adapt quicker than their competition.”

In 2022, we’ll see publishers take a portfolio approach to monetisation, with more investment in identity solutions and contextual targeting that will disintermediate the browser role from monetisation

Eric Wheeler, CEO, 33Across

Smith points out companies like Google are looking to plug holes in the attribution landscape via machine learning (ML)-driven attribution models.

“The harsh reality is these gaps in data availability are growing faster than the solutions,” she says. “Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, marketers should approach measuring media performance by going back to basics. There are still a lot of great measurement tools out there. Clearly articulating the role of channels at the time of planning then ensures measurable outcomes are attached from the outset. This approach should be specific to brands’ individual objectives and ensure channels are focused on the outcomes they are looking to drive.

“On top of this, brands should be laser-focused on prioritising the collection, storage and understanding of their customer base through first-party data. While the exact future capabilities on media and measurement are still in development, there is widespread agreement that those advertisers who are prioritising first-party data now will be best placed to succeed in the future.”

4. Programmatic advertising hooks into new data sets

Improving industry inefficiencies is a key element in this transition for Wheeler. “Almost everything we know and love about today’s programmatic advertising infrastructure is tied to the cookie. That includes measurement, tracking, retargeting, frequency capping and much more, many of which accrue costs that impact publisher margins,” he explains.

“It will take some serious effort for the industry to re-engineer cookie-dependent systems to be agnostic. But in the long run, applying our learnings will improve operational margins. In addition to tackling cookie-less infrastructure, we need to automate processes to service customers and workflows to free up human capital. Just as critical is doing this in a way that does not add incremental ad-tax into the equation as cookie-less inventory is already lower-priced and undersold.”

It’s for this reason Wheeler advises marketers: “Don’t bet against the market”.

“Today, programmatic partners are fighting for a chance to monetise the same pool of Chrome inventory, creating inefficiencies and high media costs which will only continue to worsen as the cookie pool shrinks,” he warns. “On the other end of the spectrum, cookie-less inventory is a huge swath of quality impressions with little fraud that we can now reach, target and measure at a much lower eCPM since there’s little competition.

“Expect to see a major shift in market behaviour as programmatic demand moves spend to non-cookied inventory en masse. Competition and media spending will dramatically increase to reach consumers on previously unreachable browsers. Scale, efficiency and the lack of competition will be the big drivers.”

FatTail CEO and co-founder, Doug Huntington, sees DSPs gaining direct access to premium publisher inventory to fully automate deal-based transactions as a consequence of the cookie’s demise.

“Increased reliance on first-party data will drive buyers to establish high trust relationships with preferred premium suppliers,” he says. “This, combined the widely understood and long-established benefits of guaranteed fulfilment and supply path optimisation, will result in enhanced programmatic capabilities including product, price and inventory discovery at the point of sale.”

5. First-party data really is the name of the game

Third-party cookie demise is certainly the dominant force driving first-party data investment by many brands, though not the only one. Adobe vice-president of marketing APAC, Duncan Egan, sees more companies focused on first-party data unique to their company that can be used to create long-term value and sustainable competitive advantage.

“Many companies like Adobe have been talking about the value of first-party data for years. Yet, we still see few organisations with strategies on how to acquire, develop and leverage it,” he comments. In Adobe’s Future of Marketing research, only 37 per cent of Australian marketers said their organisations had a first-party data strategy.

According to Egan, the move to omnichannel management, driven by accelerated digitalisation and growth of new channels such as digital wallets, shone a spotlight on issues around first-party data architecture.

“I think brands are now realising reshaping their entire data strategy won’t happen overnight and that it requires input from multiple disciplines, from sales to marketing to operations and all the way up to the board level,” he says.  

6. Brands prioritise loyalty and experience

For AKQA APAC managing partner, Brian Vella, the benefit of having your brand online is being eclipsed by the value in owning the experience and the data.

“The desired position is to own the customer relationship and the data that goes with it, especially with the cookie-less future,” he comments. “Companies are searching for long term, lifetime value now. Ultimately, from a focus on transaction and conversion to deeper customer engagement and loyalty via inspiration and entertainment. And all this across broader, interconnected brand ecosystems.”

Cheetah Digital VP of go-to-market APAC, Billy Loizou, believes cookie-less marketing will result in fresh loyalty-driven initiatives from 2022.

“More companies are going to be focusing on creating a clear direct-to-consumer value exchange by packaging up existing benefits and creating new benefits – potentially with other brands – and marketing it as a community or loyalty initiative. This will unlock the reason for why providing your data is necessary and companies will be more transparent on why they need it,” he says.   

“We believe the answer is a loyalty initiative that has mutual value exchange. The objective of customer loyalty programs has historically been to create levers that marketers can pull to incentivise desired behaviours among consumers; namely, to increase basket size or reduce the time between transactions. But now, they are so much more than that.”

As an example, Loizou sees companies rewarding customers in-store and online on more than transactions and coming up with new and creative ways to make customers share and promote their content.

“Loyalty programs aren’t just about offering discounts and vouchers to members; they’re an extension of the brand and provide an ‘experience’ beyond the product or service that retains customers,” he says.  

7. Hyper-personalisation becomes critical  

With owned data maturity and growing consumer expectations comes even more personalisation. Sana Commerce chief marketing officer, Jeroen Kuppens, says businesses contending with less customer facetime need to show they truly understand who they are, what they need and that they are there to help.  

“In 2022, we will see this hyper-personalisation trend taking the spotlight with companies using technologies to leverage key moments in their customers’ journeys,” he says. “We will see marketers shift from targeting segmented groups towards interacting with customers based on real-time ‘micro-moments’ within customer journeys.  

“Data, analytics and predictive technologies such as AI will help deliver individual experiences that empower customers to excel in the marketplace. For example, in the face of global supply chain disruptions and commodity shortages, businesses can alert their customers when to stock up on their most frequently purchased inventory.”

SevenRooms SVP of marketing, Marybeth Sheppard, is another placing greater emphasis on personalised content in 2022. “The trend accelerated during the pandemic as more people came online and more businesses leveraged the power of data through their technology,” she says.

Acoustic SVP sales APJ, Jeremy Smart, also points to the need to collect and leverage first- and zero-party data to optimise personalised communication strategies in 2022.

“First- and zero-party data is information consumers expect marketers to collect – ensure you have the tools that enable you to effectively capture this data and turn it into meaningful insights that support the customer experience,” he says.  

8. More marketing is automated

Making this kind of marketing possible – and scalable – is more sophisticated automation. “With so many industries experiencing staff shortages, automation allows marketers to do more with less. By leveraging the power of customer data, marketers will be able to enhance personalisation through digital marketing,” Sheppard continues.

The combination of increasingly diversified audiences, multi-channel approaches, personalisation and the shrinking marketing team, all mean that without automation, you simply won’t be able to reach your target audience with timely and relevant messages

Emilie Chell, head of marketing, Circles.Life

“In turn, this will establish more meaningful connections that help businesses acquire, engage and retain customers.”

Circles.Life head of marketing, Emilie Chell, recommends all marketers build an intelligent creative engine in 2022. Marketing automation has been hyped for a few years now, but for many time-poor marketing teams it’s not a quick win so it often falls down the list of priorities,” she says.

“However, in 2022 it’s going to become an imperative. The combination of increasingly diversified audiences, multi-channel approaches, personalisation and the shrinking marketing team, all mean that without automation, you simply won’t be able to reach your target audience with timely and relevant messages. Many marketers will see performance slipping across multiple, over-crowded channels with their agencies recommending more personalised, targeted messages. You simply won’t get there without automation.”  

Helping teams become more data-led and adaptive are tools that turn prescriptive analytics into “prescriptive guidance”, Sisense chief product and marketing officer, Ashley Kramer, says.

“AI combined with automation will finally make this possible by dynamically combining relevant data and alerting knowledge workers to take action, in advance, before an event occurs,” he says. “Customer service reps, for example, will be notified to reach out to potentially angry customers before they even call in. Sales leaders will react immediately to dips in revenue pipeline coverage due to upstream activities without waiting until the end of the quarter. Retail managers can optimise inventory before items sell out by combining more than just sales data, such as purchasing patterns of other items, external market trends, and even competing promotional campaigns.

“Prescriptive analytics will finally evolve from telling us just where the numbers are going, to helping us make smarter, proactive decisions.”  

9. Culture of analytics flourishes

As organisations harness tools and AI to drive revenue growth and improve efficiencies, marketers will need to embrace what Kramer labels a ‘culture of analytics’.  

“In 2022, organisations will redefine what it means to build a ‘culture of analytics’ and change the paradigm by bringing insights in a more digestible way, turning to methods and solutions like embedded analytics that won’t require them to learn new skills or invest additional time,” he says.

EmploymentHero CMO, Tasman Page, points to enhanced insights function within marketing as part of this analytics approach.

“An insights function allows marketing to empathise with the customer and to create experiences and content more relevant that proves we know what we are talking about,” he says. “It allows us to drive business strategy when combined with results from performance. Rather than just looking at consumer behaviour, we can understand the customers that aren’t buying and put some real meat on the bone.

“A combination of analytics platforms and survey-based insights will help us better understand and predict consumer needs. We have surveyed thousands of potential customers in 2021. We plan to double down on this next year as it helps us make decisions faster, create relevant content and own the news cycle.”

Yet as technology and data use grows, Circles.Life’s Chell warns marketers not to strive for the next “big win” but optimise for marginal gains.

“For many business leaders, this is a change from the ‘turn on the tap’ mentality that used to come with marketing budgets,” she says. “This means your team are experts in testing, learning and optimising. In addition, it ensures your process for ‘go-to-market’ has time built in to refine frequently. Set and forget, often the model for many media agencies, will no longer cut it.”

10. Privacy regulation and security heats up

With first-party data use continuing to soar, privacy concerns escalate. Security Centric head of marketing and sales operations, Jill Taylor, is dubbing 2022 ‘The age of privacy’ for digital marketing.

“We saw this shift begin as Apple updates implemented a host of privacy changes for both iOS and the Safari browser, including an update which allows you to hide your email address and the ability to use private Wi-Fi addresses,” she says. “While the security person in me applauds this, the marketing part knows that these changes greatly affect important digital marketing analytics functions including campaign measurement and attribution tracking.

“I doubt we’ve seen the last of these increased privacy updates from social platforms and technology companies.”

Jill Taylor, head of marketing and sales operations, Security Centric

“Further to privacy updates, Facebook Advertising is making changes that include a reduced ability to target audiences and instead having advertisers use broad targeting, custom and lookalike audiences to reach potential customers.”

In response, digital marketers will need to shift from relying heavily on tool-based tracking and targeting methods, Taylor says. “Marketers will need an increased focus on implementing strategic segmentation, targeting and nurturing based upon their existing customer and contact lists,” she advises. “I doubt we’ve seen the last of these increased privacy updates from social platforms and technology companies.”

In Adobe’s research, 45 per cent of marketers said recent changes in data protection regulations and privacy laws had motivated their organisations to consider creating long-term value from the data they own. On top of this, extensive privacy reforms are being canvassed in Australia, including the introduction of a statutory tort of privacy and increased regulation of adtech to bring Australia closer in line with GDPR.

“2022 will no doubt bring plenty of robust discussion about the outlook of privacy regulation in Australia, in particular the issues surrounding targeted advertising, personalised content and role of online identifiers,” Adobe’s Egan says. “At the same time, there is growing concern among consumers about how and why their personal data is being used. These combined forces will likely have a significant impact on media and marketing businesses operating in Australia.

“As the primary drivers of customer experiences, the responsibility will fall to marketers to help their organisations navigate the complexity of regulatory and compliance issues, to sustain long-term commercial momentum and customer trust. A first-party data strategy is critical to achieve this.”

Index Exchange regional managing director of APAC, Adele Wieser, sees tighter governmental regulations that define and bolster user data rights triggering fresh tech solutions that put user privacy and trust at their core.

“This is a positive step, as change opens up opportunities for innovation. Delivering a true multichannel and multiscreen experience while keeping privacy concerns at bay is the biggest opportunity for marketers. It’s equally a chance to help put greater emphasis on user trust across our industry,” she says.

Read more: Explainer: What marketers need to know about Australia's proposed privacy law changes

Up next: 9 more digital marketing predictions for 2022

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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 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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