The Continuing Evolution of Digital Advertising

In the age of customer centricity and renewed privacy, digital advertisers need to showcase their human side.

It’s no secret that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has dramatically changed the way companies do business, with traditional advertising and marketing practices and models being abandoned as new technologies and innovations emerge.

Two years ago, the world witnessed an acceleration of the 4IR as the Covid-19 pandemic swept the globe. Lockdowns, isolation, and continued bans on in-store transactions, travel, and travel have forced a shift in consumer behavior. Audiences – even those previously resistant to technological innovation – have moved online amid changing socio-economic conditions and lifestyles. In 2022, another change is about to occur as privacy, misinformation and misinformation and customer centricity take center stage.

The impact of emerging technologies and regulations

When the pandemic hit, many South African businesses still relied on traditional advertising and marketing practices. Few were using digital channels and those that were had only reached the pinnacle of returns offered by digital advertising. Fast forward two years and digital advertising is once again undergoing rapid change. Where static sales-focused approaches previously reigned supreme, 2022 embraces change to address the need for more engaging, customer-centric experiences that will be a defining factor in digital advertising.

In order to fully understand this evolution, it is important to understand how digital channels in particular have changed the way audiences consume content. Just a few years ago, static digital banner ads were all the rage, with companies spending thousands of dollars to ensure their brands were front and center on major news websites. The role of this type of advertising has had to change, with banners moving from static words and images to GIFs and even videos, and now becoming more personalized to consumer interests.

Standard email marketing was hugely popular, with everyone from large corporations to bloggers collecting email addresses and sending out thousands of letters to the public daily. Email marketing was so effective that the world’s most popular search and email platform, Google, even allowed in-app ads to appear as emails in inboxes.

Then, in 2018, the EU introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This provided guidelines for media and businesses as to the types of consumer information they could retrieve, collect and disseminate, as well as how that information could be used and consumer rights. Global companies rushed to align their information policies with GDPR while EU consumers rejoiced that they no longer had to see unsightly advertisements or be spammed by email marketing. In 2021, South Africa’s own Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) was implemented, after being delayed for a year due to the pandemic, and companies once again had to pull out all the stops. work to ensure that they comply.

Privacy is power

According to Statista, around 25 million South Africans are on social media (that’s more than a third of the country’s 60.7 million people), while 38.13 million are active internet users, of which 36, 13 million access the Internet on their mobile phones. While many companies had been selling their products on social media platforms for years, with the first advertising introduced on Facebook in 2005, the content these companies posted on social media was primarily sales-oriented and aimed at the public. As brands continued to increase their sales on social media and with web banners, savvy consumers were downloading ad blockers and hiding ad content from their social media feeds in order to enjoy a more personalized experience.

While audiences were quick to subscribe to offers and consume media at the start of the pandemic, two years of working from home and constant digital connectivity led to a kind of “digital fatigue”. That’s not to say there will be a complete shift from digital experiences to real-world experiences. After all, many systems around the world rely heavily on digital technology. However, a growing trend will be a shift from static to engagement, and an expectation of limits, particularly with respect to public privacy. To that end, digital advertising and marketing teams will need to learn how to emphasize and enhance the more human side of their offerings, with less emphasis on tactics and more on emotion, connection and flexibility. .

The expectation of truthful and unbiased content

If endless amounts of content – ​​any content from writing to static imagery to video – were the order of the day in 2020, 2022 will see the rise of more content-savvy audiences. of digital and selective of the content they consume. Just look at the decline in trust among social media influencers over the past few months for an example. Perhaps due to digital fatigue, but also, to a very large extent, the misinformation and disinformation experienced at the start of the pandemic, the public is now looking for credible sources and truthful and unbiased content.

Audiences and customers are no longer content to sit still and passively consume the ideas and information being relayed. Instead, they want to actively engage with content and brands that speak to them, and feel like they’re being heard by those brands. For a brand’s digital advertising to be successful in the months to come, renewed attention must be given to a two-way engagement strategy and dialogue with the public and customers, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem at first.

A new frontier for digital advertising

While the majority of changes in digital advertising will continue to be more theoretical for now, practical innovations have by no means slowed down. Over the past few months, audiences and customers have been introduced to technologies such as mobile e-commerce, cryptocurrencies, NFTs and the metaverse, all of which will have huge impacts on the digital advertising space.

The Metaverse, in particular, will put more of the spotlight on engagement. Virtual and augmented reality have already been used by many brands and will become more immersive in the metaverse, with an estimated 85 million global users expected to have experienced one or both of these technologies at least once in 2021. the realm of digital advertising and marketing, the metaverse is expected to parallel real-world marketing efforts, providing experimental and immersive experiences as opposed to simply placing advertisements on websites or platforms. social media.

Examples of these include concerts and fashion shows held in the digital realm and income streams that originate online. The latter is also about cryptocurrencies and how companies are using innovations such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – a non-interchangeable unit of data stored digitally and associated with digital files that can be sold or traded – as points entrance to the metaverse for their audience.

Even digital out-of-home (DOOH) models have evolved, adapting and adopting a more omnichannel approach that involves programmatic media and a diverse selection of digital channels to engage with audiences and customers.

Equip a community

At the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), our goal is to understand and unpack these changing trends, and help our members and the wider digital advertising community in South Africa embrace them. We want to equip this community to meet the challenge of implementing these changes in their digital advertising and marketing efforts. Digital advertising may once again be in the midst of a transformation, but we hope that our concerted efforts to recognize and interpret the changes underway will be helpful to industry players.

Our boards and committees, led by digital marketing, media and advertising experts, keep up to date with the ever-changing digital media landscape to ensure businesses are always relevant and successful. Through these councils and committees, we are able to help drive digital marketing forward.

The IAB South Africa comprises 150 leading media companies, brands and technology companies working in digital media and marketing, and enables the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. The non-profit, non-governmental trade group conducts critical research on interactive advertising, while educating brands, agencies, publishers and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing.

Razia Pillay is the new Managing Director of IAB South Africa, which manages the Bookmark Awards. She founded FOUIR Digital Academy, a digital academy that teaches women in developing countries the skills to navigate the 4IR future. Pillay has also lectured and facilitated the Digital Marketing Employed Learnership program at the Red & Yellow Creative School of Business.

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