2018 Digital in Review

By James Butcher (Head of Performance & Platforms)

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It’s only as you step back to take a look at 2018 that you realise what a seismic year it was for Digital. I like to think of it as the year that Digital grew up – well, perhaps from a disobedient adolescent to a moody teenager.

From Cambridge Analytica through to the more recent realisation of Rocket Fuel’s misappropriation of client data, we started to see some much needed transparency and accountability in the underbelly of Digital. Though still not perfect, transparency across all sectors of the industry is rightfully demanded, and now beginning to be delivered.

Legislations such as GDPR, while yet to go through the full rigours of court, are shifting the power back to the consumer, giving them control over what data they are willing to share with brands and for what purpose. We saw some excitement around the possibilities of Blockchain technology, its impact on security and cutting out margin-hungry inventory aggregators, though it’s still very early to tell what impact this technology will have on how we transact media.

While it’s been a year of challenges, we’ve also seen some significant advancements. Brands’ increased focus on their own first-party data, as well as desire to shift measurements beyond standard media metrics, has created new opportunities for true personalisation and a greater understanding of what activity is driving business outcomes. Google has been particularly active in this space, talking to ‘The Age of Assistance’, and the impact of measuring (and therefore optimising) against business objectives vs. media metrics. We’re seeing platform opportunities expand across the board, with acquisitions across Salesforce, Adobe, as well as at the agency level, with our own holding company IPG purchasing Acxiom.

So what do we have to look forward to? AI and machine-based learning will continue to evolve. The Trade Desk DSP, for example, has invested heavily in their AI product Koa, which speaks to the scale and effectiveness of machine learning interpreting big data (buzzword bingo anyone?) to deliver better buying decisions.

There will be an increasingly complex relationship between consumer and device/media as voice and connected homes start to work their way from the outer layers of the tech savvy into the mainstream family home. For brands, this will afford a new and exciting point of entry into consumers’ buying decisions – however, the fact that this technology is being powered by most brands’ biggest competitors (Amazon and Google) does create the ultimate ‘frenemy’ scenario.

But there’s also a lot that won’t change. As technology and infrastructure allow us to do the good, the bad and the ugly bigger and faster, delivering meaningful, frictionless, purpose-led customer experiences will be what stands the winners apart. This is all delivered by having the right people, culture and values in yours and your agency partner’s business.

For us at FCB, we’re incredibly proud of what we achieved this year through the phenomenal client base and vendor relationships we have.

It’s been a significant year of evolution for us: we launched our specialist programmatic trading unit; continued to build on our non-core media services around data and tech consultancy, measurement and attribution; brought together our ‘One Search’ offering with combined SEO and SEM; partnered with IAS to drive customised viewability metrics; and pushed the type of integrated thinking that a full service agency of scale can provide. This won’t stop for us in 2019 as we look to bring new offerings in data visualisation, and also evolve how we deliver performance marketing in Q1.

I, for one, am looking forward to the Christmas break – I hope you find time to disconnect from the day-to-day to enjoy your summer holiday. Meri Kirihimete me te Hape Nū Ia.

Date: December 16, 2018