2018: Maybe and then again Maybe Not

Mark Ralphs

30 November 2017

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As I sit, next to a roaring fire, in my favourite slippers, sipping a warming eggnog, my thoughts turn to that most welcome of seasonal traditions, the 2018 predictions list.

Disclaimer: some of the following may not come true.

Brands will finally realise that digital display advertising doesn’t work.

Have you heard of ‘banner blindness’? The term has been around for years and means that we ignore, or don’t notice, banners and other digital display ad formats.

The display industry responded in the only way it knows how, with increasingly annoying and intrusive ad formats, which in turn created their nemesis, the ad blocker. Click through rates dropped through the floor years ago. Now increasing numbers are turning to ad blockers, deliberately avoiding interruptive display ads.

In the US advertisers wasted $7.4 billion on ineffective spend in 2016 1 and a European brand owner I spoke to recently says 40% of their digital ad spend in an advanced European market could not be accounted for by the agency. And still brand after brand follow the advice of lazy media agencies and allocate a huge amount of digital spend to online display, often with little or no understanding of its impact.

Why? How? Have we lost all sense of reason?

Augmented reality will be used for something more interesting than fluffy bunny ears.

We’re entering the second age of augmented reality. Do you remember the first? Neither do I. Still according to Zuck AR is just ‘so hot right now’. So where does Facebook start? By copying Snapchat filters. Want to look like a snowman this Christmas? Facebook Camera Effects are for you.

However, augmented reality has huge potential. From replacing the TV screens on our walls, to enhancing travel, shopping and live events, AR will change the way we experience the world, hopefully for the better.

Alexa will become self aware and launch an attack on Jeff Bezos.

The rise of the machine is with us. Or more specifically the rise of the catchily named ‘Intelligent Personal Assistants’, Alexa to you and me.

With one third of US consumers already using IPAs, and 45% (US) and 32% (UK) already using similar technology on their smartphones, it’s clear that IPAs are going to have an enormous impact on the way consumers interact with and purchase products.

Forward thinking brands are already thinking about the impact of PPAs on their consumers’ journeys, and how this will affect their marketing strategy and – in some cases – their entire product proposition. Don’t be left behind.

Apple will release the iPhone XX, no-one will care.

Have we reached peak Apple? Not if recent Black Friday sales are anything to go by. Analysts at Rosenblatt predict Apple saw around 6 million iPhone X sales over the Black Friday weekend, out of a total of 15 million iPhones sold.

But it’s true that the iPhone X, and perhaps no iPhone since the 5s in 2013 (fingerprint recognition), differ from earlier iPhones in that they offer no really useful innovation. The iPhone X looks great, has some cool tech, but what real need does it address?

Mark Hurst of Creative Good makes the point clearly:

Compare this with the original iPhone launch from 2007, in which Steve Jobs demonstrated a complete revolution in how people would use smartphones. The iPhone solved chronic problems in smartphones of the time – managing contacts, three-way calling, accessing voice mail – while adding a number of other benefits. There simply was nothing else like the iPhone when it launched.

In the short-term Apple is selling a lot of iPhone Xs, but the pace of real, user-led innovation has slowed. This is leading to a rise in apathy. Many consumers, loyal and committed Apple upgraders, have not been pursuaded to trade up to the X.

Expect upgrade apathy to increase, at least until Apple (or someone else) releases a new game changer.

This time next year the editor of Rebel Thinking will ask me to write my 2019 predictions.

Well, here’s hoping.