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News The Drum | A ‘Secular, Smarter Internet’: Are Marketers Facing a New Generation of Online Users?

For The Drum’s Predictions Deep Dive, we brought together a panel of marketing leaders in digital and social. their predictions? The rules of online engagement will continue to change as audiences mature.

The Drum’s forecast week is already ankle-deep. But when we bring together agency leaders in the social and digital spaces to look into the proverbial crystal ball, their first priority is to tell us that certainty is a rare thing in their world.

“Especially on social, you can’t predict it,” says Hannah Anderson, managing director of Kyma Media. “Social platforms change their minds every other week. If we made predictions at the beginning of the year, we were setting ourselves up for failure. If you asked me three years ago if TikTok (then Musically) was going to win, I would have said no . At the time, long-form content was king, and Facebook would be the new Netflix. Overall, predictions are likely to be futile.”

Well, here’s your take with a pinch of salt. But if we set aside grandiose visions for the future, our group can agree on a lot. In particular, we are now witnessing a shift in the hearts and minds of our online audiences.

passed down from generation to generation

According to at least one of our panelists, a long-standing wave is peaking: “We’re looking at an internet that’s suddenly more global, more intelligent,” says Kevin Joyner, director of data strategy at digital agency Croud.

Joyner continued: As audiences become more “suspicious and distrustful” of media, people become more familiar with automation; creating things with the power of artificial intelligence; false content and cybercrime; questions about privacy. Their expectations are rising. Much of the big stuff in the coming year has to do with responding to those worldly, sensible concerns. This means using creativity to foster trust, safety and authenticity. When you talk to someone who is mature and has been through a lot, you respect them more. Advertising is moving in this direction. “

In other words, marketers are now dealing with generations of Internet-savvy users who are intimately familiar with the rules of the online game, especially who is selling to whom. “People are more aware that there is an exchange of value online,” says James Mortimer, director of paid social at iCrossing, “and, often, they yes value exchange. “

Some elements of this psychological paradigm manifest as an online armor: people are more aware of how data about them is collected and traded; they are better at sniffing out fakes; they are increasingly weary of lazy repurposing of products they have already bought ; their subconscious is good at blocking out all the noise of unimaginative advertising (manifested by growing banner blindness).

But our panel of experts says it would be a mistake to write off this “smarter” generation simply by resisting online advertising. As Adam Connett, head of digital at AgencyUK, puts it, “they don’t mind being promoted if it’s relevant”. In fact, as we learn more about the digital economy, Connett says, in some cases, we’re more receptive than ever to advertising. For example, deepening the hypersocial relationship between an online creator and his fan base, watching or clicking on an ad, or using a creator’s discount code, can increasingly “feel like a promotion; it’s a real exchange of value.”

From this series of observations, our group has drawn a series of conclusions: Creativity in digital advertising is more important than ever; community and advocacy will only grow in importance; while concerns about privacy and data sharing are Real, but they don’t shut down the digital economy. As Liz Cole, US head of social at VMLY&R puts it, “People want to laugh; they want to be entertained; they want to be cool; “.

digital cultural singularity

“We’ve crossed the so-called threshold where Internet culture and regular culture are no longer different things,” Kerr said. It’s not hard to cite examples to demonstrate that digital culture has indeed broken that threshold: Reddit users influencing the stock market; movies made from viral threads; America’s first meme president.

Brands and marketers alike should pay attention to this cultural shift, Kerr said. “We have to move from the content, creative and event planning approach that used to be very channel- and format-focused to a more consumer- and culture-led approach, using these platforms as a palette of different ways to tell a story and hopefully it will Resonate well beyond the people you actually interact with on the original platform.”

All of this speaks to another shift: Power shifts to communities, creators, and consumers, whose agendas and interests marketers will do well to track. Predicting them will be difficult, but attention shouldn’t.

For more on what marketing agencies have to say about the year ahead, check out our Agency Forecast Hub.

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