Media is a whirlwind: a constantly changing landscape of audience interactions, emotional connection points, and consumption habits that ebb and flow in sync with people’s shifting interests and needs. It’s an environment where brand vision can be blurred by the sheer volume of competing data, platform options, and attribution value in service of driving performance and ROI. As marketing professionals, we strive for success during ongoing sales cycles and often ask ourselves, “How are we supposed to have the time to look ahead to the next?”
Well, fear not: A&G’s Media team has taken a deep dive into the topics we feel are going to be critical for brands’ media planning success in 2024. (It’s our hotlist, if you will.) So read on and explore our 9 planning trends that you’d be just plain silly not to track as we head into the new year.
Trend #1: 2024 will be THE year of zero-party data.
Just like the number of blades on a razor, the types of data classifications have continued to grow. Here’s the current tally as we see it:
- – 1st-Party Data = Owned data, such as what would live in a CRM
- – 2nd-Party Data = Owned data that’s then sold
- – 3rd-Party Data = The most commoditized form of data
Within the past year or so, we’ve seen a new player enter the chat: “zero-party data” – or, in other words, permission-granted data. And if things continue the way they’re going, 2024 will be the year for zero-party data to shine.
Too much has been written about the “death of the cookie” to belabor the point of the declines in targeting and behavior attribution. That said, while the cookie’s demise has been a slow death waltz, it’s important to remember that the value of zero-party data is not just about replacing the cookie: it’s the difference between actions that are observed vs. actions that are volunteered. With the former, we make assumptions; with the latter, we glean insights.
Of course, zero-party data can take on many forms: for example, it can be in the form of Jebbit site surveys or quizzes that share user preferences with brands in a feedback loop. Or, zero-party data can be a literal trade-off with models like Caden, where platform users give permission to be contacted by brands in exchange for redeemable credits with popular services like Uber or Netflix.
In each of the above scenarios, audiences are hand-raising for brand interaction – and that permission and willingness is figurative gold dust for any company. So, our recommendation to you is this: seek it out, find ways to trigger it, and have your audiences want to talk to you. Do this right and 2024 may just be the year of the ultimate customer feedback loop for your own brand.
Trend #2: Forum communities will emerge as a critical component of any brands’ media strategy.
Harnessing the power of forums like Reddit, Yelp, and Discord within a robust media strategy is not just about advertising — it’s about inspiring a journey of authentic connection and impactful engagement. Within these dynamic platforms, brands have a golden opportunity to forge genuine bonds with niche audiences through lively discussions and authentic user-generated content. By aligning advertising seamlessly with community interests, utilizing voting, and engaging in ongoing conversations, brands not only gain visibility but also become integral parts of vibrant online communities.
To be clear, this isn’t merely about reach: it’s a chance for advertisers to bring their messages to life in a personalized and meaningful way. It’s a chance for brands to meet and engage with their audiences in all the places where they go to actively seek suggestions and peer reviews. While some may dismiss the potential of forums in their media strategy, the visionary brands are the ones who recognize and understand the innate power of these platforms and will choose to embrace these community-driven spaces. It’ll be these visionary brands that discover a world of untapped inspiration and connection, propelling their narratives to new heights of impact.
Trend #3: Economic optimism will usher in a new age of brand marketing.
In 2020, the global pandemic hit the U.S. economy hard. Despite occasional sputters of growth, things have been stuck in neutral ever since. With inflation finally under control and markets warming up, 2024 is shaping up to deliver numbers in the black; CFOs and CMOs alike are taking notice.
The concept is time-tested and backed by research: for short-term growth, invest in getting would-be buyers to buy from you today. Win on quality, cost, or just getting there first.
But long-term growth? That requires investment in a brand, driving inherent preference that makes people reach for it independently.
In times of austerity, brand investment is whittled down – sometimes to nothing. What’s showing immediate returns? These days, that’s Google…and Facebook…and – oh yeah – all the other brands they own.
Is some of this meaningful?
Sure, of course it is. But these giants are meticulously designed to drop a beauty filter in front of attribution figures, and marketers should — and will — make greater bottom-line impact by inspiring future customers and generating legitimate incrementality. Expect big, bold ideas manifesting on big screens and in growing crowds.
Whose sticker will end up on your water bottle?
Trend #4: Influencer advertising will become the most impactful advertising channel in 2024.
Consumers are fed up with seeing paid media ads and sponsorships in their social media feeds that lack personalization. Concurrently, we’re also seeing major social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram institute new policies and ad-free experiences that will inherently make it more difficult for advertisers to reach their target audiences.
We’re reading the writing on the wall, and it’s telling us that influencers – and, more broadly, the practice of influencer marketing and content alignment – will become increasingly more impactful for marketers as we head into 2024.
Not sold? Here are some of the main reasons why we know that brands will need to pay attention to influencer marketing next year:
- – Influencers have the ability to tailor their messaging and campaigns to the specific groups they’re trying to speak to with dynamic content. This makes it much easier for brands to ensure that they’re getting the right messages in front of the right people.
- – Many social media platforms provide influencers and brands with dedicated tools to reach specific demographics, track performance, and ensure that content is seen by a more tailored and engaged audience – all of which ultimately maximizes ROI.
- – We also expect to see a shift towards brands and influencers engaging in long term, ongoing collaborations rather than one-off sponsored posts. This is driven by the recognition that longer engagements – though more costly – make it much easier to build meaningful and trusting connections with audiences, and this benefits both brands and creators alike. For brands, long-term influencer engagements turn into sustained sales efforts that prove out a greater lifetime customer value. Meanwhile, these sorts of engagements allow creators to showcase themselves as credible influencers who partner with quality brands that they believe in – as opposed to other creators who engage in high frequency of less authentic partnerships.
- – The increasing integration of AI in influencer marketing tools, such as the integration of ChatGPT into platforms like Upfluence, will revolutionize influencer recruitment and help create stronger alignments in 2024. (We’ll touch on this more in the next section.)
At the end of the day, authenticity, personalization, and innovations in AI will make influencer marketing a dynamic and ever-shifting part of your overall go to market strategy.
Trend #5: The winning formula for social media marketing will be: Influencer Marketing + Quality Content + AI.
We know that many people probably have “AI fatigue” at this point, but the fact of the matter is that AI isn’t just here to stay: it’s going to keep getting bigger and insert itself into more facets of our day-to-day lives as marketers. Like it or not, that’s the reality of our situation, so it’s something that we all need to keep paying close attention to.
One area where we think AI will play an incredibly significant role in next year is influencer marketing. Specifically, we believe that increasingly more brands will figure out how to leverage AI to enhance and enrich their influencer marketing strategies. This, in turn, will enable them to create powerful social media marketing programs that really move the needle.
Given how rapidly AI tech is evolving, there are a few key functionalities we predict will be coming down the pike for marketers within the next few months:
- – AI will be able to review and synthesize historical performance data in order to help brands identify the most relevant influencers to partner with.
- – AI will be able to help brands build stronger long-term associations with particular sets of influencers that will allow them to squeeze maximum value out of their influencer campaigns.
- – AI will be able to analyze user data and make stronger recommendations for more targeted and personalized content that brands can deliver to their audiences. This, in turn, enhance engagement on their social media accounts, as well as positively impact the kinds of traffic they drive from these accounts to key owned channels like their websites.
This triple threat of AI + content + influencer marketing will inevitably create a shift in how brands measure “success” for their social media marketing campaigns. Specifically, we foresee a shift in focus towards engagement KPIs like post shares to add authenticity. Genuine engagements will become a crucial indicator of success, which is something that is not given as much importance currently.
Trend #6: Bing Ads: Not your dad’s search engine anymore.
In a world where no one can live without smartphones, most advertisers tend to prioritize their paid search investments with Google Ads, given the search giant holds 92% of the worldwide mobile search engine market share. But sleeping on a platform like Bing could be a missed opportunity for your search strategy, specifically when targeting PC users or desktop searchers.
Why incorporate Bing Ads into your next paid search strategy? We’re so glad you asked. Here are just a few of the most crucial reasons why we recommend incorporating Bing Ads in our clients’ paid search strategies:
- 1. It’s more cost efficient.
- 2. It dominates desktop search users in the U.S. at 38.1% market share.
- 3. It has exclusive product integrations that aren’t available on Google.
- 4. It provides access to AOL, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and other Microsoft Search platforms from their diverse portfolio.
- 5. It offers easy implementation using Google Ads import integration feature.
- 6. It has key demographic differences from other platform users (e.g., a good percentage of the Bing audience are decision-makers in the B2B space).
- 7. It offers fewer regulation hurdles – specifically, ads are disapproved less often on these platforms, and policy violation appeals are more likely to be reversed.
While we think we’ve made it clear that we’re big fans of Bing and its affiliate platforms, we strongly believe that it’s imperative to have a strategy for both platforms within your fully integrated approach. There are pros and cons to each entity and we’ll be taking a deeper dive into the variances, as well as 2024 trends we expect to see from both platforms in 2024.
Trend #7: Amazon & TikTok will strengthen their hold on Gen Z’s search habits.
It’s officially time to consider platforms like Amazon and TikTok as direct competitors to Google and Bing in the paid search space. Leaving them out of your 2024 strategy will result in a significant loss in reach of the Gen Z audience.
Traditional search engines like Google and Bing are no longer the only way – or even the first way – for Gen Zers to learn new skills or research specific products/services. Marketers will need to start exploring different platforms for visual search experiences in order to connect with younger audiences and keep up with their changing media consumption habits. For example, brands should consider expanding into territories like Amazon Search Ads in order to take advantage of keyword performance data and incorporate these top-performing paid keywords into blog posts.
And while TikTok remains hugely popular, Amazon is successfully attracting younger shoppers. The portion of the Gen Z audience using TikTok for product searches actually dropped from 18% in 2022 to 11% in June 2023, while 45% of the same age group listed Amazon as their preferred starting point.
Needless to say, it’ll be interesting to see how these patterns start affecting Google and Bing market share, and if we see any platforms emerge in 2024 to put further pressure on the two search giants.
Trend #8: Automation & generative AI will play a pivotal role in media planning.
We’re already starting to see this take shape with the tools we use regularly, so we won’t belabor the point too much. However, we did want to elaborate on four key areas of media planning where we see the most potential for automation to enhance and improve the ways in which we operate:
- – Generative AI will step into more spaces with asset-creation capabilities. We see this being relevant both for search engines and social media platforms (e.g., social post content/imagery and copy; paid search text ad copy; headlines and/or imagery).
- – Audience segment and targeting will rely more on marketing automation. Additionally, customer data aggregated by the platforms will be a crucial part of all audience segmentation and strategy.
- – Automation will continue to speed up multi-channel reporting. Specifically, marketing automation platforms continue to use data from different sources to learn and help create omni-channel media strategies.
- – Campaign budgeting and optimizations will benefit from predictive AI. Specifically, simulation and modeling from predictive AI will help inform more accurate budget planning and campaign optimizations.
Trend #9: Ethics will not just be taught in class, but also practiced in media.
The term “ethical investments” has most often been applied in the world of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) and impact investing; companies like Nuveen were founded on the belief that what you do with your money can be an act of potential positive impact both for the investor and investee. Conversely, the term tends to be less regularly applied (if at all) within industries like marketing – or, more specifically, paid media – where “performance” tends to be the only metric for success.
In 2024, we believe that things will change as clients start to realize that many of the financial decisions made on their behalf come with deep bias. Most agencies, especially holding companies, have acquired programmatic platforms and data warehouses, where “preferred partners” are built into every media plan. These systems directly profit those agencies.
But beyond ownership structures, there are other causes for optimism. For example, companies like GoodLoop literally return money to the good causes selected by those viewing advertising on their platform. Another good, yet more subtle example, is that many agencies are starting to ask questions about the ethical end-product of their media spends. Next year, our own media team plans on launching a pledge with our partners that is built on two core pillars: sustainability and brand safety. We believe this pledge will allow us to codify an approach that treads lightly on the landscape we affect.
There’s no doubt that 2024 will be unlike any other year in recent memory. The political landscape alone will have a significant influence on content tonality, as well as directly impact the ways in which brands lean into the concept of “ethical investments” (or not). If we wish to remain agile partners for brands, we need to only look in front of us – and not behind us.
Want to learn more about A&G’s approach to media planning? Contact us today to schedule a quick 15-minute chat with our Media team.