What Matters in Marketing; 2020 and beyond

Tarun Mitra
Dec 27, 2019 · 7 min read

Thanks to the general elections and ICC World Cup, 2019 was a stellar year for the Indian advertising industry. According to a report published by Dentsu Aegis Network, we are likely to report a year on year growth of 11.4% and clock revenues of Rs.697 billion, thus becoming the third largest, after China and the US and like last year, with a growth of 32.7% digital took the center stage.

The shift of allocation of Ad Spends from traditional to digital media is happening at a rapid pace. In 2020 digital is set to grow at 32%, almost three times the rate of other media. While digital media currently contributes 17% to the total Ad Spends, it is expected to zoom to 21% by the next year and 29% by 2021.

Worldwide digital ad spending is estimated to grow by 17.6% to $333.25 billion. That means for the first time digital will account for roughly half of the global ad market. In some markets, including the UK, China, Norway and Canada, digital has already become the dominant medium. This year, the US and the Netherlands will join that group, with digital accounting for 54.2% and 52.6% of the total Ad Spend, respectively. In Russia, half of total Ad investments will go to digital.

The continuing shift toward digital advertising doesn’t mean that traditional channels will be neglected.

In fact, advertisers across the globe are beginning to strategize how to effectively leverage both traditional and digital advertising and more closely mirror how their audiences consume media. That’s a part of a larger trend of convergence within the total marketing and advertising landscape. Here is what we can expect in 2020.

Blurring lines, engaging conversations. The Creative industry will see a blurring of lines between traditional and digital. Integration will be the name of the game, with the walls inside agencies breaking down and different teams working together on conceptualising targeted campaigns. Everything will seamlessly blend with each other. They will become one organic whole.

In 2020, the lines between paid and earned media will also continue to blur further. Brands will face the big challenge of producing effective story-telling techniques and being more meaningful. Co-branded content, activities and collaboration initiatives will be the way forward. Brands will have to join hands to create more engagement with the customers.

Marrying the brand and the content idea together in a manner where the consumer still feels that he or she is getting a lot of entertainment. People in the digital world pay less for advertising. In fact, they are paying to block advertising and thus it is no wonder that services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are in demand. Pushing the brand to live ‘in culture’ by embracing a publisher mind-set is absolutely at the heart of what today’s marketer must do.

From social media influencers to credible individuals.

This year, brands are expected to shift their focus from using social media influencers to promote and talk about their products, to using individuals with high credibility who are recognized for their work in various fields to promote their brands. Engagement with digital creators is also on the rise as they help bridge the language barrier for new internet users, besides becoming the voices of brands on new platforms where advertising options are limited.

Augmented and Virtual Reality. It’s time to face reality, and augment marketing strategy to include Augmented and Virtual reality. Brands like Ikea, Amazon and Estee Lauder have already incorporated AR into the buying experience wherein users can actually visualize what the product will look like in their home, or on their person before proceeding to check out.

Facebook announced an update to its Spark AR platform at the F8 conference in May 2019, while Apple and SAP extended their partnership to focus on increasing augmented reality adoption among businesses. The mobile phone is going to be the mainstream consumer platform where a lot of these AR features become common, rather than a glasses form factor that people will wear on their faces.

2020 will be a year of first party data. Companies that are in the business of consumer data — including Facebook, Twitter, and Google are moving away from third-party data. This development is due in part to new regulations like the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR). and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Both reduce the availability of consumer information that isn’t “first-party” — permission-based, consumer data collected directly by a brand for its exclusive use.

At the same time, consumer demand for increased data privacy has led Apple and Mozilla to block third-party cookies for ad targeting in their browsers. Indeed, marketing is becoming a first-party data practice, and this sea change affects marketers whether they lean toward digital or offline channels. We will see more brands embrace first-party data while giving users choice and control.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) is now more accessible than ever, allowing brands both big and small to benefit from the insights and automation options it provides. Any company that operates online is now able to apply publicly-available algorithms to their site or make use of off-the-shelf machine learning services.

In line with this, several companies such as Sephora and Levi’s have implemented ML-powered bots which ask customers questions to help determine factors around their immediate need for the product as well as general shopping preferences. The bots act as a perfect companion to frontline sales teams, as they take care of a significant amount of consumer traffic by instantly addressing a majority of basic queries. Moreover, marketers can use the insights gathered from these interactions to further personalize the consumer experience as well as to shape future marketing and sales initiatives with greater accuracy.

Death of the Digital Marketer. Slowly but surely, we would see the fall of the digital marketer as a separate specialized role in the marketing departments and the rise of the complete marketer for whom digital would just be a key part of the language he/she uses. Multi-screen marketing would replace digital marketing as the new lingo across all companies

The changing market dynamics will force the industry to invest more capital on up-skilling and re-skilling their workforce. This will not be a trend, but a standard going forward as teams will need to continuously learn new platforms, technologies and communication mediums.


A few years back, I had written an extremely well received article where I argued how marketing is becoming a technology function. We have evolved since then. We’ve reached peak data. We’ve gorged on research, statistics and analysis, and in the process, we’ve benefited hugely from the empirical knowledge that we’ve gained. We’ve learned how to ground our decisions in the insights data has given us.

But we’re sated. So many brand experiences are drowning in a sea of sameness, as marketers the world over see the same patterns in the same data sets and determine to pick the same lowest hanging fruit as the solution.

Earlier this year, IPA published a report The Crisis In Creative Effectiveness, which covered over almost 600 case studies from 1996 to 2018 that warned of the dangers to creative effectiveness posed by short-termism in marketing and highlighted the mis-understanding of how brands grow. Almost at the same time Forrester published another report which argued that investing in creativity can help firms achieve higher returns over a six-year period and brands that move portions of their marketing budgets out of commoditized areas of technology and into creative resources, stand a better chance of differentiating themselves.

In our pursuit to be customer-centric marketers and to answer every customer need, want, and desire with digital; we have forgotten an important ingredient: creativity. Most experiences look, feel and behave alike. All airline apps allow travelers to check in and manage flights. All fashion experiences look the same. How can consumers tell one brand from another? What companies need is creativity to distinguish their brand.

Many advertisers recognize this issue, and the pendulum is now swinging in the direction of bringing creativity back into their core set of competencies. For instance, Accenture Interactive has been on a creative buying spree the past several years, acquiring Droga5, The Monkeys, Karmarama, and Fjord to boost its creative and brand communication capabilities. Deloitte Digital, in the meantime, has also deepened its creative bench with the acquisitions of Acne and Heat. We expects this trend to continue into 2020, with more advertising agencies emphasizing creative over customer acquisition numbers and statistics.

The most powerful force in the universe isn’t technology. It’s imagination

To say technology has impacted marketing is an understatement. While new technologies like voice, immersive realities and artificial intelligence will certainly continue to shake things up, the key to great marketing and customer experiences is still about the ‘big idea’ and sparking meaningful conversations with consumers.

This will be the decade when big ideas ascend, as we collectively realize that data and technology is not a proxy for smart, surprising, imaginative thinking. To create great work that differentiates itself, you need brave, clever ideas that go beyond understanding the data and application of technology. We will see the rise of a new creative canvas where the ‘big idea’ will get augmented by data and technology. The successful future brands will be shaped by this Augmented Creativity practice.

Wishing you happy holidays and a great decade ahead.

Tarun Mitra

Written by

Passionate about transforming brands digitally @Rickshaw, interested in Strategy, Marketing, EdTech, Fashion, Beer Founder @practicenex @LurnQ, Ex-VP @aptech

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