6 Big Media & Marketing Themes To Watch From SMWLA



After four days of content from the top platforms, publishers and personalities in social media, we’re bringing you the trends to note.

After a whirlwind week in Los Angeles, it’s time to unpack some of the biggest themes that will impact the media and marketing industry through the rest of 2017 and beyond. Miss the action? Head over to SMW Insider for premium coverage of every session.

1. Own the moment—it’s all you got

Facebook’s Carolyn Coyne opened SMWLA with a talk on how marketers need to rethink their approach to content in social media. She referenced an MIT study which found that it takes the human brain 0.03 seconds to process a thought, and just 0.013 seconds to process an image. The takeaway: Brands need to move at the speed of people.

In Facebook’s world, the speed of people means what Coyne calls the “speed of the feed.” Seventy-five percent of all content on Facebook is consumed via mobile devices, which has important ramifications when it comes to video content in particular. Her advice to brands: consider the situation in which someone is having a mobile moment (e.g. in-the-moment, interactive or immersive) and don’t be afraid to take risks. “Do to your work what you hope the internet would do to it,” she said.

2. Tech bundling, brands & you

The past few months have seen substantial convergence between leading tech brands and established players in media and retail: Amazon bought Whole Foods, Time Warner invested $100 million in Snapchat, WPP just invested $6.5 million in millennial news platform Mic, and CNN is investing $40 million in an in-house social video startup, Great Big Story.

All of this bundling is causing major shakeups in the media and tech industries. Brands are increasingly bypassing agencies and working directly with platforms and media outlets. Startups and smaller companies are increasingly being gobbled up or crushed by larger players who can easily emulate product features (see: Snapchat and Instagram). There’s a lot of movement and excitement, but also a general sense of wariness that the internet’s largest players are becoming too powerful. Jonathan Taplin addressed this concern in a talk based on his book, “Move Fast and Break Things.”

3. Branded content over advertising

As consumers increasingly shun disruptive ad experiences, and even shell out their own money to avoid ads (ahem Netflix), marketers are pivoting their strategies toward an approach that favors storytelling through the eyes of professional creators. In some cases this means partnering with influential content creators, and in others it means teaming up with a platform or media outlet to sponsor the content. As Buzzfeed producer Ashly Perez put it, brands are the “new Medicis.” In other words, advertisers should see themselves as patrons of premium, thought-provoking content experiences that deliver real value to consumers.

If the Golden Era of Advertising was marked by writing big checks and producing standalone commercials designed to interrupt programming, then the future of branded content requires a much closer collaboration between brands and storytellers—whether those be individual creators, media outlets or platforms themselves. OK GO’s video, “The One Moment,” created in partnership with Morton Salt, is an example of this model in action.

In Crowdtap’s main stage session, CEO Matt Britton boldly proclaimed that the Kardashians have been more disruptive to media than the Beatles were in the 1960s. Further, he posited a future in which all media could be distributed via hyper-personalized social data from Facebook that serves individually-crafted, programmatic TV ads. The end of mass media as we know it? Not quite. He hypothesizes that people will still follow sports and news, but that entertainment content will be delivered directly from celebrities and personalities, not networks.

4. Search beyond the keyboard

Google’s rise to prominence came as a result of facilitating easier information-gathering via the web. Type a query and see the best, most relevant results (or, of course, sponsored posts). Today, and especially in the coming years, there will be ways to find information and perform tasks without ever touching a keyboard.

Consider voice search, still nascent, but developing by the day thanks to Amazon Echo, Google Home and more recently, Apple’s HomePod. Voice search is far from reaching mainstream adoption—there are only 10 million Echo devices in the U.S.—but marketers like Diageo are already getting ahead of the trend. The brand recently partnered with Vaynermedia to create an Alexa Skill for whisky enthusiasts to promote Johnnie Walker.

5. AR is blending the digital & physical worlds

Beyond voice search, visual search is also gaining momentum. In February, Pinterest debuted Lens in beta, which allows pinners to capture content out in the “real world” and then see inspirational ideas within the platform. Pinterest’s VP of Vertical Strategy, Brian Monahan, took to the SMWLA stage to show off Lens and discuss the platform’s new “Shop the Look” product feature.

Of course, the big picture for Pinterest here is to partner with marketers to help make the real world more shoppable, or drive what’s being called “visual commerce.” Imagine scanning a pair of shoes on someone next to you on a train and being able to immediately find out who makes them, where to buy them, and which clothing items will pair best with them.

6. Robots are here to stay, but being human matters

Laura Plato, COO & President of Causecast, addressed the growing influence of AI, bots and automation in our lives as professionals and as humans. While our experiences and choices are increasingly a function of algorithms and bots, she expressed that technology has also afforded us with more opportunities than ever to learn, grow and help each other. It’s on us to take advantage.

Piggybacking that sentiment, Kelly Osbourne’s closing keynote address called for a deliberate pushback against behaviors brought on by social media and technology that threaten to dehumanize us. Describing herself as “an analog girl living in the digital world,” Osbourne spoke of the power of authenticity and being real to who we are in an increasingly filtered and enhanced world.

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