Trends for 2017: Augmented reality, agency relationships & diversity

It is not surprising to see consumers walking around with their eyes glued to smartphones but when droves of people are running around trying to capture a Pikachu, it attracts attention.

The success of augmented reality (AR)-based game Pokemon Go has opened up brands to the potential of the technology and next year we will see more consumers ready to engage with AR via their smartphone if it provides value and entertainment.

Caspar Thykier, CEO and co-founder of Zappar, says: “Over the next year, for AR we’re certainly going to see the technology embraced by more retailers and within sectors as diverse as consumer products, packaging, healthcare, architecture and events, alongside media and entertainment.”

Thykier predicts that with cheaper mobile devices and new headsets offering VR and mixed-reality we are “entering a new golden age of creative digital discovery and experimentation”, so democratising technology will be a focus.

Zappar recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to offer an affordable mixed-reality kit called ZapBox, a mixed-reality and VR experience for the mass market.

The technology may also be used more widely in enterprise and healthcare in 2017, according to digital products company Tigerspike. On-the-job training could see reading long texts and watching training videos swapped for more engaging VR and AR experiences.

General manager Greg Taylor says: “As millennials and Generation Z enter the workforce, businesses could provide a differentiated and modern approach to training that resonates.”

Taylor also predicts VR could revolutionise healthcare, particularly in areas such as pain management, as devices are already being used to help burn victims by placing patients into an alternate icy and cold ‘reality’ during skin-grafting procedures, according to research conducted by the University of Washington.

Agency disruption escalates

Disruption to the agency landscape will continue into 2017. Media agencies were called out earlier this year when the Association of National Advertisers in the US revealed damning evidence of unethical practices in the form of cash rebates, which has created huge distrust between agencies and brands the world over.

Clients have also started moving away from agency giants, instead opting to bring work in-house or use a raft of smaller agencies, and 2017 will likely see more disruption to the relationship.

P&G has reduced the number of PR and advertising agencies it works with by around 50% over the past three years and brands such as Pret A Manger, Three and beauty brand owner Coty have moved some or all of their ad creation work in-house. There has also been a rise in innovation labs and online communities used to create and fuel ideas.

Markus Wulff, digital business innovation manager at Pernod RIcard vodka brand Absolut can see “both in-house agencies and smaller niche agencies taking a bigger piece of the creative work where the larger network agencies take a role of delivering the daily bread and butter work”.

He says: “Brands now have more niche agencies on their roster to create more edgy and innovative work and it’s worked really well for us.”

Bigger agencies also need to adopt changes to better suit the changing nature of media spend and clients’ needs. Perhaps signalling a new frontier for client-agency relationships, McDonald’s apointed Omnicom in North America earlier this year, which signalled two firsts in terms of structure and remuneration. First, the deal enables McDonald’s to call on a range of specialist agencies from within the larger holding company. And second, Omnicom is paid based on performance.

The diversity debate moves on

Representing modern society has increased in importance over the course of 2016. And while conversations about diversity and inclusion are a positive indication of change, until recently examples in advertising were still few and far between and tended to be mostly project-based initiatives.

Although diversity in advertising is still a long way off being the norm, next year consumers of all shapes, sizes, abilities, genders, ethnicities and sexualities will start to see more of themselves in brand communications.

P&G pushed forward with its #LikeAGirl diversity agenda this year, using its Always brand to encourage people to call out stereotypical gendered emojis and share ones they would like to see. And P&G’s European brand boss Sophie Blum believes diversity must be a “long-lasting investment in culture”.

Foster predicts 2017 will see a move to increased diversity in advertising imagery but in particular believes “brands across many sectors, including traditionally feminine industries such as beauty and fashion, are more likely to see greater audience impact with imagery depicting women as laser-focused, strong, and tenacious”.

Female representation will be a continued focus but consumers will also see brands from various sectors represent and tackle all aspects of diversity in advertising.

Original story here

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