This is the time of the year that we collate all the pearls collected during the various Heavy Chef Sessions we hosted in 2009 – as well as from our team that is working on various high-profile online projects in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Looking back allows us to learn the lessons, apply the wisdom from conversations with some of the smartest people in the industry, and look forward with confidence.
Here are our top 12 predictions for 2009
1. The Return of the Creatives
2008 was very much about trial and error. Small companies and big corps were all dipping their toes in digital waters, from blogs to Facebook Profiles to crowdsourcing to lifestreaming. “If you build it, maybe they’ll come” was the mantra – and by and large, they didn’t come. The fallout has been considerable, and the smoke and mirrors quickly removed. The best ideas proved to be most resonant, not the best built site structures. We predict the most creative agencies will see their stars rise in 2009; with their funny / moving / controversial ideas cutting through the clutter.
2. The Dying Gasps of the Last Remaining Traditional Advertising Agencies
Sure, large tracts of the Amazon rain forest will continue to be cleared, but more mainstream print titles will close this year, radio will sag and television splutter. The reason: mainstream media placement will decline more and more rapidly in 2009 (especially if those smart programmers get point 8 right). Marketing managers worldwide are increasingly seeing their online presence (including mobile) as the pivotal communication point in their strat. Digital will become the destination, with radio, print and TV becoming satelite channels feeding through it into a sale transaction. Clients will ask ‘where’s my digital?’ before they ask ‘where’s my 30 second ad’. The traditional agency model of coming up with a formulaic idea – with legs – then booking 12 months of media placement is dead. Nowadays, companies look for progressive agencies who understand a combination of traditional & digital and all the nuances that go with it.
3. Mobile gets Smart
This is ‘Captain Obvious’ territory, but there is a twist. Mobile will start employing more personalised methods, more copywriting expertise and more funky tech to break through the backlash that occurred in 2008. A case in point was the December Heavy Chef Session where the mobile representative got 20 mins of flack from an audience tired of getting mobile spam.
We reckon there will be some crazy tech apps coming up that make mobile advertising way, way smarter.
Digital Design & Creativity:
4. The Great Web 2.0 Design Backlash
No more logo reflections. No more shiny vignettes. No more clip-art-styley bubble-icons. We’ll see a return to good ole fashioned crunchy mash-ups. All hail illustration. Textures. Art Direction. Typography. Tactile Backround Patterns. The creative vaccuum that was ‘the Web 2.0′ style is so 1 month ago. It will be great to see concepts and compositional thought return to the design galleries en masse. It started in the latter part of 2008, and we’ll see a charge throughout 2009. It will be crunchy, tangible and thought-provoking. User-centred design will still be prevalent, but it’s a case of formand function.
5. The Return of Custom Photography
Probably one of the most profitable businesses sparked by the whole digital marketing movement was the online stock library. Talk about The Long Tail in action: you could get that picture of the mouse sitting on a clown’s nose and you didn’t even have to brief it out! A quick search through SXC, iStock or Getty will get you that image in a few clicks. And so, old-school photographers have been sitting by their phones and hearing crickets. We reckon we’ll see a return to the busy booking schedules of camera-wielding practitioners creating the beautiful panoramas dreamed up by web designers everywhere.
6. The Rise of the ‘Digital Story’
We believe 2009 will see a huge number of ‘digital stories’ appear. Instead of a punch-line with various executions, a creative campaign will start with a basic premise, and then initiate an online journey where that premise can be fleshed out in a story format. Campaigns will be focused, engaging and personalised.
7. The Convergence of Social Networking and Mainstream Web Development
We’ve seen Facebook Connect being introduced last year. We reckon this is the forebearer of much more to come. We reckon marketers will slap a social networking application on to every website they can muster. We’ll see small restaurant chains create networking groups; large consultancies crowdsourcing; bloggers feeding into big corporation sites; social travel apps on agency sites; your friends’ comments filtered through to e-commerce product pages; and Twitter updates on lawyers’ home pages. E-commerce will go social, and so will most services. Hell, even a luxury hotel client of ours just placed TripAdvisor logos all over their website.
8. Mindblowing Development of Personalised Online Advertising
OK, so this is maybe a little obvious to some of you, since ‘overcoming banner blindness‘ has become the de facto standard for starting an online media brainstorm. The fact is, big media players (now more than ever) need to convince anxious marketing managers whose budgets have been slashed. 0.3% click-through rates won’t cut it anymore no matter how slick the sales pitch about ‘the growth of online advertising’ is. Big money is being spent now on developing targeted and personalised ad placement systems. These ’smart systems’ will allow creative teams to be able to forego the usual stumbling blocks and strategise with the confidence that their audience is engaged and ready to interact with their communication. We predict some pretty mindblowing developments in this sphere.
9. Adobe Flash, Master of the Universe
A mate of World Wide Creative’s, Chris Beech, a Flash / Flex / Air Ninja, has been blowing this trumpet for years. Chris tells us that big brands like Samsung and Sony are backing behind Flash. We think, as Flash cements its position as the leading carrier of animated content, 2009 will see some big developments in the way websites are built. With data speeds becoming faster and more accessible, media is going mobile, and Flash is the messenger. Flash will also open up and become fully SEO-friendly, and digital marketers who’ve shunned it in the past will have to free up their after hours for evening classes.
10. Digital Integration with Traditional Media
Despite what certain traditional media salespeople have to say, we believe that the words ‘integrated digital campaign’ will be standard vernacular of marketing strategists, and will become the expectation of clients worldwide.
11. Crowdsourcing goes Mainstream
Crowdsourcing is possibly the handiest of social media’s outcomes. It means to utilise your community to come up with a beneficial outcome. We’ve seen this trend bubble under over the past 12 months, but now with Google joining the ranks, everyone’s going to jump on the bandwagon. Cool tools (like Rypple) will be the talk of business breakfasts worldwide.
12. The ‘Open Movement’ goes Mainstream
This was a tough call and could really go either way. We hope we’re right, and we see the likes of Microsoft opening up Office (or at least going online), Facebook hooking up with OpenSocial and Ubuntu actually becoming usable. This latter one would be great, since Ubuntu is really a mystery to anyone outside of the circle of breathless supporters that Shuttleworth and co. have attracted. The flipside to this prediction is that the whole open movement could be exposed as a profitless sham that bleeds most companies dry.
After all, the evil Microsoft is still making more money than anyone else, so why change anything?