Creative predictions for 2018: Here goes nothing….

By Andy McLane

12 February 2018

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Here goes nothing…

robot with pen

Making predictions is an understandably risky business; because you’re also laying on the line the suggestion that you might know where things are headed. And, in my opinion, anyone who says that they have a complete understanding of everything, and how its evolving, is talking out of their pork pie hat. So these predictions of mine are merely from someone making best their best level guess at a world that is exponentially accelerating on the fuel of technological advances.


I ain’t no Nostradamus but I’m willing to stick my neck out a bit. It’s something I’ve found myself needing to do many times, as I enter my 31st year in marketing and communications world. This curiosity and hunger to keep on top of change saw me watch hundreds of thousands of pounds of typesetting equipment be hoisted into a place I worked at in 1987 but, at the same time find myself more interested in an innocuously beige and relatively small computer, dismissively referred to as ‘that Apple Macintosh thing’. A year or so later, thanks largely to Messrs.’ Jobs and Wozniak, the typesetting behemoths were in the skip of history.


So here goes nothing. These are merely the personal predictions of a creative director around some of the things that keep me vaguely awake at night, and how we could be one of the first agencies to do great work around:


Voice search will lead to some truly innovative and demographic busting creative campaigns. I’m fascinated by the opportunities of voice, as a means of search and navigation. Driving along the road the other day listening to my 6 year old and 2 year old being totally at ease and entranced with voice search spurred me to realize that some of our latent thoughts about search should be experimented with in 2018. Especially when I consider that, at the opposite end of the spectrum from my daughters, my father’s 70-something year old partner only uses voice search to navigate the Internet. The keypads on phones are too tricky for her to type into, so voice search has opened up possibilities. If nothing else, as marketers, we should immediately see the possibility this offers for brands to communicate and understand the needs of audiences we routinely write off as ‘non digital’. With ‘smart speakers’ being introduced into the latest TV ranges, perhaps the TV may be entering a new golden age in more ways than one.

Amazon Alexa on books

As for my younger test bed: it’s always morally challenging to think about our responsibility as marketers, but these are the next generation of ‘hyper digital natives’ who expect the TV screen to be swiped to the next instant experience. Their voices will be the next evolution of the swipe.


Then consider the individuality of your voice. Think about how our vocal chords change as we age, or how our regional accent can pin point us, or an inflexion on a word might slot us into a socio-demographic. Could what we say and how we say it inform a new level of tone and voice and targeting in marketing? Do it with a bit of wit and creativity and it might not feel like marketing at all. Which has always been a good benchmark of creativity.


Content will get truly creative. The way we bandy the word ‘content’ around often makes it about as exciting and alluring as ‘cavity wall insulation’. True, content can be used to fill gaps and bolster relevance in search and fact-finding but, if businesses like Netflix or Amazon tell us anything, it can create game changing levels of audience engagement. Some of the work we’ve created for clients like Long Tall Sally and Evans Cycles has created such a massive level of audience engagement that the brands have literally begun to glow like stars and organically attract more traffic and revenue to their businesses than standard marketing and SEO tactics. This is just the beginning.

Man with bike on Golden Hill

With a love of storytelling and brand narrative Propellernet have spent the last few years in the fictional franchise ‘W.A.R.S’, which prophesies a world where insurgents battle against the big business take over of entertainment, and the ranking of our social capital can unlock new layers of privilege. Many of the predictions in the film are coming true, but we’re more interested in offering brands the opportunity to create engaging narratives (perhaps weaving in fiction or non fiction) to engage their potential audiences in a way that sells, but doesn’t feel like it’s selling at all. If a cycle brand made content that you actually wanted to rush home and watch, wouldn’t you be more instantly disposed to buying a bike from them?


A new golden age of TV advertising is upon us. Watching the brain pulverizing selection of sofa and furniture ads over the Christmas break, it doesn’t feel like it, but TV advertising might just be about to get a shot in the arm. Many advertisers have quite rightly pulled out of spending millions of pounds of bluntly targeted TV marketing. It’s proved economically more sensible to use the internet to put out up to ten minute long films that people actually want to watch, and share, than throw millions of pounds into 30 seconds of ‘hit and hope’. But the conversations I’m hearing around the possibility of using technologies like Ad Smart to cleverly and geographically target audiences, based upon viewing habits and patterns of household consumption, excite (and terrify) me. This wave of advertising doesn’t necessarily command the same production budgets as the traditional 30 second TV ad, but the economies of scale might see it needing to, and to have a wit and creative fidelity that lifts it above the levels of the DRTV fodder. If you’re going to interrupt someone’s day the old rule still applies – entertain, enlighten and inspire them.


I’m excited about this format and if you could weave it into complimentary narrative and information online content it could be game-changing. As always, trying to integrate ever more cogs into a marketing plan is a challenge. But the smart money will be working out how to do that, and do it well.


Artificial Intelligence will get to know us better. Listening to Mishal Husain being interviewed by her AI counterpart ‘Mishalbot’ on Radio Four’s Today programme the other day I was reinvigorated to think about how the AI story is progressing. It made for entertaining listening and I definitely prefer the human version of Mishal.

But perhaps marketing will be less concerned with creating simulacrums of human intelligence and more about creating predictive algorithms, capable of mapping our eclectic decision-making processes and consumption choices. In many ways the journeys we take around the Internet are already forming pictures of our thought processes and the way we facially react to imagery and messaging will increasingly be mapped. I’ve noticed the more paranoid putting blutak over their web cameras.


Obviously, as someone who works in an SEO agency, I’m fascinated about how deep Google’s DeepMind really goes. One of the primary motivations for taking on the role of creative director at an SEO agency is that I think this will be the best insight and planning tool, available to a creative person, ever. And if that insight started to take on more of a delineated intelligence it would make the creative leap even more definite. Imagine being able to present a creative idea to a bank of AI intelligences that were calibrated to your hypothetical audience. Being able to flight test a concept and hear emotional and rational reactions could be the ultimate research group (free of the ego-driven dynamics often present in focus groups).


I pondered if the creative leap itself could be taken on by AI, and then remembered that the Japanese office of advertising agency McCann had recently unveiled a robotic creative director capable of creating an ad that preferred over the one concepted by its human counterparts. Perhaps my AI replacement will be writing this post in a year’s time. But for this year, at least, I think there are still enough serendipitous connections in the human synapses to keep the creative industry relatively occupied.