Why have we been talking lately about a new golden age for audio?

In the “Deep Dive” format, experts from the Mediaplus Group immerse themselves in the world of marketing trends and provide in-depth insights into current challenges: how can trends be categorised socially and economically, and how can problems be addressed with an interdisciplinary approach? Dominik Kropp, Senior Media Analyst at Mediaplus, sheds light on this with his article on the new golden age for audio.

Hardly anybody would deny that video today is booming. The range of video available has never been so varied, and with the market entry of yet more providers planned, this diversification shows no sign of slowing down. But can the same be said of audio? Where’s all this talk of a new golden age for audio coming from? Radio has been around forever and continues to be there, in the background. Let’s start by getting one thing clear: audio is much more than just radio. Innovations have changed the market and taken it forward – or, more specifically, innovations in the following areas: devices, platforms, and content. The main topic of conversation right now is the development surrounding the second podcast wave. Although podcasts have actually been around since as early as 2004, it’s only in more recent years that consumption of the form has really taken off.

With the growing proliferation of smartphones, mobile consumption of online audio offerings has risen significantly; after all, smartphones are our favourite device by far. Interest in online audio content has also been boosted by smart speakers and new digital applications for cars. These new devices have succeeded in making audio more personal and interactive.

In terms of platforms, it is mainly streaming services like Spotify, Amazon, and Apple Music that have served to expand podcasts’ media portfolio. These are used by almost 80% of people under 30, and by around 40% of the entire population according to an ARD/ZDF online study. These partly ad-free services are even drawing usage time away from other offerings, although they aren’t replacing them entirely – fully ad-compatible conventional offerings continue to be relevant. The usage situations associated with each format are quite different. On the one hand there is the largely mobile usage of streaming services on smartphones, and on the other there is the strongly habitual, mostly passive pattern associated with listening to conventional radio.

The YouTube of podcasts?

When it comes to innovative audio content, one topic is very much at the forefront these days:  podcasts. Interest in the podcast market has been boosted to a new level by recent massive investments by Spotify. The Swedish company’s aim is to become the world’s No. 1 podcast platform. With the acquisition of Gimlet, Anchor, and Parcast, Spotify is not only pursuing the goal of further setting itself apart from the competition with its offering of exclusive content, but also of bringing publishers and creatives directly to the platform. Corresponding self-service solutions for podcast producers are being implemented to this end, which may significantly expand the long tail of the platform’s podcast range.  In terms of distribution channels and findability, the podcast market has traditionally been organised along very diverse lines, with many different ways to search for podcasts and listen to them. Spotify’s investment could alter the market on a fundamental level – and make the service the podcast equivalent of YouTube. This is still a gamble on the future, of course, albeit a very promising one.

Content by opinion leaders, for opinion leaders

Despite the increase among users, podcasts are still by no means a mass phenomenon. As the Reuters Digital News Report 2019 reveals, a good fifth of German online users listen to podcasts at least once a month, whilst many of these are heavy users who listen to them several times a week or even daily. These users tend to be young adults who are well educated and higher earners. Regular podcast users are an attractive target group for brands. They are often people who are strongly interested in a particular topic that shapes opinions in their direct environment, and so functions as a multiplier. Podcast enthusiasts are harder to reach via conventional media, as they watch less linear TV and consume less print media than the average population.

A higher impact through listeners’ undivided attention

One of the biggest opportunities that podcasts represent for advertising is their high impact potential. A key characteristic of the podcast usage situation is direct, intensive contact between speaker and listener. The level of concentration devoted to actively selected content is high, and people often listen attentively and exclusively to podcasts without doing anything else at the same time. Acceptance of advertising among podcast listeners is also higher than it is in the case of most other media, as the advertising is better suited to the usage situation. Native ads recorded by the host are an especially personal form of advertising, tailored to the context. A further plus for advertisers is exclusivity, as a single podcast often features only a small number of advertising messages. At the same time, the resulting lack of scalability is one of the reasons why podcast advertising is presently still unable to deliver sufficient contact for broad reach campaigns.

In terms of usage behaviour, listening to podcasts is also limited with respect to the duration of the content. In contrast to the trend for maximally brief snippets for mobile use on the move, however, on-demand podcast usage is often longer, and listeners’ high levels of interest in the topics discussed mean that their readiness to engage is greater.

New options for audio campaigns

The decentralised way in which podcasts are marketed means that the market is still extremely fragmented at present with respect to advertising opportunities. Uniform standards of measurement are also lacking, which makes formats more difficult to compare. More progress is certainly also needed in terms of booking options and reach definitions if podcasts are to become a more relevant part of media plans.

These issues aside, however, podcast advertising is making new forms of address possible in the audio environment. High-intensity listening means that podcasts are less suitable for “noisy” ad breaks designed to motivate, and more suitable for brand showcasing and development. For the right target groups, this can represent a useful building block in an audio campaign.

And so it may well be that the golden age of the podcast is also coming. With both video and audio booming, the battle for users’ attention is entering a new phase.

“We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote in a letter to investors at the end of 2018, pointing out that gaming, far more than cable TV, will be a major competitor for Netflix in the future.
The video game industry is posting record-breaking revenues year after year and attracts players across all demographics on every device, from dedicated gaming consoles to personal computers and smartphones. The more gaming is growing, the stronger a contender it becomes in the fight for three scarce resources of our modern, connected world: time spent consuming media, audience attention and share of wallet. And it’s not only about gamers playing themselves – the e-sports industry is also growing massively and watching professional gamers compete in tournaments has become a popular source of entertainment for many interested in the medium.

However, one of the biggest shifts for the industry is looming on the horizon, a change so significant to the established ways of doing business, that gaming might never be the same again, neither for hardware makers and game developers, nor for the players.
Shortly before this year’s E3, the gaming industry’s annual trade show in Los Angeles, Google announced its plans for a new type of gaming service: Stadia. For decades, video games were distributed on physical storage media like cartridges, DVDs, Blu-Rays and later online downloads, to be installed and played on powerful hardware in the form of consoles and personal computers. Stadia is Google’s attempt to change this by moving gaming into the cloud.
Games will be streamed over the internet to any device with a screen that has an internet connection and is capable of running Google’s Chrome web browser or compatible with Google’s streaming technology Chrome Cast. All the heavy lifting in terms of graphical computing and processing will happen in Google’s data centres.

What is rather trivial for a linear content like a movie or piece of music, is a lot more complicated for the medium of games. Unlike movies or TV shows streamed from Netflix and other services, games rely on rendering their environments in real time, constantly adapting to player movement and viewing angles. Additionally, they require precise player input through controllers or a mouse and keyboard that must be reflected on screen with minimal delay. The massive processing and networking infrastructure required is something only a handful of companies can provide, Google being one of them.
The benefit for the players is that they no longer need to purchase expensive gaming computers or consoles to play the best-looking, most complex games, but can simply stream them to their TVs, tablets, laptops or even phones.

The business model behind Stadia, which will launch in November 2019, requires users to pay a monthly subscription fee to use the service. And this is where things get complicated. Unlike video or music streaming services, Stadia will not launch with a wide catalogue of old and new games, but a very limited selection of mostly older titles that are included in the monthly package. If players want to access other games as part of the service, they will have to purchase individual games digitally from the Stadia store or pay publishers such as French company Ubisoft a monthly subscription fee to gain access to their catalogue of games.
In a market where numerous large game publishers and hardware makers are already in fierce competition over gamers’ wallets with myriad subscription services to gain access to publisher games catalogues, microtransactions for in-game items, fees for online multiplayer and the purchase price of many games themselves, it is questionable whether Stadia can succeed without going the traditional route of platform owners gaining a market share in the gaming industry: exclusive games and discount pricing.

All major console makers own several development studios that are creating games exclusively for their platform and, in Microsoft and Sony, pay hefty sums for timed exclusivity for high-profile third-party titles. Another tech company that recently adopted the model of selling exclusive games for a subscription fee to interested audiences is Apple, their service Apple Arcade is launching later this year.

In the meantime, Sony and Microsoft are also working on cloud-based gaming platforms which are expected to launch along the release of the next generation of consoles. Sony has even entered a strategic partnership with Microsoft to develop their own future cloud gaming solutions based on Microsoft’s Azure cloud technology – a move that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, but new competition in the gaming space seems to foster new alliances.
The streaming future of gaming is not without obstacles, however. The traditional core target group of gaming enthusiasts is growing increasingly frustrated with the fragmentation of platforms, exclusivity of content and publishers transforming their games from a one-time purchase to service-models with the aim of increasing long-term revenue through microtransactions and paid additional content.

Although the same cannot be said of movies and music these days, many gamers still feel the need to “own” the games they paid money for, instead of simply buying the right to access them temporarily through a streaming service. And as the younger generation of players grew up with mobile games and free-to-play titles financed through microtransactions, it is uncertain that a streaming service with fixed costs and more traditional games is even attractive to them, especially when pitted against the many different forms of competing entertainment available. As much as Netflix sees games as a competition over its audience’s time, attention and money, games face competition from video and audio streaming services as well.

It will be exciting to see how the industry transforms over the next few years and if streaming and subscriptions are truly the future. The thought of being able to play any game, anywhere on any device without having to buy a console or PC is certainly appealing. Even ad-supported models don’t seem to be too far-fetched in this scenario, which would provide attractive opportunities for brands to reach young and affluent target groups. If the industry is successful in bringing their core target groups with them into a streaming landscape and if ease of use and lower cost of access can even attract new target groups, gaming could cement itself as the leading form of entertainment among younger target groups for many years to come.

In the “Deep Dive” format, experts from the Mediaplus Group immerse themselves in the world of marketing trends and provide in-depth insights into current challenges: how can new trends be categorized socially and economically, and how can problems be addressed with an interdisciplinary approach? Magnus Gebauer, Senior Consultant at Mediaplus, sheds light on this with his contribution to the Beyond Meat trend.

Brand communication to meet the growing appetite for plant-based products

I tried my best: that is all I can say about my feeble attempt to get my hands on a packet of the coveted Beyond Meat burgers from my local discounter. Within the first ten minutes of the shop opening its doors, every last one of the much-hyped burger patties had sold out. And then there is the Californian food producer’s sensational stock market launch, which chalked up gains of up to 600 percent on occasion. Why is that? Although the number of vegans has increased in recent years, there are barely a million in Germany.

Shift in values is changing consumer behaviour and media planning

A closer look soon reveals that the new vegan products are geared towards a far broader target group than the gaunt vegan stereotypes of the 1990s. They are designed for the mainstream and are driven by three major values-based consumption trends:

  1. The current fitness and health trend: Meat substitute products are seen as being healthier because they contain no cholesterol and less unsaturated fatty acids.
  2. There is a growing wish among consumers for better environmental protection and animal-based food production is very energy-intensive.
  3. Following the animal and meat scandals of recent years, more and more consumers are calling for better animal welfare.

Looking at these developments from a media perspective, it once again becomes clear that traditional target group selection based on sociodemographic attributes is not the way to go. Vegan-oriented consumer groups are bound together more closely by shared values and motives than by age or gender – which is exactly where psychographic targeting comes in, offering a more intelligent solution for values-based customer communication. Psychographics is an approach that stems from personality psychology and that deals with the motives of human actions. Psychographic targeting activities take traditional target group descriptions to the next level, adding profiles on motives, attitudes and personality traits. By drawing on psychographics, new media planning approaches are more effective, as the target group’s values must also tie in with the various advertising environments. Which helps to pinpoint those environments that fit perfectly with the brand or product.

Mainstream messages and relevant campaign strategies

The sudden unprecedented boom in this area – in spite of the fact that meat-free alternatives have already been on the market for quite some time – can be attributed on the one hand to the mass-market taste experience and, on the other, to the different, more active marketing of the products in question. Product communication for the meat-free hamburgers is not aimed at vegans and vegetarians but is geared squarely towards lovers of meat and fast food.

“The only consumer we care about is the hardcore meat lover”: interestingly enough, this sentence has become something of a mantra for Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown, one of Beyond Meat’s main competitors. By his own account, the company founder does not see vegetarian and vegan consumers as his most relevant consumer group. This makes more sense when you consider that his company supplies Burger King with the patties for its vegan Impossible Whopper, and that Burger King advertises its vegan product as being indistinguishable from the original Whopper with regard to taste.

Similarly, the message sent by McDonald’s national advertising video launching its own vegan burger (“Believe it or not: tastes great for everyone – not just idealists. The new Big Vegan TS”) illustrates which target group it has in its crosshairs. Here, McDonald’s is playing with the hackneyed contrast between environmental activist and lumberjack – reconciliation being ultimately achieved in the form of a burger. The message that is to remain with consumers is clear: meat-free burgers are not just for starry-eyed idealist chicks, but for everyone.

British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has opted for a somewhat different marketing strategy. As part of World Meat-Free Week, it opened up a meat-free pop-up butcher’s shop to demonstrate to customers how to cook with the plant-based meat alternatives sold at Sainsbury’s – while, it can be safely assumed, securing extensive media coverage with this unique campaign. This illustrates above all the importance of having a well thought-out campaign strategy that zones in cleverly on consumer trends, while both engaging customers and providing added value for them. After all, in times where consumers are bombarded with countless one-size-fits-all advertising messages, contextual relevance is the key to grabbing their attention and, in turn, is the basis for a successful marketing campaign.

Is the interest in vegan issues subsiding again? 

Looking at the recent hype regarding Beyond Meat with the benefit of a little hindsight, there is no denying that media interest has cooled off somewhat. However, given the clear shift in values, it would be a mistake to assume that plant-based products have had their moment in the sun. The abundance of vegan alternatives – not only food, but also anything from shoes to cosmetics – will continue to make waves as long as brands serve major consumer trends adroitly while gearing their communication strategies to changing values, leaving past stereotypes behind. With psychographic targeting, media planning has the right solution at the ready.

In the “Deep Dive” format, experts from the Mediaplus Group immerse themselves in the world of marketing trends and provide in-depth insights into current challenges: how can new trends be categorized socially and economically, and how can problems be addressed with an interdisciplinary approach? Magnus Gebauer, Senior Consultant at Mediaplus, sheds light on this with his contribution to the “share-of-wallet conflict in the subscription economy”.

“Do you really need a cow in order to get the milk?” A simple and logical question posed by Zuora founder Tien Tzuo. Zuora is the world’s leading infrastructure provider of the Subscription Economy. If you believe what Mr. Tzuo says, in a few years’ time there will be no reason to own even one single product. A daring thesis that is well worth a closer look.

The Subscription Economy is a cross-industry phenomenon. Hello Fresh and the Dollar Shave Club represent a multitude of services that are set to turn established markets upside down. Even the more conservative car manufacturers are discovering digital subscription for themselves. Mercedes-Benz is testing its own vehicle subscription with “Mercedes me Flexperience.” Word has spread that this business model pays off. Zuora talks about growth rates of over 300 percent in the last seven years.

New players, new fortune

Even in the world of media and entertainment, there’s no stopping paid subscription offers. Excessive CD and DVD shelves are a thing of the past thanks to Netflix, Spotify and co. Disney +, Apple TV + and newly announced platforms such as Quibi will reinforce this development, and at the same time they are changing the way the entire moving-image market evolves. But why are these digital subscriptions so in demand?

Subscription Economy stands for maximum customer focus. For the consumers of today it’s no longer just about owning a product or using a service. They demand solutions that they can adapt to their needs in a flexible and individual way. There are four major triggers for using paid media subscriptions:

  1. Greater flexibility through the possibility of on-demand usage
  2. Access to high quality and often exclusive content
  3. (Partial) Advertising freedom
  4. Curated/personalized content

Paid Media Subscriptions are a convenient on-off relationship – with 30 days notice.

The share-of-wallet conflict

Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are not only competing with each other – in the fight for part of the available entertainment budget, video-on-demand (VoD) services are also facing subscription offerings from the audio sector as well as digital journalism. Add to that the new subscription offers of the booming gaming industry and countless new players, such as the digital magazine app Readly. More and more services are fighting for users, but there is a cost for paid media subscriptions. The question quickly arises about how many subscriptions a user is willing to sign up for. An internal survey among colleagues at the House of Communication at Serviceplan has shown that two to three different services are used – at a cost of 25 to 35 euros per month. Not a small amount but not nearly enough to be fully sustained by subscription services. The share-of-wallet conflict over the available budget is obvious. In addition, it is clear that there is not one subscriber prototype; from the binge-watcher to the news aficionado to the gaming nerd, everyone uses subscriptions differently.

Is it possible to buy an ad-free life?

Theoretically, one could buy an almost ad-free life through subscription media. Theoretically! In practice, this is simply too expensive for the average user. Added to that, paid media subscriptions do not cover all content by far. The services expand the media portfolio and reduce usage time from other offerings, but don’t completely substitute them. Subscription customers continue to use other media offers that can be advertised. But the fact is that the advertising space, especially for heavy users, is visibly smaller.

Flat rate solutions are not in sight

What the impact will be for the individual media channels can’t be solved with a flat rate. There are far too many differences in the market conditions for the video, audio and digital journalism categories.

Pay-VoD deducts usage time from linear TV, as there are very similar usage motivations here. However, Pay-VoD users can still be reached via ad-supported video channels and will have ad-funded offers in their media portfolio. Music streaming takes less usage time from classic radio than Pay-VoD on linear TV. Above all, music streaming replaces physical sound carriers. Also, music streaming is not ad-free per se. Spotify and Deezer, in addition to the payable accounts, also have advertising, free variants in their portfolio. And what is the reaction of the publishers? Many have adapted their strategies and introduced paid-content models in recent years. In terms of advertising, however, for digital journalism there is no erosion as paywalls do not mean “ad-free”. To be ad-free, users tend to rely on an ad blocker instead of paying for content.

What significance does that have for media strategy?

Through the Subscription Economy, more and more channels are losing valuable ad space. A fact that can’t be ignored, but it’s no reason to throw in the towel. Even if the initial situation becomes more difficult for advertisers, solutions exist.

Advertise in less erosive channels on a more continuous basis

Marketers were used to the fact that moving image and audio media give them almost infinitely scalable reach in a short time. But it is precisely these media that are subject to the strongest erosion phenomena. By contrast, journalistic offers, social media and out-of-home continue to offer attractive advertising space and will therefore grow in the media mix. For those who don’t shy away from the effort, they are also able to penetrate into media that move away from the classic advertising space: influencer marketing, sponsoring, product placement, native audio or in-house productions offer a variety of possibilities for brand staging – and are a welcome support for content producers. In terms of advertising pressure, it is advisable to be moderate but continuously present. This is how you build up depot effects for the brand – the marathon runner clearly beats the sprinter here.

Increasing complexity: the right planning tool question

It is hardly surprising that media planning will become even more complex in the future. Advertisers will need to expand their media mix to reach the right consumers. A broader media mix makes the use of high-end planning tools inevitable. Here’s how to answer these questions: is the range of a channel already exhausted? Is it worth adding another? What are the contact costs and how good is the advertising impact? AI-based planning tools such as the Mediaplus Brand Investor provide appropriate answers.

Back to the beginning

In the future it will also be possible to reach consumers via advertising. However, more levers will need to be set in motion and finer adjustments made. And what about the cow in your own four walls? She still won’t be needed in order to drink a glass of milk. Subscription guru Tien Tzuo is absolutely right. Unlike him, we don’t consider paid subscriptions to be the centrally dominant business model in the medium term. Rather, they are an additional, if not insignificant distribution channel which applies to grocery shopping as well as media consumption.

The central theme of SXSW has always been change: transforming itself from its humble beginnings as a music festival in the capital of Texas into one of the world’s leading conferences on technology, marketing and innovation, to the growing city of Austin itself. And Austin is changing rapidly, which becomes more and more obvious the more often you return. The influx of investments, jobs and residents can be felt and seen everywhere, as new high-rise buildings are being constructed downtown and new, fancy homes and shops take over residential neighborhoods in the vicinity, year after year. Austin’s continuing popularity certainly isn’t being embraced by everyone, especially among long-time Austin residents, who grow increasingly wary of endless traffic and skyrocketing housing costs. Silicon Valley’s latest solution fixing traffic by dumping thousands of electric scooters and bikes on Austin’s streets might be a welcome convenience for SXSW attendees, but an additional nuisance for the city’s residents.

Shifting perceptions 

As the city changes, so does one of its major draws for visitors. SXSW might still be labeled as a tech and marketing focused conference, but the growing emphasis on topics around work culture, relationships and leadership shows that technology and innovation might just not be enough to succeed in business in the future.
Opening the conference with Brené Brown and Esther Perel – two outstanding speakers on topics of belonging, empathy, and relational intelligence – was a perfect framing device for the rest of the week. The importance of applying these concepts, often dismissed as “soft” to one’s actions not only at the workplace, but in life at large, cannot be overstated.
Or as Gwyneth Paltrow, who currently is transforming her own career from Hollywood actress to CEO of her lifestyle brand Goop, put it perfectly: “Culture is your business plan”.

Reframing the toolkit of digital transformation

Does this mean we are done with digital technology? No more new gadgets, no more new platforms, no more disruption? Far from it. But digital transformation itself is changing. The past decade has handed us a toolkit with almost unlimited possibilities and technology has reached a point of productive ubiquity.
So, does ye olde Arthur C. Clarke quote no longer ring true? Has technology sufficiently advanced to a point, where it no longer appears to be magical? Not necessarily, but the tools we spent the last 10 years derivatively refining are now ready to be used productively in business and marketing. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, virtual reality, mobile devices and wearables, blockchain, robotics, digital assistants: they work and they provide value. It’s time to embrace them.

Technology as the trigger for and answer to shifting consumer expectations 

Walmart CTO Jeremy King gave impressive insights into how the world’s largest retailer does just that. Pretty much every technology listed above plays a major role in Walmart’s business processes: from blockchain for produce tracking, virtual reality in staff training to robotics and predictive analytics in purchasing and logistics. While King did not grow tired of repeating how customer and shopping experience were at the center of all of Walmart’s technological ventures, it surely also has an impressive impact on the bottom line, due to large increases in efficiency.
In another session I attended, Heather Hildebrand from Accenture Interactive shared examples on how Accenture helped retailers to improve the shopping experience for customers through tech by offering better personalization, curation and expert advice. Utilizing technology to create true, meaningful improvements to the overall brand experience is the pivotal challenge in the foreseeable future, as the tools are ready and at our disposal. At the same time, technology is fundamentally shifting consumer behavior across all touchpoints – so for now, understanding and properly reacting to those needs is of equal importance. This, however, takes effort and the willingness to think about hard problems and find hard solutions – too often marketers will take the easy exit. Why adopt to changing consumer behavior introduced by digital assistants if you can just launch a gimmicky Alexa skill and be done with it?Achieving equilibrium between playful utilization of new tools and meaningful impact on process and execution requires a change in organizational structure and leadership, though. Balancing culture and technology will be the new frontier of innovation.

The kaleidoscope of change

So, that’s a wrap on SXSW 2019 and it’s important to point out, that this is just my personal take. The sheer amount of sessions, panels and workshops across 29 conference tracks makes it impossible to even attempt to get a comprehensive overview of everything that is going on.
Due to all these possibilities, one could ask 50 different attendees and would very likely receive 50 different answers on what SXSW was all about in a particular year. And what anyone deems noteworthy might be influenced just as much by their current professional and personal challenges as it is by the overarching trends in programming of the festival itself.
I’m looking forward to returning to Austin in a year, not only to see how the transformation of the city is shaping up, but also for the unique mashup between innovation, culture, art and visionary spirit, that can only exist in this city, at this event.

Augmented reality: what comes after the smartphone?

Augmented reality has been one of the great innovation topics of the technology industry for years now. The sector is currently focusing primarily on smartphone cameras, which allow users to project a digital content layer onto their environment.

However, the areas of application are much more diverse: with shopping apps, you can try on glasses or trainers before buying them virtually and project furniture into your own home. Google Maps has most recently started guiding the way not only with arrows on a map, but by augmented reality. In Pokemon Go, too, the Pokemons now sit in a real meadow and not just in the rendered game environment.

One common feature of the numerous augmented reality applications so far has been that virtually all of them have been limited to the visual aspect of augmented reality and were usually the smartphone platform of choice. At least as exciting, however, are the current developments that shift augmented reality from smartphones and integrate it into other wearables.

The sound comes from the glasses

The US audio manufacturer Bose, for example, is a pioneer in this area: at the SXSW 2018, Bose presented the first prototypes of its augmented audio sunglasses, nine months later in December the first two models came to the market. In contrast to other devices, such as the recently released OptiShokz Revvez, the sound from the Bose glasses is not projected directly into the ear via bone conduction and the skull, but via micro-loudspeakers.

Bose is marketing its glasses under the buzzword of augmented audio and not only supplies the hardware, but has also announced a comprehensive software development kit that will be launched at SXSW in March 2019 to encourage app developers to bring innovative and exciting hardware applications to market. This is where the whole topic becomes interesting, because a mere headphone replacement may be nice, but it isn’t really ground-breaking.

Augmented audio applications

Audio feedback, based on GPS location and the orientation of the glasses, allows information to be passed on relating to objects in the direct field of vision: information about places of interest or about bars and restaurants as well as directions. For example, navigation apps or city guides become possible without a smartphone screen.

In future versions of the glasses, gesture control by head movement can probably also be implemented, for example to accept calls or control media players. Location-based services that do without screen interaction and feed services or offers directly into the user’s ears depending on their position are also conceivable. Obviously, the integration of digital assistants with voice control such as Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa would also make sense in the future.

Augmented audio: just the beginning of the digitisation of everyday objects

Products such as the Bose Frames are just another step towards a world where all the everyday objects we carry with us become digital and smart. The device evolution has already brought digital services from the study (desktop PC) into the shoulder bag (laptop) and from there into the trouser pocket (smartphone) and to the wrist (smart watch). The head is only the next logical step in this development. In my opinion, the development in the smart glasses segment has not yet come to an end, despite some failures.

However, wearables that use audio as a transport medium are significantly more discreet and less invasive than spectacles or contact lenses projected directly in front of the eye lens and should therefore benefit from higher user acceptance.

So, what does the future have in store?

Will we soon be wandering cities dressed in smart devices from head to toe? Probably not. Although Nike and Under Armor, two major sports goods brands, are already developing smart trainers and Levi’s and Google have launched a touch-controlled denim jacket, all of these technologies will only become established when the services offered provide consumers with a truly concrete benefit.

Now that the internet is a fixture in practically every aspect of life, smartphones are almost ubiquitous and nearly every electronic device is connected via the “Internet of Things”, we are about to take the next big step: artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum computing. These technologies are not just changing society as a whole: they also affect our work as media planners.

In my view, there are three media or market-specific and technological developments which are having the greatest impact on our business at present:

1. The increasing power of the internet giants is drastically changing the advertising market. According to estimates by OMG and eMarketer, around three-quarters of German and more than half of US digital/online advertising investments now flows into the “walled gardens” of Google and Facebook. LUMA’s Digital Media Summit 2017 addressed the fact that, depending on the study, 50 to 60 percent of online shoppers in Germany and the USA search directly for the product of their choice on Amazon, without taking the “detour” of a search engine. The major platforms have understood exactly what the users want, meaning advertisers barely get a look in.

2. In the digitalisation service provision market, however, the cards are being re-dealt: management consultancies are increasingly moving into IT, marketing and commerce. Technology companies offer consulting services and agency networks are expanding their marketing expertise to include IT and commerce. It feels like new services and job profiles are springing up on a daily basis, heating up the “talent war”.

3. The model of the “average consumer” is redundant. Thanks to several contributing factors, our society is becoming increasingly heterogeneous. As a basis for planning in modern marketing, socio-demographics offer only minimal benefit in terms of differentiation and insights. There are now far more versatile and precise target group models and it is a case of implementing and improving these.

These technological trends impact on our society:

1. Things which were only possible using screens and keyboards in the past are now increasingly achievable using voice. According to Gartner analysis, by 2020 around 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be conducted without a screen. As well as the new brand presence, this represents a huge change, especially for traders – because shopping queries will produce only one result! On Amazon, the company suggests an Amazon Choice product in 59 percent of cases – posts sponsored by manufacturers only appear in response to 2.5 percent of all spoken requests as Gartner L2 points out. This means that the only successful marketers will be those who develop an integrated voice strategy and see it as part of a holistic brand experience.

2. While still a mystery to many, blockchain is among the technologies that we will encounter increasingly often in the next few years. Blockchain enables secure processing of transactions without central authority, even if the parties involved do not know or trust each other (yet). The benefits of blockchain are clear: transparency, participation, decentralisation and integrity. However, its complexity makes it hugely complicated to incorporate this technology into existing processes. Establishing blockchain solutions in the media business on a large scale will require the involvement of several participants with different market positions. For this reason, we are probably still a few years off using it on a day-to-day basis throughout the media business.

3. It seems to be the universal panacea: artificial intelligence (AI). Three areas are of particular interest in the field of marketing: AI helps to evaluate existing data and provide brand new insights into customers and target audiences using analysis and reports. At the content creation stage, it can use user data to personalise advertisements and it enables automation of several media planning processes. At Mediaplus, for example, with Brand Investor we have created a tool which can build an impact-based plan for all campaign objectives across 19 channels. The result is a media mix from the machine, which calculates the optimum suggestion out of millions of scenarios.

Despite the many innovations, these new technologies will never be able to replace media experts. They just pose new challenges and create tasks which we should approach with courage and energy, not fear and despair. Or, as Che Guevara said using the words of Trotsky, we are living in a “Revolución permanente”.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

Admittedly, this trend will not only begin to emerge next year – however, in the incessant flood of information, effective and tailored targeting remains more relevant than ever for me. In order to reach customers accurately, it is no longer enough to only work with socio-demographic factors that do not take human behaviour into account and are not selective. The purchase decision not only depends on age or gender, but on values that are important to a person and with which they associate a product or environment.

If you factor in these values and the resulting motives for customer actions, new possibilities arise – and this is where psychographic targeting comes in. With this method, we at Mediaplus identify the most important motives for action (power, performance and connection) and include them in media planning. This can significantly increase the advertisers’ ROI and succeeds in addressing customers in both an individual and targeted manner.


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

Linear television is not dead, even if its useful life is declining. There are a variety of different approaches that make it possible to make linear television more efficient:

  •  with a more creative integration of TV and online creations, which fits in with content and platform
  • through a better return channel capability from addressable TV to really bring out its added value
  • decreasing attention spans through second-screen use can be made more efficient by shorter ad lengths and corner placements
  • by enhancing real-time TV performance measurements to more effectively link web traffic
  • including videos where there are regional differences in TV usage in order to achieve an optimal contact corridor for an integrated campaign
  • with the development of an ‘effective impact corridor’ of various moving image formats in order to supplement the classical planning with the effect factor


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

Digitisation has far-reaching implications for our society. The complexity of products, processes and technologies is increasing rapidly, people are networking worldwide, there is a new spirit of optimism. At the same time, we are in permanent beta status. Just as we have mastered a software or interface, an update comes along and we have to relearn. It is rare for conditions to remain constant for more than a few years. The only constant is change. This has far-reaching consequences for our society, but also for media planning. Until recently, society was more structured, and socio-demographic target group descriptions were the simplest and most satisfactory way to describe clients.

Socio-demographics cannot even begin to reflect today’s reality. The traditional roles of men and women have also largely become obsolete. Increased education levels have led to greater gender equality, and the old stereotypes are being broken down in both the workplace and the home. In 1980, 46 percent of all men married a woman who had a lower level of education; in 2016 this figure was only 32 percent. In the same time period, the number of men marrying upwards, that is, marrying a woman with a higher level of education, increased from three to ten percent. These changes represent the collapse of the middle class of society. To put it clearly, there are now only well-educated couples and poorly-educated couples. Couples with mixed education levels are increasingly uncommon. On average, 30 percent of men are well-educated, compared with 55 percent of women. As women are less likely to marry “downwards”, 25 percent of well-educated women remain single – a fact that can be observed in many cities. On the one hand, there are educated couples with double incomes and thus greater consumption capacity, on the other hand, singles or less-educated couples with only one income. Of course, all these individuals have a gender and an age. However, this does not say much about their living conditions and consumption capacity.

Values or motivators offer much better insights into buying behaviour

This change of social norms and structures causes a massive problem for advertisers, in particular for manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs): The hitherto common target group of “households between 24 and 54 years” is no longer effective. An example: In the past, the promotion of an organic, ecologically sustainable dish soap would have focused predominately on wives and mothers. Today, however, this approach would ignore a large number of potential customers. Conscious, value-led purchasing is independent of age and sex. And only about 30 percent of all buyers are repeat customers. The remaining 70 percent are new customers or switching customers who think little of brand loyalty. For brands, it is particularly important to appeal to and retain repeat customers – and today that can often be ecologically conscious, male singles.

Purchase decisions no longer depend on age and gender, but are much more influenced by the values that are important to a person and their motivation for taking action. New approaches to media planning can target these values and motives. This can prevent the exclusion of potential customers from advertising, simply because they do not belong to a specific age group or gender.

Psychographic targeting: What drives action today

A good alternative to socio-demographics is psychographic targeting. Psychographics is a tried-and-tested approach that has been researched for decades in personality psychology, which primarily identifies the human motives for taking action. Buying behaviour is influenced by particular motives for taking action and can be predicted, if the motives for it are known. If a person is more performance-oriented, they are better able to react to advertising motifs that emphasise the performance of a product or the results that can be achieved with it. For a car, this would be attributes like speed or special technical features. For a person whose main motive is social recognition and the company of others, communal experiences and achievements within a group are more influential. Psychographic targeting defines appropriate personas for each brand or product that work independently of age, gender, or other socio-demographic characteristics, and that are primarily defined by their values and motives.

This motivational and situational approach means that different advertising motifs have to be created, which are designed according to the theme of the action. As socio-demographics is losing relevance, both the planning and also the creation of media must drastically change and develop tailor-made spots and motifs for individual personas.

ValueSphere: What is important to me

“Actually I’m quite different. But I so rarely have time to show it.” The quote from the Austro-Hungarian writer Ödön von Horváth makes it clear that we all have specific ideas of how we want to be and what values should guide our actions. Health, joie de vivre, closeness, modernity, quality and many more values determine our buying behaviour, because the products we purchase always reflect our own set of values. For their part, brands and products represent certain values that consumers consciously or unconsciously perceive. So each of us would probably associate Miele with quality and reliability, Lego, on the other hand, with creativity and fun.

With our in-house ValueSphere model, these brand values and the target audience are identified. At the same time, advertising environments such as newspapers, magazines and TV stations and broadcasts are divided into the same value system in order to find the media environment that perfectly matches the brand or product. In this way, coherent results can be achieved, in which advertising not only fits in better with the environment, but also achieves a higher impact.


It’s high time for media planning to change its views. The stereotypes of the past (men are interested in cars, women in cosmetics; young people are modern and open-minded, older people traditional and old-fashioned) are no longer useful. Today’s world is much more complex, people are increasingly individual and social groups more connected by common values and goals. The entire advertising industry – especially creation – must abandon socio-demographics as the sole criterion if advertising is to continue to reach the right people in the future.