We are in the midst of a climate emergency. The effects of climate change are being seen in every aspect of our lives. While it may not be as quantifiable as other sectors, the advertising industry is a major driver of climate change.

Research carried out at Good-Loop, an online advertising company, has found that a typical online ad campaign emits 5.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Another recent report published by Purpose Disruptors, an organisation founded by ex-industry leaders, found that online advertising is responsible for an average 28% uptick in the carbon footprint of every person.

So how can we minimise the impact of digital media on the environment and leave the world a better place? Here are some tips:

  • Track the carbon emissions of your own campaigns: There are plenty of available tools online that enable you to measure and benchmark the cost of your online ads to limit your CO2 emissions.

  • Explore carbon offsetting solutions: Carbon offsetting allows business to compensate for their carbon emissions by reducing emissions somewhere else. Carbon offset credits are usually invested into projects in fields such as renewable energy, forest management, water conservation and more.

  • Optimise media assets Digital ad serving requires a great amount of energy as there are hundreds or thousands of assets being displayed online. Reducing your file size doesn’t just reduce the emissions but also provides better user experience and drives better performance.

  • Consider the 3R approach for your media campaigns: This stands for ‘remove, reduce, recycle.’ Remove content pillars that aren’t essential to tell your brand’s story, reduce your assets and recycle your content when possible.

  • Embrace a low-carbon mindset: Programmatic advertising – defined as the automated buying and selling of online ads – may be one of the most significant contributors to CO2 emissions, with thousands of automated bids happening every second of every day. As a media agency, you should talk to your vendors about their technology infrastructure before committing to any campaign – are they running on green servers, how many SSPs do they utilise? Etc.

  • Innovate wisely and smartly: NFTs are an excellent example of how brands just wanted to jump on a trend without taking into consideration the impact of their participation on the planet. Early estimations of the carbon footprint for the average NFT suggest it is equivalent to the monthly footprint of someone living in the EU.

At Serviceplan Group, we take our responsibility seriously and have already started implementing concrete measures to achieve climate neutrality. As part of its sustainability initiative, Mediaplus Germany launched the ‘Green GRP’ model in 2021, in cooperation with ClimatePartner, a company focusing on carbon offsetting projects, and 9 big players from the German media landscape. The Green GRP calculation model is an industry initiative open to all market participants, which aims tooffset all campaign carbon emissions generated by the campaign’s advertising placementwith certified climate protection projects.

‘The German advertising market is worth around 25 billion euros net according to the German Advertising Federation (ZAW). If we manage to invest an additional one percent of the money in carbon offsetting and climate-protection projects, we will have achieved an important contribution for climate protection. If all market participants join in, eventually everyone will run only climate-neutral campaigns.’’ Florian Haller, CEO of the Serviceplan Group.

“Net zero carbon” might sound out of reach, and knowing where to start can be tricky for most companies. However, we must remember that we all have a responsibility to preserve our planet. Therefore, adopting a sustainability-first mindset and setting ambitious yet realistic goals are some positive steps that we can take towards a greener ad world.

Jennifer Al Ghorayeb

Jennifer Al Ghorayeb, Digital Media Manager at Mediaplus Middle East (Part of Serviceplan Group Middle East)

ChatGPT, the new buzz all around the world, is more than just a buzz. It already has practical use cases that are applicable at work and home. My wife, who had been going back and forth with a remote copywriter for days over her website copy, switched over to ChatGPT and was done and happy with the final copy written by ChatGPT within a few hours! Our Art Director at the agency is using Dall-E to create basic storyboards in a fraction of the time it would take designers to search, download, and edit images from image banks. Our HTML developer is using it to write simple code and also solve roadblocks in the more complex code that she writes. All this and more, and we’re just at the trial version of this amazing language model. It’s no longer far-fetched to imagine that we’ll all have our personal Jarvis within the next 5 years or maybe sooner.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you would know that I’ve been kind of prepared, or even excited, for AI to cause the disruption it’s expected to cause. But, I didn’t expect to wake up one day to something like this. It seems to have happened just overnight! So what happens now? What do I do? Do I train everyone to use ChatGPT while writing SEO copy or Instagram headlines? Do I familiarize my kids to use it to help them with their homework (too late because I think they’re probably ahead of me on this one)? What will the world be like now that we can clearly see how intelligent AI can actually be? And what is our role in this?

I think I’ll maintain my viewpoint as before, which is that as AI becomes more prevalent (and it will very quickly) in the workplace, it’s important to recognize that human skills such as problem-solving, decision-making, and idea generation will be increasingly important to work alongside it. While AI can automate many tasks and provide valuable insights, it is not capable of replicating the unique abilities of human cognition.

The ability to think outside of the box, to see things from a different perspective, and to come up with new and innovative solutions will be in high demand in the future. In addition, the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively will be crucial for success in a future where AI and humans work together. AI will certainly take on more of the routine and repetitive tasks, therefore the ability to work well with others, to communicate effectively, and to be adaptable will be key to creating a career path.

However, those who are not able to move beyond executional skills will find it difficult to create a career path in a future that is complemented by AI. Automation will replace humans in areas such as data entry, customer service, data analysis and reporting, campaign setups and trafficking and even some aspects of professional services. If you are not applying creative or strategic thinking in your job every day, expect a machine model to take over anytime soon.

To thrive in a future with AI, it’s crucial to focus on developing skills such as creative thinking, communication, collaboration, adaptability and the ability to work well with others. Lucky for us, the core of our business has always been creative ideas. These skills will be in high demand and will set individuals apart in the AI-driven future. The time is now, the future has begun.


The game is changing – the next generation of the streaming wars will be about stopping churn, consolidation, and bundling as subscriber growth slows.

“The streaming wars are over because subscriber growth has come to a halt,” Michael Nathanson, a media analyst at MoffettNathanson, told CNN Business, “You’re fighting a war in a land that has no more resources in it.”

Let’s start off with a little history. 

Netflix launched in 1998 as a DVD rental company, and by 2012 had evolved into the world’s first and only streaming platform creating original content. They effectively redefined the way the world watched television and movies at home, becoming an existential threat to legacy media companies and ushering in a new era of content delivery.  

In 2019, Disney debuted their streaming offering Disney+, rivaling Netflix for the first time. With the subsequent rise of Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and HBO Max in the mix, the “streaming wars” were in full swing as services began competing for subscribers in an all-out land-grab. Media companies began investing millions in original content to entice users to sign up or switch from other services. And until last year, Apple, Amazon Prime, Netflix and Disney+ were the only providers not offering ad-supported options. 

Netflix and Disney have entered the ad game 

In November 2022, Netflix rolled out its ad-supported offering at $6.99 a month (just a few dollars less than their most affordable option at $9.99) to mixed reviews across the industry. At launch, solutions for advertisers were limited – targeting was broad, inventory wasn’t offered across all programs, and pricing came at a premium. But despite these limitations, demand was so high that Netflix only delivered on 80% of guaranteed impressions, refunding clients the rest. 

In December 2022, Disney+ followed suit, offering an ad-supported option at $7.99 – a dollar more than Netflix but the same price as their previously ad-free version (bumping the ad-free tier up to $10.99). The launch was US-only to start, with plans to expand internationally in 2023. Disney is focused on a more kid-friendly approach, keeping adult-oriented ads off the platform all together, and not allowing commercials at all on Disney+ Kids or on pre-school profiles.  

Targeting capabilities will differ between the two 

Disney+ targeting is currently limited to three options: A18+, Audience 17 and under, and Younger Kids content. All campaigns run ROS (run of schedule) with no options for genre or content targeting. And because Disney also owns Hulu, starting in April, Disney+ advertisers will have access to Hulu’s age, gender and geolocation targeting, and all other bells and whistles by July. Additionally, Disney has announced a partnership with EDO, giving them the capability to provide outcome-based measurement metrics on viewing like search and site visits. 

Netflix is in the process of evaluating expanded targeting and sponsorship opportunities for its offering.  Simultaneously, they are looking at restricting the number of shared passwords and accounts (it’s estimated that over 100 million people currently share passwords) meaning high potential for subscriber growth. However, after initial backlash to the announcement they’ve slowed the rollout to just a few countries to begin with.  

Rumble of the bundles? 

So why are the streaming wars ending? Because the game has changed – it’s no longer about driving subscriber growth on individual platforms, but instead slowing and stopping churn. The next generation of the streaming revolution will be one of consolidation and bundling – hence “rumble of the bundles” being murmured across the industry. It’s no surprise that while Disney+ raised their prices, they didn’t touch the premium bundle (Disney+, Hulu, ESPN) – incentivizing consumers to sign up for the slate of services instead of just one. Similarly, Warner Bros just announced the merger of HBO Max and Discovery+, bringing the consolidation offering “MAX” to customers in 2024.  And finally, Paramount is combing Paramount + and Showtime into one app. 

The Net-Net. 

The birth of Streaming allowed millions of viewers to expect premium ad-free content for a bargain price – an unsustainable situation from the start, according to Nathanson. “Wall Street paid companies for subscribers, and because it paid companies for subscribers, they didn’t care about the economics,” he said. “They were willing to do whatever they could to chase subscribers.” In other words, the grow-at-any-cost strategy could never last, and now companies and Wall Street are looking at balance sheets with more focus on profitability than sheer scale.  

Even though consumers are going to pay higher prices, the reality is that there’s nowhere else for them to go. Streaming is here to stay – it’s the focus of Hollywood and how millions watch content every day. That behavior isn’t going anywhere, even if marketplace and business strategies change. “Video remains the most popular leisure activity in the world,” Matthew Ball, CEO of Epyllion said. “Streaming may change, but consumers will adapt. They love video too much.” 



CES returned to Las Vegas this year, but the comeback didn’t live up to the show’s pre-pandemic reputation. Previously known for its palpable energy fueled by speaking events, content releases, performances and parties, this year was far more intimate, with closed-door meetings and invite-only discussions. Attendance was about half that of pre-pandemic shows, with roughly 100,000 attendees. However, the dialed-back version of CES was in good taste following unexpected industry-wide layoffs in the last few months.  

Media companies and agencies stepped back from flashy events, keeping things quiet and fiscally responsible. Conversations about media advancements and investment centered on performance media and measurement, with brands staying hyper-focused on ROI and making smaller budgets work harder. The atmosphere felt similar to the beginning of the 2020 COVID-pandemic – timid and uncertain.

CES Trends & What to Watch

Brand media investment is on the back burner

  • Advertisers are pulling back budget in this time of uncertainty and waiting for the “best” time to invest in brand. However, from a marketer’s perspective, investing while others are pulling back provides an opportunity to stand out and create lasting relationships with consumers.
  • Although the economy is cooling, brands looking to get noticed have an opportunity to create cultural impact, be competitive in the marketplace, tell unique stories, and make a lasting impression on consumers (Everything you missed at CES 2023)

Innovations focused on accessibility

Smart health & accessibility was a key theme, with several brands introducing products designed to enable people with disabilities navigate the world with ease. Some highlights include:

  • HAPTA by L’Oréal is a computerized lipstick tool for people with limited fine motor skills
  • Project Leonardo is a customizable controller kit for PlayStation 5
  • Dignity Lifts – Allows people with little movement to use the toilet independently

Tech companies are lazer focused on AI advancements

Artifical intelligence is a key priority with AI invention previews prevalent across all inudustries

Sustainable tech was a huge draw

  • Sustainabilty was a major focus for almost every company, especially consumer electronic brands including LG, Samsung, and Schneider who touted Smart Home energy systems to reduce the usage of gas with cleaner energy
  • The Auto industry was prominent and broke through the clutter on the show floor with brands such as Volkswagon and John Deere touting new EVs and discussing the commitment of the industry to go “all in”  with electric vehicles, trucks, and all transportation

Metaverse is growing momentum, slowly

  • Understanding what the Metaverse is and its potential through experimentation has been the focus the last two years. 2023 is filled with promise as marketers and companies start to think about using the technology to improve products and services for consumers
    • Web3 and Blockchain advancements will only catapult the potential for the Metaverse, which will start to come to fruition in the year ahead

Key Takeaways:

  • Inclusivity is key. Technology that makes every day tools accessible to consumers and improve life experience is important to make a priority
  • Commitment to sustainability can’t wait and is essential for all industries – This crosses all facets of life: Home, Health, Mobility, Work, Transportation, and more
  • Everyone needs to watch  ChatGBT as it grows and challenges the traditional model of communication and content creation 
  • The Metaverse & Web3 will continue to transform, but there is still much to understand about its potential  

Key Opportunity:

  • Brands that lean in during this time of economic uncertainty and technological advancements have the opportunity to drive cultural conversation and impact that can propel growth and build brand recognition

What robotics did for manufacturing in the early 20th century, AI is set to do for the knowledge economy in the 21st.

In November 2022, we saw the launch of of ChatGPT, the conversational AI chatbot from OpenAI. The chatbot garnered 1 million users in just 5 days – faster than any social platform to date – bringing AI directly to consumers in It’s meteoric rise in popularity is likely to eclipse even that of TikTok (Prof. Scott Galloway, NYU).

While AI technology has been around for many years, it is on the precipice of becoming mainstream for both consumers and in industry, particularly advertising. Bots like ChatGPT and DALL-E 2 have exploded in recent months, and industry watchers are predicting the tech will soon disrupt nearly every aspect of marketing, from creative ideation and copywriting to targeting ads. But there’s a lot more to explore about this new tech, including its current use cases, its shortcomings, and its dangers.

What is Generative AI?

In essence, the dialogue-based chatbot has been described as a super-capable search engine that can provide clear, instant and humanlike responses for a wide range of queries. Generative AI is an umbrella term that covers the kinds of models that have gotten a lot of attention recently: those that go beyond information processing and instead move into novel content creation like essays, blogs, music, poetry, computer code, images and more. You may have heard of some of the more popular generative AI platforms like DALL-E 2, Jasper, Midjourney, Lensa, and of course ChatGPT. All of them have slightly different functionality, but all achieve novel and intelligent content generation.

Why does it matter to me?

Marketers are already experimenting with generative AI platforms to see how it might be able to benefit their business. Perhaps the most common use case thus far has been creative ideation, and at a much faster clip than it would normally take a team of creatives. For example, if an agency is in the brainstorming stage for a new campaign, it can plug relevant queries into DALL-E 2 and have hudnreds of ideas in seconds. The same goes for ChatGPT, which can produce polished ad copy for any concept.

Some marketers are already using these models to create ready-to-go advertisements. Canadian agency Rethink ran a campaign last year featuring hero images of Ketchup that had been genenrated by DALL-E 2.

Earlier this month, Ryan Reynolds debuted an ad for his wireless brand Mint Mobile that was partially penned by ChatGPT. Going forward, marketers expect new and increasingly concrete applications to become available as generative AI develops.

Any Concerns?

There are a few. The most pressing concern of generative AI is with misinformation. Since these models are only as good as the data they are trained on, if that data is false or biased or somehow corrupted, then their generated content will be so as well. AI platforms are also not necessarily up to date on the facts. ChatGPT, for example, is limited to knowledge of 2021 data. When queried about crypto firm FTX—which collapsed last fall—the model still describes it as one of the most popular exchanges, as well as having high liquidity.

Issues of plagiarism are another concern, especially with regard to image generators. All of the data the models have been trained on comes from somewhere and someone, and without knowing it, an agency could create images that directly crib the style of an artist. This is why copyright will likely play a sizable role in the future of AI technologies.

Finally, and with special significance to marketers, generative AI could open new questions of data privacy. Technologists are already proclaiming how AI will disrupt targeted advertising once companies can upload their data to a model’s neural network. But how will consumers feel that a highly intelligent computer knows all kinds of information about them and can create an unlimited amount of novel content from that information, some of which may very likely be manipulative? These questions and more will be explored as AI develops.

The big picture: Marketers will need to take advantage of AI and keep an open mind to its changes. But taking advantage of AI doesn’t mean sinking creative teams. Rather, AI will foster an era of human use of machines to optimize outcomes, just like digital art did before it. 

In our view, the places of immediate implication are AI in Search, AI for Content creation and AI in E-Commerce.

AI in Search: The generative AI capability could prove disruptive for engines like Google.  Not because it can out-Google Google but because its answer, and the simple uncluttered way it delivers them, might sometimes be preferable to search results.  And that could dent search engine usage.  We don’t think Google is going away, but we do think this will impact Search behavior.

AI in Content: The benefit here is through automated content generation, improved content quality, increased content variety and personalized content.  Overall leading to more relevant content for the customer and higher engagement with the brand.

AI in E-commerce: There are 4 main ways AI will affect this.  1st, in Copywriting, AI can generate Ad copy in seconds, which can make content on sites and social media more relevant to the user.  2nd, it will allow retailers to provide immediate assistance through chatbots and virtual assistants to help consumers navigate the purchase.  3rd, through personalization.  Think accurate product recommendations based on the customer behavior and shopping history.  And finally with inventory management, using the technology to predict customer demand.

DLD 2023 – Looking ‘Beyond Now’: Implications for the advertising industry

DLD can certainly make your head spin. There are only few conferences out there that manage to pack as many high-class speakers and experts from very diverse fields into a tight schedule of 20 to 30 minute sessions and make it work. Somehow. Covering topics from robotics and the industrial metaverse to the latest developments in neuroscience to the opportunities of generative AI for businesses in an hour is a bold move.

Recalling DLD organizer Steffi Czerny’s opening remarks, it all made sense in the end: We live in a time of global poly-crisis. Old rules often don’t apply anymore, but pessimism is not an option. We must look ‘beyond now’, the conference’s motto, to develop a narrative of progress to discover new opportunities for the future. Innovation in the fields of technology, science, communication, art and design, business and industry can provide us with the tools to take back control and tackle the most pressing issues of our time.

AI as the technology of the year, if not the decade

Generative AI has been one of the major topics in the tech world for quite a while. With the recent release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022, the excitement in almost every industry has reached new peaks.

In his tech industry predictions for 2023, Scott Galloway pointed out that unlike other recent technology hypes (namely Metaverse and Crypto), Artificial Intelligence was backed by years of academic research like other key technologies like mobile communication. According to Galloway, AI will do for information workers what robotics did for manufacturing: It will fundamentally reshape entire industries.

New challengers for Google Search

The opportunities of challenging Google’s quasi-monopoly by utilizing AI for search was one major talking point at DLD 2023. Startups such as You.com and Neeva have already integrated AI technology into their search engines. Also, Microsoft’s recent announcement of investing an additional $10bn into OpenAI and their plans to integrate AI into all their products (most importantly into the Bing search engine), could lead to new competitive innovation in the market. However, several speakers, such as Neeva’s CEO Sridhar Ramaswamy and Scott Galloway, pointed out that building an AI powered search competitor is not an easy task due to the increased operational costs and computing power needed. Furthermore, Google employs some of the world’s leading AI engineers and the company has years of experience in the field. So, it is by no means certain that Google will not be able to maintain its dominance.

Alex Turtschan and Simone Jocham, Mediaplus International, at DLD 2023 in our Munich House of Communication

AI as a fluid computer interface

AI might not only change the way we search, but it might also change the way we interact with computers. Today’s interfaces are mostly based around the concepts of apps, often with highly specific use cases, yet lacking a universal, user-centric approach and context sensitivity – as often demonstrated by the lackluster usefulness of many “smart” assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Hey Google. But what if the user could just tell the AI what they wanted to do instead of opening a specific app to solve a problem or complete a task? What if the AI was the smartphone operating system, evoking apps on the go and being highly aware of the context of the problem to be solved?

AI for more fluid and relevant advertising and commerce

As Serviceplan Group CEO Florian Haller pointed out in his session “Beyond Advertising”, many people are annoyed by advertising. Ads often lack relevance and are not relatable. Marketing must become much more immersive to stay relevant. AI can be a part of this by generating relevant product shots and visuals on the go that are tailored exactly to the users’ current expectations and desires – and which might be unique in this form. The same rings true for e-commerce: imagine an online store that doesn’t just show clothes or shoes worn by the brand’s models one doesn’t necessarily relate to, but also provides AI generated shots that match one’s own body type, size, and age?

The future of media and publishing

An inspiring session by Brian Morrissey dealt with the future of publishing. The current media and publishing landscape is quite volatile, and we are facing several bubbles. The streaming market as a direct-to-consumer business is overcrowded with too many players competing for the consumers’ time, attention and share of wallet. We might experience a backswing towards more bundling of content into packages – a landscape, streaming providers initially challenged with their then new business models. Subscriptions have become ubiquitous and have at least partially replaced advertising-based business models in several sectors. With big players like Netflix and Amazon now exploring ad-based tiers for their streaming offerings, we might see a growth of the overall advertising spaces in the video streaming industry.

The big shifts ahead in media and publishing are quite versatile, but come down to human connection, individual relatability, and emotion, not unlike the outlook on the future of advertising drafted by Florian Haller. Individual creators can turn into established brands, a development we have already been seeing in the gaming industry, in live-streaming, and podcasting in recent years. Reaching the biggest audiences no longer is a sustainable future business model, as demonstrated by the disappointing IPO of Buzzfeed and the decline of similar mass-market-mass-appeal-low-effort publications. But most importantly, for Morrissey the future of publishing is about the human connection and emotional bond to the audience, especially in an age of AI-generated, synthetic content.

DLD ventured a wide view into the digital future and the industries affected by it – let’s see where all of this takes us.

Charbel Jreijri, general manager at Mediaplus Middle East, evaluates how brands can effectively leverage the emerging trend of gaming as a marketing channel.

From the first ad ever recorded to modern day advertising, the common denominator has always been the same. Marketers across all industries have the same objective: reach their customers and grab their attention across any touchpoint possible. In the last decade, we have seen the rise and fall of many such touchpoints or media channels, from newspapers to the metaverse and everything in between, the opportunities and risks are infinite. Identifying which touchpoints should be part of your mix and which ones to avoid can lead to the success or failure of both brands and marketers alike.

There are many examples of brands that caught on early to the potential success of social media, eventually becoming successful through this digital avenue. On the other hand, there are brands that took a little too long to accept this digital transformation and are now struggling to retain their market share. However, not everything with hype around its novelty will be a success. We have witnessed a few examples of different platforms’ rise to fame, only to fail miserably. Is this the case with gaming?

Gaming is now the new trending topic; however, it is not a new touchpoint. The history of gaming dates back to the 1970s with the Atari console. From then on, innovation in technology meant a constant flow of new hardware and games that increased the gaming market globally.

Let us first try and understand the reasons behind this hype: the numbers. There are over 3 billion gamers around the world, and this number is only growing. In our region, we see a similar trend with the average time spent on game consoles increasing by 25 per cent in the last 3 years to more than 1 hour and 40 minutes per day. And this is across the total population, not just hardcore gamers. In addition, 34 per cent state that gaming is the reason they use the internet.

Clearly gaming is here to stay, and it is home to a sizable audience that possesses a high disposable income. This makes marketers eager to jump on any opportunity to target gamers. However, as keen as we are to chase after this highly sought-after demographic, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are many opportunities for brands to establish themselves in the gaming universe – from in-game advertising, influencers, and tournaments, the options are limitless. This is where understanding both brand and audience plays an important role in identifying the right solution.

Azhar Siddiqui, Managing Partner at Mediaplus Middle East, assesses how the model of bid-based media buying is shaping the media agency landscape, focusing on the rapid changes in the media business.

I started my career in media planning in 1998 with OMD which, back then, was still called the media department of BBDO. In those days, media planning was mainly centred around satellite TV. We media planners were obsessed with how to distribute budgets between the top TV channels. Agencies were chosen based on how cost-effectively they could buy the maximum spots or GRPs across the top 10 TV stations. Hence the term media-buying agency came into existence.

This is where large agency volume made a difference. Big agencies were able to negotiate discounts based on how much of the brand budgets they would be committing or spending on these channels. The higher the budget a media agency managed, the greater the discounts the media would give them. This would always spiral as bigger agencies would get the best discounts, which attracted more brands to them and increased their volumes, which increased their discounts and attracted more brands and so on and so on… This is why, for years, the same handful of media agencies dominated the landscape.

Fast forward 20+ years later, we have a very different scenario. More than 60% of brand budgets are now spent on bid-based media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Google, Snapchat, TikTok etc. – there is no friend to call or clout to leverage and negotiate discounts irrespective of the volume or budget an agency is willing to spend. The algorithms automatically price the inventory (audience attention) based on supply and demand. Agencies have to work carefully on understanding these algorithms to be able to bid accurately and get the best rates for their brands. Bid higher and it results in wastage, bid lower and you end up not getting the media because you get outbid. Agencies are still buying media, but there is no negotiation happening. Agency volume, or clout as it was called, has become irrelevant – and so has the media buying model. 

Enter the independents. The new bid-based media buying model has finally opened doors for independent media agencies who struggled to survive between the networks 10 years ago. Today, the bid on Meta is the same whether your budget is 100 USD or 1M USD.  What makes a difference now is the tact of the agency. The ability to understand the plethora of data that platforms provide and navigate through it to 1. find your audience, 2. bid for that audience at an accurate price and 3. take that audience through the digital journey to achieve the brand’s end goals. 

This isn’t to say the independents are better or worse at this, but the fact is that the DNA of independent media agencies is digital, because that’s the only media that’s given them a fair shot at playing the game. And that is something to think about.  

Suparshv Chopra | Director – Digital Media

Very recently, Google discovered that it is not just YouTube that is facing a threat from popular social media apps like Instagram or TikTok but it’s also their core services such as Google Search & Google Maps that are losing their popularity amongst Gen Z . Based on a recent study conducted by Google, as much as 40% of Gen Z are using these social media platforms as a search engine. 

I have penned down my two cents on why this is becoming a growing trend amongst the most sought-after target group and how brands/advertisers can adapt to this changing audience behaviour:

First the why:

As quoted by Prabhakar Raghavan (VP, Google Knowledge & Information Organisation) at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference, “New internet users do not have the expectation and the mindset that we have become accustomed to. The queries they ask are completely different.”  

This generation is thriftier than millennials, chooses practicality over customer experience &, most importantly, prefers visual content over plain text.

According to Think with Google, 85% of teenagers within Gen Z use YouTube to regularly find content, while 80% of Gen Z says YouTube videos are very useful in learning new things. This re-emphasises how aggressively Gen Z seeks visual content. Video is becoming their first stop on the path of discovery. Google’s research also highlights that this new generation is turning to social video apps when looking for new places or experiences instead of finding their next destination through Google Maps or Google Search. 

Social media platforms not only provide the content Gen Z seeks in their preferred format, but also supports that content with proof points in the form of reviews and feedback from the community they trust in comments or chat sections. In their eyes, this makes it easier and more efficient to make the correct decisions.

Next steps for brands/advertisers:

The rising popularity of short-form videos made Tiktok the most downloaded app in the world (Q1’22). It has forced big tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Snapchat, etc. to follow suit and create their own short-form video offering. It is becoming imperative for brands to respond to this demand for short-form videos by adding it to their content strategy. As per our learnings, here are some of the best practices to follow when creating short-form video content:

  1. Tailor your video content to each platform
  2. Leverage User Generated Content wherever possible
  3. Use content creators or influencers to drive higher engagement
  4. Ride on the current trends quickly and thoughtfully 
  5. Go beyond the marketing messages and produce educational content related to the brand
  6. Focus on the first few seconds and make them a thumb-stopper
  7. Have a clear call to action in the end

Brands should also understand other ways they can take advantage of these new trends. Creating and publishing a rich depository of short-form video content should not be restricted to social media platforms. It should also be made available on the brand’s website. This will boost the brand’s SEO efforts as Google announced that they will leverage AI to analyse videos on the web and show users a more rich and visual heavy search results to their queries.  

Your target group’s behaviour is changing, are you up for the challenge?  

Connecting the real and virtual worlds, the metaverse is set to be the next big challenge for marketers. Gaming and e-sports are the drivers of a whole new entertainment industry.

When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that the new name of his company was Meta, it was a huge clue to the internet’s next stage of evolution: the metaverse as the next iteration of the World Wide Web as we knew it. After all, virtual and physical worlds are increasingly converging and constantly creating new digital spaces. And one of the main drivers of this are games and the digital world of sports . So, it was only logical that the latest “International Roadshow” by the Serviceplan Group was dedicated to “Mythbusting the Metaverse” – with a particular focus on e-sports and gaming.

People are spending more and more time online, as Eva Simone Lihotzky, Director Group Corporate Strategy Serviceplan Group, is observing. While it was just 7 percent of their day in 2010, it is now around 38 percent – and will soon be 50 percent. “The pandemic has certainly fueled this development, but the third web is already very present.  Virtual worlds are becoming mainstream.”

Virtual spaces are now more creative and social

Online gaming platforms like Roblox, where the users invent their own computer games and can play them with others, are proving a huge hit. Like the team-based strategy game League of Legends, which is played by hundreds of millions of players every month and is constantly being developed. “Virtual worlds are becoming more creative and spatial,” Lihotzky says. “And they are also adapting themselves to users’ needs. This consistency is what makes them lasting companions and therefore also so interesting for the brand economy.”

We are currently “in the early stages of a new technology that has outgrown its hype status,” says Stefanie Kuhnhen, Chief Strategy Officer at the Serviceplan Group. In her view, a “learning community” is currently emerging and it is important to now get a foot in the door. “We shouldn’t just be thinking in single platforms anymore. There are lots of different metaverses that are emerging: open and decentralised, no longer just accessible with AR glasses, but more and more browser-based and mobile.” And the focus is not so much on creating 3D-rooms per se, but on creating exiting experiences and hence time that consumers want to spend with a brand. The “15 minutes that a user is spending in branded spaces or new communities can be worth more than the six seconds that they spend looking at an Instagram ad.”

Marketing is reinventing itself in the metaverse

Marketers need to face up to the metaverse in all its complexity. It is a gigantic space for playing, creating things, connecting with others and working, but also for processing transactions, consuming and even earning money. Online gamers and e-sports players are icons of youth culture and influencers in one. Something that hardly seemed conceivable to older generations is now becoming a reality: while the whole family used to sit down to watch TV together for an evening, young people are now tuning into Twitch to watch other online gamers play.

“In the USA, more kids play Fortnite than football and basketball combined,” says Christian Waitzinger, Chief Experience Officer Plan.Net Group, giving us a good idea of the dimensions. In his point of view, the convergence of the digital and physical lifestyle is already fully underway. Brands like Liverpool F.C. have a shop on Roblox, Chipotle has launched the Burrito Builder there and fashion brands like Gucci are also gradually making a foray into the worlds where young people can be found today. It all comes down to being in the place where your future customers spend the most time. And for Waitzinger, it is extremely exciting to see how more and more new business models are emerging from this and brands are rethinking their understanding of consumers.

Gaming is taking over from TV

Gaming has become more unifying across national borders than almost anything else. “Gaming is a sympathy multiplier,” says Alexander Turtschan, Director Digital Accelerator the Mediaplus Group. “E-sports arenas are the new movie theatres.” A way to lose yourself in stories, compete with others and keep on improving. “We see ecosystems emerging here. You can even become a superstar yourself and earn a lot of money. That’s why, e-sports are a serious contender for traditional sports in terms of marketing or sponsorship.” Here you can find everything that the marketer’s heart desires: attractive target groups, influencers, strong communities and, last but not least, the perfect gateway into youth culture.

The advertising industry is merging more and more into these new worlds and its focus now is to create meaningful engagement of lasting value. Nevertheless, “brands should still stick to their values,” believes Helmi Abdalhadi, Manager of House of Gaming at the House of Communication Dubai. He sees gamers as being very critical and professional and, as a result, the only way to reach them is with authenticity. “So, brands that engage with this target group always need to give something back, really embrace the culture and build up something from scratch. We definitely see a new media genre emerging here.

Brands are leading the way in brandification

More and more brands are recognising the momentum of this global movement and are aligning their gaming and e-sports strategies accordingly. “We realised that there are overlaps with our own fundamental brand strategy,” says Pia Schörner, Head of Gaming and Sponsoring at BMW Group. “Joy” or “thrills” are the perfect fit for what the BMW world refers to as its core. So, two and a half years ago, the Munich-based company began making their brand “future-proof for the younger target groups.”

Above all, it was about generating the maximum impact in what Schörner calls “the fastest growing segment of the entertainment industry”. They achieved this with partnerships with the six best e-sports teams in the world, as well as the development of unique formats such as ‘Brawls’, where well-known e-sports players compete against each other. Schörner believes that it’s very important to not just stubbornly throw in product placements, as so many brands do. “For us, it’s about being relevant.” Brandification is the magic word here.

Authentic advertising instead of mere selling

Markus Weiß, Director of Corporate Affairs & Company Spokesperson at McDonald’s Germany, is taking a similar approach. He admits that “McDonald’s isn’t the first brand that springs to mind when talking about something like e-sports”, but they have developed an approach for the new virtual worlds that is valuable and beneficial and goes beyond merely wanting to sell. “As a brand, we want to be an everyday companion that also gives something back and who is as just as passionate as our target group.”

Entering into a partnership with tournament organisers ESL, the world’s leading e-sports company, was not just a first step but is an important pillar of its gaming engagement until today. McDonald’s is meanwhile active at Gamescom, the world’s biggest trade show for video games, and is launching attention-grabbing promotions like the Twitch Sub Bombs (one-off subscription gifts): in this format, which saw them team up with well-known player collective PietSmiet, the burger giant surprised small content creators (micro-streamers) with a ‘gift’. Those watching the PietSmiet broadcast were encouraged to visit the micro-streamers’ pages – sending their total viewing numbers from the low double-digits into the thousands and therefore supporting the micro-streamers financially. “Whenever possible, we rather integrate the brand in a playful way, combined with our messages, instead of playing classic commercials”, explains Weiß. “Our ethos is: brand love meets brand trust.”

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