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December 8, 2008: Six Experts' Predictions For 2009


Getting overwhelmed by all the negative economic news? Are there any brands that may actually do well in 2009? And with so many companies reeling-in spending and slashing budgets, how will this affect strategies and campaigns? Which agencies, technologies and industries will shine in '09?

We asked a panel of industry experts to give us their thoughts on these questions and more.

They are:

Jarvis Coffin, co-founder, president and CEO, Burst Media

Chas Edwards, publisher and chief revenue officer, Federated Media

Tom Hespos, president, Underscore Marketing

Pam Horan, president, Online Publishers Association

Sam Huxley, VP marketing, New Media Strategies

Chrysi Philalithes, launch managing director, Steak NY

Check out what they had to say.

What brands will be hot in 2009 and why?
Jarvis Coffin: Food brands will be hot in 2009 as families hunker down in the kitchen to prepare meals at home and avoid the high cost of dining out. Nutrition and convenience both matter, so brands at that intersection that transform simple ingredients into tasty variety (soups, cheeses, spaghetti sauces, etc.) will dominate. Look for traffic and user loyalty to spike on cooking and recipe websites.

Chrysi Philalithes: The Obama brand could continue to be hot in 2009. It was the marketing brand of 2008 with its grassroots activity and innovative use of digital. Marketing during a presidency is different from marketing during an election. It will be interesting to see if an Obama administration continues to employ marketing and digital tactics in a way that encourages participatory democracy in America. The financial crisis will also play a role in determining which brands will be hot in 2009. In such economic times, there are a number of types of brands to watch for -- with a renewed emphasis on thrift and value, a spotlight will be placed on brands such as Target. "Must have" brands such as Apple will also continue to be leaders. It's the brands in the middle that will feel the squeeze more so than price-conscious brands such as Target or "must have" brands such as Apple. With consumers tightening their purse-strings, they are going to make sure that every cent they spend counts. Taking price parity as a given, brands that, when purchased, also help a social cause will increase in prominence in 2009; in particular, Product (RED) that helps tackle HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Which brands will make the best use of new media and how?
Coffin: Amazon and TiVo, as a result of their partnership in 2009 that makes it possible for consumers to buy products they may see on TV through their TiVo remote.

Chas Edwards: The ones that stop thinking like brands and start thinking like publishers. Two examples of brands that are on the right track are American Express and Asus.

What will be the biggest shakeup on the brand side for 2009?
Coffin: Investment and commercial banks left standing will turn to the internet to engage consumers in conversations about trust. "Big and rich" is out as a compelling brand value message among financial companies. The new spokespeople for financial companies will be their CEOs, who will be called upon to personalize the banking and investment business again. Banking is about neighborhoods again in '09, not global reach.

Tom Hespos: The biggest shakeups will be on the brands where traditional media just can't cut it anymore. For example, brands with young audiences will see that they can't rely on TV as much anymore because more of their audience is online and on mobile devices. If they haven't figured out how to leverage digital by this point, they're going to see diminishing returns on media spends a lot sooner than they might have in previous years. This will lead to shakeups if executive management doesn't see a clear path to defined roles for digital media.


What campaigns will score most with consumers in 2009 and why?
Coffin: Weekend getaways, and the kids stay free! Times may be tough, but everybody deserves a break, especially mom.

Edwards: A campaign will score with consumers if it adds value to their experiences. Gone are the days when marketers could simply talk at consumers and hope to lure them back to the corporate site. Successful marketing campaigns in a new media environment depend on engaging consumers on their turf -- syndication over destination, conversational marketing instead of "grand gesture" marketing.

What campaigns will make the best use of mobile?
Coffin: Cable TV networks will make the best use of mobile campaigns. Their target audience is perfect for mobile and so is the content. With TV being primarily visual, the ads are likely to also be visually appealing with a simple message. Wordy ads don't look good on the small space that mobile provides, but a pretty image of the "Sex and the City" girls or a picture of Tony Soprano with a simple offer to download "The Sopranos" theme song for your ringtone make a strong impact in the small space. Mobile provides a great environment for cable TV offerings. Whether it's a mobile subscription to the networks, a DVD sale or a movie promotion, these are all simple to take advantage of on the go. Cable TV networks will thrive in the mobile space. And, as more and more people start watching their favorite shows online instead of on the television, these networks need to be out there advertising and catering to what their audience wants, which is providing them with the shows they want, where they want them, which for the "trendsetter, hipster," is likely on the portable device they waited in line all night for last week.

Sam Huxley: Location-based services have some of the greatest potential on phones today, and their adoption is growing rapidly. The ability to recognize a user's location and provide relevant utility and content has wide applications for in-store, event, viral and social marketing. Campaigns that effectively utilize this capability will have taken the most important step in moving mobile marketing from a miniaturized version of traditional online toward becoming a distinct platform.

Philalithes: Travel, especially airlines, hotels and car rental. The onus will be not so much in terms of branding or direct response. It will be on making consumers' lives easier.

What campaigns will make the best use of email?
Coffin: Viagra. (Sorry... couldn't resist.)

Agencies and people

What agency do you think will break out in 2009 and why?
Hespos: I expect that the small to mid-size independents will have breakout years. Unencumbered by traditional media P&Ls, they'll be the driving force behind figuring out digital for clients who needed this figured out yesterday.

Philalithes: Poke, Naked and, of course, Steak! All of us are agencies that originated from the U.K. and have come across the pond. Creative strategic thinking, excellent execution and service and offering that perfect mix of British advertising and marketing heritage and American get-up-and-go.

What should agencies do more of this year that wasn't done in 2008?
Coffin: Hire more media planners and buyers to keep pace with rapid growth and development of new media. Clients should support with more budget to online.

Edwards: Move the desks around so that the creative team sits next to the media team. Creative built to fit in a 300x250 window or a 30-second commercial break misses the new dynamics of social media.

Hespos: Digital strategy work. Roles for various digital media, tying them back to how they specifically support business objectives for brands.

Pam Horan: Don't lose sight of the importance of being brand stewards. In our discussions with agencies, we've found a consistent belief that advertising environment matters. Agencies recognize they are the stewards of the brands they represent, and they don't want their online ads running against questionable or controversial content. However, there remains a lack of understanding of how best to ensure brand protection in the online advertising landscape, especially due to the rise of ad networks. There have been several incidents involving major marketers -- including a wireless carrier and even a presidential candidate -- where campaigns had to be pulled, as they were found in environments that could denigrate their brands. With online, the same consideration given to advertising creative should be given to the development of media plans. Understanding where your ad and, more importantly, your brand will appear is critical. Although ad networks may appear to provide efficiencies, it is important that agencies keep in mind the value of a clean, well-lit environment that can provide brand lift.

Philalithes: Use consumer insights derived from the search engines to inform both on- and offline marketing and media activity. The search engines are the world's largest -- and most immediate -- research groups. Through the engines, we know what and how people are asking for brands, products and services, and this information can be used by brands to better connect with consumers.

Technology: Tools and Strategies

How will the economic slowdown affect online marketers in 2009?
Coffin: It may be online's time to shine. In 2009, marketers may face a choice between cutting print and television budgets, and yet they must remain engaged.

Hespos: It's Bob Garfield's chaos scenario playing out. Digital will be the only sizeable channel that will grow significantly in 2009. The need for accountable communication, combined with the economic slowdown, will lead to acceleration in the shift to digital. Not only will it be an opportunity for digital agencies to grow their respective businesses, but it will also allow them to skim the cream of the talent crop from the traditional side of the business. Look for big players in TV on the content side to make their impact on digital companies in 2009.

Horan: Relative to other media, I remain guardedly optimistic for 2009. We are hearing from the agency community that their clients that have been actively leveraging the digital platform will continue to do so into 2009. They have suggested that spending will be flat or slightly up. This is a great time for marketers to consider how they can gain share for their brands. Online is a great way to reach quality audiences while accomplishing these goals.

Which technology has become the most overrated?
Hespos: Virtual worlds.

Huxley: Widgets. While they potentially allow for great interaction with consumers, the space is incredibly crowded with a dizzying number to choose from on any platform -- more than 20,000 on Facebook alone. An original concept has to be paired with robust distribution and promotion to even have a chance of adoption, which requires significant investment and planning. In most cases, a brand would be better off sponsoring an existing, established widget versus the more popular approach of creating one from scratch.

Which technology will advance the industry the most in '09?
Coffin: Mobile technology is set to take a huge leap by the end of '09. With the debut of Google's Android mobile platform, the existing iPhone ads will become a standard on mobile phones, especially because they're highly targeted, personal and can be location-specific. This means deeper and more relevant engagement with audiences.

Hespos: Measurement of offline sales, based on the marrying of offline sales data to online profiles.

Philalithes: It could be a big year for analytics -- brands looking to their agencies or in-house teams to get more out of their campaigns without dramatic spending increases. Targeting, although not a technology per se, will also be big next year for the same reason.

Which technology will be the most overlooked?
Coffin: Mobile text-messaging. It has been around for ages and is standard on most mobile phones (even the basic ones), but there is yet to be an advertising-driven model.

Edwards: Dynamic creative. There's a huge opportunity here, but I think it will be overlooked with all the other things going on that the industry has to deal with.

Huxley: One look at the difference between an article on a news site and a typical product page exposes many of the easy-to-implement but neglected technologies that marketers could be using to extend reach and increase engagement. Embedded social bookmarking features such as "Digg this" are still rare on brand websites, and RSS feeds are hardly seen beyond corporate blogs. Neither is high-impact, but they address how consumers aggregate and endorse content with minimal investment.

Which technology do you want to incorporate in '09?
Edwards: More planning tools and infrastructure technologies that will help us identify opportunities more quickly and grease the wheels as we're asked to implement.

What's going to be the biggest innovation in targeting?
Coffin: Location-based targeting will be the biggest innovation in targeting; whether by billboards in a certain area that can identify a specific "consumer" walking by, or via mobile-based location targeting. Brands that send a relevant ad to a user's PDA or mobile when they are in a specific area near a retail store, or a coupon invitation to a restaurant, or incentives like 20 percent off for walking into a spa around the corner.

Edwards: Targeting people who are identifiable as light/medium/heavy offline purchasers, based on offline sales data.

Horan: Targeting tends to get more ink than use. While behavioral targeting is often required to differentiate inventory when buying broader reach sites such as portals, contextual targeting on trusted and verified content sites tends to deliver superior results. This was evident in a recent analysis of measuring the value of advertising on different types of sites that we conducted with Dynamic Logic. We compared an OPA roll-up of our member sites with overall MarketNorms, as well as portals and ad networks. OPA outscored industry norms for the internet 41 out of 43 times.

Philalithes: Multi-mode targeting that looks at consumers from a number of different perspectives and as members of multiple segments or groups. Also, I'd say improved, more accurate geographic targeting, depending on the degree to which ISPs collect and sell access to their customer data.

In what new ways will marketers use social networks in 2009?
Coffin: Marketers will access social networks relying on semantic technology that determine the appropriateness of an ad placement on the fly.

Edwards: They'll stop looking at Facebook or MySpace as coherent media "things." Instead, they'll view social networks as platforms -- like multiple-system operators (MSOs) in cable TV -- and work harder to find the communities -- the "media properties" -- on top of those platforms.

Hespos: Marketers will start to look at the social networking opportunity as a way to extend utility and functionality with their brand attached to it. They'll also learn quite a bit about looking at social as an opportunity to be relevant to the daily social lives of their target. This means giving them tools to use rather than just throwing a message in their faces. Where advertising does get used, it will be more relevant due to the ability to target by declared and observed interest in a product or category.

Horan: While sites such as Facebook have been the focus of the social networking advertising debate, we expect that marketers will increasingly differentiate between organic social networks and professionally developed sites that enable communities of like-minded interests to connect. "Traditional" media companies have been actively incorporating social media into their online offerings for years and finding that it leads to greater levels of consumer involvement with content. The result is that, on places such as,, the HealthCentral Network or iVillage, marketers can reap the benefits of the dynamic social media experience, while doing so in a safe, high-quality environment.

Huxley: Evolving data capture to incorporate profile information from social networks will be the biggest shift in the future. Looking beyond the profile-as-microsite approach that many marketers employ as a campaign extension, a well-managed profile can open new lines of communication with customers and provide a wealth of target insight.

Philalithes: Marketers will concentrate on using social networks more like focus groups.

How do you see the issue of measurement and metrics evolving in 2009?
Coffin: Goodbye clickthrough rate! It's going to be purely about conversions with performance-driven advertisers, and interaction rate for branding.

Edwards: It's going to move beyond DR and CPC. As brand dollars migrate online from traditional media, online publishers will need to get smart on brand metrics -- engaging consumers by your story and brand assets, enabling those consumers to amplify your story, creating brand equity.

Hespos: It's going to be all about lift in online sales, particularly for considered purchases or more impulse-oriented purchases that are at too low a price point to develop a serious volume of online sales.

Horan: It is important that the industry continues to explore the question of engagement, a subject that has been discussed and debated for many years. The OPA has actively researched the different ways in which consumers are engaging with online media and advertising, providing marketers with a unique and valuable way to look at their campaigns. Going forward, agencies, advertisers, measurement companies and industry groups must all work together to continue this effort. Understanding the full impact of the online experience in the lives of consumers -- beyond simply how many visit a site or whether and how often they click -- is essential for online media to meet its full potential.

Philalithes: We'll see a growing definition of harder metrics on the social media front as usage increases and as tracking technologies evolve. In the current financial climate, we will also see marketers demanding the measurement and accountability, both in terms of performance metrics and performance pricing, from offline media. Enter Google.

What trends do you expect to see emerge in video advertising in 2009 and going forward?
Edwards: I think sites like Hulu and Fancast will continue to make inroads into marketing budgets. This, in turn, will help out smaller and more social-type video content sites as marketers become more and more comfortable with the various digital video formats.

Horan: My hope is that more creative will be developed that will leverage the unique dynamic presented by online video to create an interactive experience. By doing so, advertisers will see significant engagement resulting in superior brand impact and purchase intent.

Philalithes: Pre-roll, post-roll, product placement, overlays, side-bars, etc. The list is endless about how to monetize video. Putting format aside for a moment, relevancy of the advertising as we know is key. Relevancy takes many forms, and in the case of video, it will be in the form of keyword or content relevancy. In 2009, I expect to see closed caption technology being used to understand the content of the video clip and that content being matched with relevant advertising on a keyword basis.


Which industries will shine online in '09?
Coffin: Niche search engines -- custom search engines that specialize in certain niches.

Edwards: CPG and automotive, and the latter despite of and as a direct result of the turmoil in that industry.

Philalithes: "Shine online" can be taken a number of different ways. In terms of advertising spend, given the current financial climate, I do not expect online to be immune but more resilient than other traditional forms of advertising. I think that there is a strong possibility that we will see marketers move their dollars from offline to online, given the channel's measurability and accountability. In terms of consumer behavior, price-conscious consumers will increasingly turn to the internet to research brands, products and services before they purchase. Price-comparison sites will become increasingly popular. 2009 will be a tough year for most industries, and the current economic climate will force all companies in all sectors to be more aggressive and more intelligent about how they use digital.

How would you like to change the industry?
Edwards: I'd like to expose more of the marketing platform opportunities that can be directly tied to business objectives. The internet is so much more than messaging. It's about human interaction and all its facets.

Philalithes: As an industry, I'd like us to start speaking in plain English (and even though I'm a Brit, I don't mean the Queen's English!). Every industry has its own language and jargon, yet when you eavesdrop on a conversation among digital professionals, it can sound like we are speaking a foreign language. Let's make it easier for people to speak digital.

What didn't we cover here that should be mentioned?
Edwards: Mobile is starting to nail down various pieces of its business that will develop into a solid marketing platform. People have been predicting a breakout year for mobile for several years now. This hasn't happened because marketers thought of it as a messaging medium. If the market develops with three major players -- Apple with iPhone, Google with Android, and RIM with BlackBerry -- we'll see an evolution of that sector that involves marketers thinking of it as a marketing platform rather than an advertising medium.

Horan: Responsible placement. It is essential to ensure that your message is appearing in an environment that appropriately supports the brand. The old adage "you get what you pay for" is more valid than ever.

Neal Leavitt is president of Fallbrook, Calif.-based Leavitt Communications, an international marketing communications company.

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