It’s that time of the year where agencies across the world start releasing their trends for the year ahead. Over the past few months, What’s Hot has been delving through everything from the fantastic to the fantastical so you don’t have to.

Below are our top five trends for advertisers in 2018.

  1. Automation will continue to affect every element of communication. Expect automation to accelerate in 2018: chatbots will continue to change customer expectations of brand interaction; self-driving cars (set to hit New York streets in 2018) will present new media opportunities, and automated content creation will allow brands to produce a number of customised ads that would never have been possible before. Who knows, 2018 might even be the year the first What’s Hot is written by a machine…
  2. Automated buying opens up new possibilities in old channels. The rise of programmatic and automated buying in “offline” channels such as TV (Sky AdSmart), digital outdoor and digital radio will continue at pace in 2018. As well as increased targeting opportunities, expect automated trading to encourage brave advertisers to create branding campaigns with more personalised and relevant messaging than ever before. 2018 is the year we expect to see “one million” ads turned into a reality.
  3. Data collection grows up. In years to come it might be that advertisers look back at 2017 as the high water mark of customer data. Arguably the biggest trend for next year will be the ripples that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sends through the business world. Next year is set to start with an update from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on the impact of the new laws on online advertising – watch this space for updates
    as they come in.
  4. Context returns to focus in the digital world.
    Recent years have prioritised the increasingly advanced targeting of audiences in digital. In this world: right ad, right time, right place has fallen down – with context being the primary issue. Revelations about brand safety on YouTube have dominated the media news this year, and we expect big advertisers to put a renewed emphasis on the context of their campaigns in 2018.
  5. Social influence under the spotlight. 2017 was a breakthrough year for proponents of greater transparency in the advertising world, with topics that had been quietly ignored coming to the fore. In 2018, the spotlight of transparency will continue to shine, and its glare is likely to turn to newer channels, such as social influencers. Social media activities by political parties in Mexico and shady analytic firms around the 2016 US elections prompted the launch of major investigations last year, and state-sponsored influence was talked about like never before on social channels, with Russia and North Korea frequently the key suspects. Given that advertisers spent over $570m on social influencers in 2017, 2018 may well see the transparency conversation shift into the brand-driven activity on these platforms.