The Hub

Addressability, creativity, and evolving viewing habits – top trends shaping advertising in 2024

Sarah Whitfield, CMO, Covatic

The past year has been dominated by discourse over the rise of AI, concerns over online safety, and the role of big platforms in the digital ecosystem; all against the backdrop of ever-fluctuating economic conditions. These discussions look set to roll into 2024 – but what other key talking points will emerge over the coming year?

Here is our take on the top trends to watch in the next 12 months:

Finding audiences will be a whole new adventure

Effective ad targeting is getting increasingly complicated. Traditionally, marketers have depended on basic demographics, such as age and gender, to segment audiences into groups with common traits and enable targeting. However, the cost-of-living crisis, as well as growing gaps in attitudes, life opportunities, polarising politics, and geopolitical events, have all exacerbated social differences – which means audiences are now more diverse than ever, and harder to segment.

The sheer number of ways that consumers can interact across devices and platforms drives yet more fragmentation – adding another layer of complication for brands striving to find and reach the right audiences.

Tackling these issues hasn’t been made any easier by rising privacy regulations. While vitally important, increasingly stringent legislation has made it necessary for brands to find other ways of gathering user-level insights, most often using evolved ID-based solutions. However, alternatives explored so far have their flaws, with the growing absence of identifiers leaving gaps in information needed to understand audiences. The result is a growing risk of delivering the wrong message to the wrong person.

This is an opportunity for marketers to incorporate alternative solutions that complement existing ones without compromising users’ privacy. Smart options are already available that can work alongside existing solutions and enable brands to easily adapt their strategies.

Over the next year, we will see more brands broadening their post-cookie horizons by casting their gaze beyond ID solutions. Key among the most effective and simple-to-implement solutions is on-device technology, which performs all processes locally with no information leaving the user's device. The result is incredibly granular insights that characterise an individual without ever identifying them.

Consumers shift to short-form social content

TikTok has taken the digital world by storm thanks to its short-form, snackable content, particularly as the attention spans of younger demographics have declined. The addictive nature of the platform – ‘one more video’ easily turns into hours of scrolling – will continue building its popularity, with TikTok a contender to dethrone Meta as the top social platform in the coming years.

Marketers, already under pressure to maximise their ad budgets, will follow audiences to this hugely popular platform in 2024; particularly as TikTok continues implementing features that enable content creators and brands to connect and collaborate. TikTok Creative Exchange and Creator Marketplace, for example, make it much easier for advertisers to connect to content developers to launch campaigns that look like native TikTok videos – a must in any marketer toolkit, considering consumers trust influencers more than brands.

AI-fuelled creativity

This year’s boom in AI adoption has seen it implemented in multiple creative fields, from marketing and advertising to the film industry. As with any new innovation, initial misgivings about tech’s potential long-term impacts have caused some concerns, particularly around how increased use of advanced tech will affect human jobs.

The highly publicised writers’ and actors’ strikes saw the film industry take a stand against the unregulated use of AI technology to profit off workers, garnering widespread public support. Beyond Hollywood, a CNBC survey found nearly a quarter of US workers (24%) feared being replaced by some form of AI.

In 2024, as AI-assisted tools become a more established part of creative teams, we will see greater harmony and collaboration between the two. Teams will harness AI as a ‘co-pilot’ to help drive efficiencies by taking on labour-intensive tasks, enabling human workers to put their creative and strategic-thinking skills to better use.

Incorporate ads into the flow of entertainment

To provide the best possible listening experience, while still delivering highly relevant ads, brands must take the time to understand their users’ listening habits. Incorporating ads into the flow of content effectively and seamlessly helps brands deliver their messages in an organic way. The same principles apply to audio as they do to TV and video: don’t have too many ads, keep content interruptions to a minimum, and avoid repetitive ads.

One popular way to deliver audio brand messaging is through host-read ads. Studies have shown consumers are more likely to buy a product that has been endorsed by a celebrity or personality they admire, and nearly three-quarters of consumers are more responsive to personalised ads. Audiences of a particular show already have an affinity with the host, whether it be a radio show or a podcast presenter. When personally read by them, in their characteristic tone and delivery, the advert resonates more with audiences, boosting engagement for brands.

Linear TV gives way to streaming services

Linear TV has slowly been declining, and next year, it will face intense competition from rapidly rising streaming platforms.

Connected TV (CTV) and the growing number of free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels will continue to be a popular alternative to linear channels. Unlike traditional television, streaming services enable a bidirectional flow of information, which means valuable data about viewers can be sent back to content providers. These insights can be used to fuel accurate ad targeting strategies.

FAST advertising will become a particular point of interest, especially with certain industry players already developing solutions that overcome the addressability limitations of the space. The growing opportunities of streaming platforms will attract more ad budget, to the detriment of linear.

Next year will also see an upsurge in content, further driven by the end of creatives’ strikes. As a surplus of quality content trickles down from premium tiers to less expensive ones, we can expect advertising-based video-on-demand (AVOD) platforms to continue expanding. And with economic pressures not easing off on consumers’ wallets anytime soon, we’re likely to see audiences flocking to free streaming services at the cost of interrupted viewing experiences.

This growth is mostly positive, as it will mean more ad inventory available. At the same time, the competition to land those slots will be fiercer than ever, and advertisers will have to put their money where their mouth is to reach key audiences during high-value moments. On the supply side, we can expect content platforms to offer refined packages for ad buyers accustomed to precise targeting, to tackle the expected surge in programmatic buying without losing interest from the demand side.

Continuing financial and privacy pressures, alongside shifts in consumers’ behaviours, will create a myriad of opportunities for marketers to rethink strategies and focus on innovative solutions in 2024 – maximising ROI without compromising results. Harnessing technology that is both privacy-first and highly addressable will be key to capturing the attention of the new generation of audiences – in the right place and at the right time.