The Next Unicorn

Following a number of big announcements for the marketing industry in the second half of 2018, the coming 12 months will see significant pieces fall into place, with hiring expected to start for Amazon’s HQ2 in New York City, major marketing deals coming to fruition and legacy brands accelerating their focus on direct services to combat the rise of disruptors.

Underpinning these shifts will be heavier investments in data and e-commerce, with marketers turning more frequently to outside partners for help — but not always from the traditional agency suite. The demand for high-impact, purpose-driven creative messaging, delivered through a number of evolving channels like connected TV, will prove essential in distinguishing brands from competitors.

“Everybody has digital technology, everybody has access to capital — and so now the differentiation is the brand,” Keith Johnston, a research director at Forrester, told Marketing Dive.

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But the window to make an impression with consumers will also be short and crowded this year, as outside factors like increased regulatory scrutiny of digital platforms, the ramp-up to the 2020 presidential election and the possibility of an economic downturn loom large. The need to improve growth and profitably during this period will ultimately guide more marketing decisions, creating new tensions.

“This means that advertisers will continue to cut costs wherever possible — agency fees, production costs and media spend — while investing in in-house capabilities to execute simple digital and social deliverables,” said Michael Farmer, chairman and CEO of Farmer & Co. and the author of “Madison Avenue Manslaughter.”

The aforementioned Amazon HQ2 in New York — which could break ground later this year if all the necessary approvals come through — a push toward agency in-housing and big deals like IPG buying Acxiom will disrupt the landscape of agencies, platforms and, of course, the brands powering them in 2019. Indeed, the roles of players across the ecosystem will change, with marketers wearing more hats related to technology and growth while also asking partners to simplify their offerings and focus more on data services.