Watch these 6 surprising digital ad trends this year
Advertising Initiative Blog | 28 February 2023
The world turns. It turns so fast sometimes that it is easy to get lost or feel left behind.
This applies to advertising, where there are a number of advertising trends accelerating fast in 2023 already (and we are still only in quarter one).
We would be wise to understand what these trends are so we can see how they could affect us — both positively or negatively — and to be able to provide valuable insights to our agencies and advertisers.
For example, Gen Z, TikTok, and AI are not only part of our future, they’re here now in the present. And in 2023, advertisers need to pay attention. When it comes to creating a successful, digital advertising strategy, it’s time to start proactively embracing new technologies with the top digital advertising trends.
I aim to simplify things here. I have distilled the top digital advertising trends into six areas, all of which you’ll need to know about in the rest of 2023 and beyond. They are all trends that have excelled in the latter part of 2022 and are now rapidly gaining momentum in 2023.
1. Prominent “social impact” strategies
Advertising brands taking a stand when it comes to their own values is not a new concept. But prominently putting “out there” their impact strategy at the forefront of their digital advertising strategy portrays a shift in how brands are reframing themselves in response to global movements.
In 2023, many consumers want brands to take authenticity and mindfulness seriously, and many are gravitating towards those who centre themselves around those specific values and morals, which they stand for themselves.
Putting values front and centre will help audiences connect with what we do and want to portray.
Some advertisers are finding that, in terms of digital advertising, embedding their social causes into their brand’s overarching mission isn’t even a "trend” as such but a natural effect of what it means to be a values-led company today. Therefore, social content — from graphics to e-mail topics — all need to be influenced by, and fed back into, a social impact strategy.
2. Youth-centered advertising
Gen Z isn’t just the "next generation” of potential future consumers. They’re the “now” generation with huge purchasing power.
They are also trailblazers in terms of how we view and interact with brands, largely through young-dominated platforms like TikTok. They can see through traditional advertising ploys and choose to connect only with the brands that sincerely (there’s that authenticity again) appeal to their interests and the way they communicate.
Gen Zs want companies to be honest, transparent, down-to-earth … and authentic.
An increasing trend with younger generations is they don’t like to feel like they’re being sold something. They want it to be more “experiential” or imaginative. They like short-form video content (media content strategists take note) with eye-catching visuals, i.e more subtle, video-based campaigns that appeal to their values.
Advertisers seeking to infiltrate the Gen Z audience need to position their brand identity around their tastes.
3. Authentic, branded content
It’s not just Gen Z who are looking to connect with brands on a different/deeper level. Given the most recent world events, e.g. pandemic, Ukraine war, inflationary highs, etc., many people seek some “light relief” in their everyday lives … and that includes how they align themselves with brands.
Creating advertising with some humour, perhaps vulnerability, honesty, and everything else we look out for in our own personal relationships (as a parallel), is suddenly one of the best ways to build brand loyalty currently.
One effective way to create these bonds is by maybe featuring characters or mascots throughout the digital advertising campaigns. Of course, they need to feel relevant (and, again, authentic) to the brand, but they are a fun/friendly face the target audience can relate to. It’s a great way to create loyalty through digital advertising.
Ultimately, consumers want reminders that the people behind the brands are all going through the same experiences as themselves … in the same (not other) world. They want to align with brand personas on a more personal and more meaningful level before they buy into the advertised brand. Realism over aspiration, perhaps?
4. Audio advertising
The impact that TikTok is having on the world of digital advertising is huge. But one of the more novel effects it’s had on us is in the rise of audio content. This is from TikTok’s positioning as not just a social platform for video, but for audio-based content too.
Podcasts have opened new channels for personalised advertising customers can relate to.
Many users now consider sound to be a crucial part of a platform’s experience. Being focussed on audio as part of a digital advertising strategy is driving many ads we’re now seeing online, e.g. “how-tos,” product highlights/teasers, behind-the-scenes insights, etc.
In a recent U.S. survey, 81% of podcast listeners take action after hearing audio ads on their favourite shows. This “action” could be following up on what they heard with online research, liking the brand on social media, and discussing what they’ve heard with those around them.
Allowing the podcast hosts themselves to record the ad makes the content feel genuine to listeners. Audio content can really help promote authenticity in advertising. Whether it’s on a podcast or TikTok, hearing the comforting tone and voice of your audience’s favourite influencer as they describe your product means the audience will be more likely to believe in it and trust you as a brand.
The trick as an advertiser brand is not to have fully typed out, word-for-word scripts adopted by radio hosts but to give them room to “play.”
5. Audio-visual (AV) product advertising
Regarding immersing consumers into ads, exploring audio visual (AV) technology with your digital advertising strategy is becoming a key feature.
In a world of static imagery online, branded visuals that engage with multiple senses create a much more memorable and immersive experience for the consumer. A brand can experience being noticed more and can garner brand loyalty with those consumers who look forward to seeing the content. A holy grail for some perhaps?
So how do we incorporate AV tech into digital advertising content?
With increasingly sophisticated tech becoming more accessible, consumer’s expectations are being raised. It’s becoming more common for brands to go an extra mile to get noticed. This means creating things like more immersive and interactive mini-Web sites or apps that users can have some fun with. They often would include gamification, meaning designers reward the user as they navigate around the site and reach specific goals or calls to action.
As we move more into 2023, it’s often now not enough to rely just on static digital advertising anymore.
6. Realistic influencing
Influencer as an advertising and marketing concept is no longer something new, but the way brands invest in and work with influencers to reach their audiences is constantly changing. As 2023 progresses, we should expect to see a move away from the “classical” (aspirational) influencer.
TikTok has altered the way social media users view one another, giving anyone a platform to gain (and influence?) a huge following without the need for perfectly curated feeds on the likes of Instagram or long-form content creation like on YouTube. Now, audiences are seeing through the highly paid ads with celebrities and high-profile influencers and are turning away in favour of more trustworthy sources: i.e., each other!
Brands can now work with “micro influencers” to promote their products via TikTok. So in 2023, we might see a drop in expensive celebrity endorsements and a rise in TikTok’s micro-influencers. Brands are learning that even users with the smallest followings can have a big impact. If the content is fully aligned with the brand, the followers will trust the content … and take action.
With these six trends, you should be well-prepared for knowledgeable conversations with advertisers and agencies. All part of getting closer. All part of a consultative sell. All part of gaining trust and driving our ad revenues.
These big new trends — like AV, AI, and immersive experiences — aren’t going away. So if you get ahead of these tech advancements in the rest of the year ahead, you’ll be ahead of the curve in 2024 and beyond.
Just make sure every digital advertising campaign you create for your advertisers or adapt on their behalf in 2023 feels authentic, engaging, and as relatable as possible to the targeted audience.
Be sure those audiences are embracing future trends … and you are, too.
If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.