LONDON/NEW YORK: Content marketing is set to move up the corporate agenda in 2016, according to Millward Brown, as the C suite wakes up to the implications of ad blocking.

In its annual Digital and Media Predictions report, the research consultancy points out how content marketing can be appealing and drive consideration but cautions that even as marketers seek to engage with customers more heavily through content, they will need to measure its return on investment.

"The recent rise of ad blocking software means that consumer receptivity will be a big issue in 2016," said Duncan Southgate, global brand director for Digital at Millward Brown.

"Brands that fail to target consumers appropriately, adapt content across formats or rely solely on paid advertising content are unlikely to build engagement and drive sales."

He suggested that an ability to connect at the right time with great content in an unintrusive format "will separate the successful marketers from those that simply annoy".

Among the other predictions for 2016 are the closer integration of sales and media touchpoints as digital platforms increasingly blur the lines between these disciplines.

Three key trends are driving this opportunity: the consumer journey becoming device and channel agnostic as people buy at the moment and in the way that best suits them; the transformation of e-commerce sites from pure sales channels into media touchpoints; and the transformation of ad creative that links directly to purchase opportunities on digital channels.

Brand owners have a greater opportunity than ever to deliver a seamless brand experience and drive brand, market share and sales outcomes, simultaneously and in harmony, according to the report.

"Sales and media touchpoints have traditionally been separate, but changes to the digital landscape and consumer behaviour now allow marketers to unify them for the first time," said Southgate.

"In 2016 we expect advertisers to map marketing contexts to an integrated consumer journey so that sales and brand-building content complement rather than compete with each other."

Data sourced from Millward Brown; additional content by Warc staff