Tom Goodwin, Head of Innovation at Zenith, speaking at a recent NewsCred event, noted that as the media and technological landscape evolves, consumers are no longer actively searching out content; in a "post-digital age", he said, content will increasingly come to consumers. There are "huge threats and huge opportunities" in this environment, he added.

He advised that marketers should be mindful not to get carried away with the latest tech, observing that many marketers, and indeed consumers, are guilty of "fetishising technology too much". The marketing solution is simple: "put people first".

At the same time, some marketers do things "to get headlines, not business results" but Goodwin argued this must change. The industry needs to challenge itself more, "to think more boldly and differently", he said. To that end, he offered up six ideas to inspire the industry in 2017.

1. Digital disappears

Marketers need to "radically rethink how we think about the internet", he said. For people over the age of 30, the so-called Generation X, "online has always been a thing … a physical thing", something you had to "dial into" to get an internet connection. However, for digital natives, or Millennials, their reality is very different. For this cohort "there is no distinction" between offline and online. "They don't think about how stuff gets to them" they are not "cognizant that the internet brings us Facebook", he noted.  For young people, "there is no digital divide" and this means that brands should start reflecting that thinking.  

The bottom line: marketers need to ban the word digital

2. Infinite screens

In the future, "screens will be everywhere", which means marketers need to be mindful of the following:

  • Quality of content
  • Length of content
  • Which device it is best served on
  • For which audience

In Goodwin's view, the distinction between different devices and screens is "becoming less useful" because, in the future, "everything is digital and will be on a screen".

The bottom line: content quality is what matters

3. More intimate screens and data

Screens have evolved from a TV set in the corner of a living room to screens in our pockets. This means that "mobile is our most personal device… an incredibly immersive and interactive" platform. Further, these devices contain peoples' most personal and intimate data and that, said Goodwin, means that mobile is "an amazing canvas for marketers".

The bottom line: marketers should work around their opportunities, not their constraints

4. New realities

"Adverts used to be made for a rectangular box", but new technology such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) provide marketers with the opportunity to make new forms of content for new environments than ever before, Goodwin observed. AR is "like a map that provides extra information" and is a sign of where screens are going. This technology has a "genuine chance in the medium-to long-term future", he said.

VR, on the other hand, can enable people "to read a book that will transport the reader somewhere else".

The bottom line: new technology gives marketers a better canvas for advertising and retail

5. More mediated

People have their smartphones with them 24/7, and for marketers this means "every single moment is a media opportunity". However, capturing peoples' attention is no easy task: they are already "attention-short" and "don't need extra stuff in their lives", Goodwin said. One way to cut-through the noise is to interrogate the client brief "the first line on any brief should be about making someone care," he stated. Further, in an information-overload age, length of content should be carefully considered and the default unit of time should switch from 30 seconds to 3 seconds.

The bottom line: Assume people have no attention span

6. Insidious advertising

"Increasingly the internet is coming to us in more personal ways," Goodwin noted. Advances in technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), mean the future of marketing will involve "more prediction, more automation, more personalisation". And voice interaction is becoming more important indeed, in Goodwin's view "the future of the internet will be driven by voice interaction". Of course, this is happening today with AI-powered intelligent assistants such as Google Now this kind of "anticipatory computing is developing at an exciting rate, he said.

This technology enables brands to provide value through delivering contextually relevant content at the right time. In the future, internet data will come together to send people advertising messages "before we even know what we want", Goodwin said.

The bottom line: "Figure out what is newly possible and not yet possible, and work around that". In other words, start innovating.

Tom was speaking at NewsCred's recent ThinkContent event in London