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May 18, 2023

A Digital Trends Article That's Full Of Actual Trends

I’m going to start this article with a quick disclaimer: Most ‘trends’ aren’t really all that useful. Every week, we see a tonne of new and hot trends that will boost your ROI or make your ideas go viral. But the truth is, they’re nothing more than mere observations. Relevant today, disappearing tomorrow.  

Most trends don’t last for three main reasons: 
         1) They’re made up to promote products instead of coming from consumer demand. 
         2) They’re way too broad or generic to be useful.  
         3) They’re so unrelatable to our roles that we can’t action them. 

Not that I’m a specially gifted trend spotter. But my take is trends are actually patterns. Consistent behaviours or actions that have endured over an extended period of time. So with that quick disclaimer out of the way, here are five actual trends I believe are worth keeping in mind over the coming years. 

1. Search will be the new Silicon Valley battleground  

“In our studies, something like almost 40 percent of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram.” Prabhakar Raghavan, Google    

Did you know the second-largest search engine in the world is YouTube?  

Meanwhile, Microsoft is integrating ChatGPT-like AI in Bing’s search. This is to offer a more tailored and therefore better search product than Google can. For example, try typing “I need to throw a dinner party for 6 people who are vegetarian, can you suggest a 3-course meal?” into ChatGPT. The tailored response solves your problem immediately, rather than sending you to website after website. 

Key takeout: While people are likely to stick to traditional search platforms, we’ll see a shift in how people search online – and therefore, a shift in how to optimise for search.  

2. AI gets creative (sort of)  

AI has very quickly gone from a specialised domain to something that anyone can tap into. You no longer need a degree in computer science to generate text and imagery on demand. Just pick up your phone and go for it. 

Brands have dived into AI to extend, and in some cases, create advertising campaigns. For example, when the KitKat creative team wanted to take a break, they used AI to create a fun campaign for them.  

Cadbury used AI to make #NotJustCadburyAds. These were thousands of short social ads where one of India’s biggest stars, Shah Rukh Khan, endorsed small local businesses struggling throughout the pandemic. They would have been impossible to shoot without the help of an AI. 

And when Maurice Blackburn Lawyers realised photo evidence of the conditions refugees endured in Australia’s offshore processing centres was non-existent, they fed the refugee’s written testimonials into an AI. The AI created photojournalist-quality images and a powerful reminder of media censorship we have experienced in Australia. 

These are all clever examples of AI either adding to a campaign, or creating one. There’ll be more examples of AI in advertising over the coming years. Much like Photoshop, and unlike the Metaverse, it’s a technology with practical applications, so it’s here to stick around. 

Key takeout: Clever integration of AI can be used to help bring ideas to life. Much like Photoshop, AI can be used as a tool to augment your creative teams. Making the creative process more efficient, personalised or interesting for your target market. 

3. Social media will continue to fragment 

For years, Meta and YouTube were the only two social media platforms that really mattered. Now there’s a shift towards platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, and a wave of new players that have decentralised social media and have become the new norm for specific social and peer-to-peer interactions. 

Key takeout: Buying social isn’t going to be a choice between Meta, YouTube or Twitter for much longer. Buying for the space will be much like buying for TV, with several channels (platforms) and spaces (ad types) serving different purposes. 

4. Power to the people 

There’s a current trend for brands to allow people audience participation to drive their advertising innovation. While customer participation in marketing is not new, the tools that allow us to personalise products at scale, immediately, are.   

Improvements in technology mean brands spend less time worrying about the nuts and bolts of their campaigns and more time getting on with creating great advertising experiences. 

You can see it in this Volkswagen campaign, where a TV ad and QR code integrated seamlessly with a sophisticated website that allowed consumers to race against one another.  

And AFFINITY client XXXX are currently exploring this trend by creating personalised merchandise for their beer consumers. Again, audience participation and mass customisation in advertising aren’t particularly new things. But the barriers to implementing it have come down, and so we’re seeing more campaigns that play in the space pop up. 

Key takeout: Brands are giving people the opportunity to participate in, and play with, their advertising campaigns. This is thanks to new tools that automate the logistics, making it easier for brands to create advertising that resonates with their consumers in different ways. 

5. Authentic over airbrushed 

Sleek minimalism and filtered perfection have been the ultimate aesthetic aspiration for a number of years now. Today, we’re seeing evidence of a cultural shift that encourages us to be proud of our individuality, and to celebrate it too. Owning individuality, authenticity and rawness is starting to mean credibility and trustworthiness.  

This has been prevalent in the uptake of social platform BeReal – a platform where users share their real lives, as opposed to the pristine, carefully curated influencers of Instagram. It’s a more realistic way of presenting ourselves and our opinions.  

88% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support. So, brands are embracing this movement to better connect with their consumers. 

Key takeout: Authenticity should come before slick looking layouts and graphics. Your customers will flee from fakeness, but embrace brands that foster credibility and trustworthiness. 

Just to recap, here are our five trends.  


Like all trends articles, take this one with a grain of salt. Hopefully we’ll be proved right over the coming years. In any case, these are all things that anyone in marketing can start thinking about today. They’re real, backed up by tangible evidence and can be practiced today, by anyone. And in our case, that makes this trend article a bit more substantial and worthy of your time than most out there today. 


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