What Not To Do In 2016 – A Brand’s Guide

Don’t flood the web with “stuff” for the sake of it

“Ad blocking and viewability are both symptomatic of an over-reliance on boosting short-term revenues, rather than building long-term sustainable digital ad strategies,” says Digiday’s Jessica Davies. Now that consumers have the power to ignore ads if they so choose, it is incumbent upon brands and agencies to create campaigns worth spending time with.


As Sara Wood pointed out in her Social Media Week London session on surviving the ad-pocalypse; “You can buy views — shares are the gold standard of advocacy.” But in order to get those shares, first the advertising industry has to rebuild trust with the consumer, which means way less “creepy ad stalking” and way more of a genuine emotional connection.

Dazed’s Chief Commercial Director Will Hayward agrees. In fact, he believes we should ditch the current notion of “content” altogether, in favour of “making a positive contribution, and doing something special.”

Don’t choose platform over purpose

You see an app or website with a tonne of users, and your first instinct is to launch a presence there. But your thinking has to go much, much deeper than that. “There are two reasons not to go onto YouTube or Facebook,” says SK-II’s Stuart LaBrooy. “Either your consumer is not there, or there’s no meaningful conversational reason for you to be there.”


This goes for investing in new technologies too. While we’ve all been getting very excited about the storytelling potential of VR, it has still yet to achieve widespread adoption, meaning any campaign requires heavy promotion. “I don’t think the tools are mature enough and demand is still uncertain among both readers and advertisers,” says The Economist’s Deputy Editor, Tom Standage. “This is a bit like the way the Web was in 1994: primitive, but promising.”

Don’t try to be down with the kids

Much like being attracted to a platform for its user base, brands are keen to work with young creators who have carved out a loyal fanbase on YouTube, Instagram, Vine and Snapchat. There are an inherent number of issues here, the first of which is that you’re paying for a reach you may not actually get.

“Valuing [influencers] based on their audience is a misfire,” says Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer. “If you’re buying someone with several million Instagram followers, a significant portion of those followers might just be fake accounts. People are buying that as an absolute reach, so there’s an inherent inefficiency.”

Secondly, the very consumers you’re trying to reach have an incredibly sensitive radar when it comes to inauthenticity, and will shun both brands and influencers who throw any old video or post at them. As with the first two points in this article, it is not about chasing numbers, but rather creating something worthwhile which will have real impact.


One final thought, while we’re on the subject of authenticity. More than 160 brands used terms like “bae” and “on fleek” in their messaging in 2015, in a transparent and some would say desperate attempt to engage with millennials. The problem here is that by the time a slang term becomes mainstream enough for brands to use them, everyone is sick of hearing it.

“[Brands] often put in a great deal of effort in order to present themselves as a bizarrely ‘street’ teen, when in reality, they are the opposite,” says The Incite Group CEO Nick Johnson. This kind of trick really is something of a quick fix though, and one that brands are starting to realise doesn’t work. So in 2016, we can expect to see less cringetastic efforts to fool young consumers into interacting.

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