Now and Next: the data and tech trends marketers need to know ahead of 2024

With the end of 2023 in clear sight, Essence Mediacom Sydney's Nicholas Hinchley delves into the world of data and technology to look at the anticipated changes within this space, and what it means for brands.

The world of data and technology is hard to predict. I mean, who would have predicted QR codes would regain (or gain) relevancy in 2023 if not for a pandemic? So, rather than label anything as predictions or future trends, let’s break this down in terms of the themes we are grappling with NOW that will have an impact on what will come NEXT in the data and technology space.

THE NOW | Key themes agencies and advertisers are grappling with.

  1. Year of AI

2023 has been the year of AI and just like the year of mobile, expect this to last about 10 years! AI has easily become the most talked about topic within media, data, and technology, as well as society in general. It was a huge point of contention during the recent writers’ strike in Hollywood and the education system is also having to consider how they will tackle students’ use of Chat GPT. Locally, the Queensland Government trial AI within ten state schools, to leverage the technology to provide quiz-based learning that adjusts to the needs of individual students.

You just have to look at Google’s Machine Learning products and GroupM’s AI powered bidding algorithm CoPilot to see that we have been using AI in media buying for some time. More recently, AI has definitely taken a step out of the shadows to the forefront, with global brands such as The Coca Cola Company using AI to create its new flavour.

  1. Data privacy

Data Privacy is currently front and centre, with the Privacy Act Review landing. Within this, we have seen the government agree to 38 proposals with 68 agreed in principle and requiring further consultation. This will mean discussions with the industry will continue into 2024. For now, we know privacy can no longer be an afterthought for marketers and the industry.

  1. Cookie Deprecation

Cookies are finally being retired in 2024, with Google set to migrate 1% of Chrome traffic to Privacy Sandbox from Q1 with full deprecation coming by the end of the year. This will turbo charge the adoption of post cookie targeting, measurement and attribution. Many advertisers have started testing this space, and you can expect those who haven’t to quickly follow suit.

  1. Martech and Customer Data Platforms (CDPs)

In line with the anticipated changes to the Privacy Act Review and cookie deprecation, there has been an increase in the uptake of new technology, such as CDPs, as advertisers seek to get their data ducks in a row. Whilst regulatory compliance is one driving factor, media effectiveness and efficiency is another, and an area that is already being impacted by changes to privacy.

The scene has been set for how 2023 is shaping up to close out but the real question is, what’s next and where do we go from here?

THE NEXT | Key themes that will evolve the data and technology space in 2024 and beyond.

  1. Defining AI as it becomes more embedded in our lives.

We will see AI shift from being the plaything of the big tech companies to something that is widely used across all industries, including media and marketing. As companies begin to adopt forms of AI within their operating models, from Robotic Process Automation and Natural Language Processing- to managing task automation and Generative AI for content generation, the struggle to define AI will continue.

WPP’s Satalia prefer the definition ‘goal-directed adaptive behaviour’, which means making decisions in relation to a specific goal, with the ability to figure out whether those decisions were good or bad, so that the technology can make better decisions going forward.

  1. The question of data governance and ethics with the rise of AI

However, with the increasing adoption of AI, there needs to be considerations in how this is used, with questions around data governance and ethics. Artificial Intelligence is only as good as the data it’s trained on, and businesses will need to consider increased focus and resource surrounding data governance, making sure the data they have is accurate, validated and minimises bias.

Data ethics will also become increasingly important as businesses assess the data they have on consumers and ask themselves, what they can and can’t use for AI purposes, and more importantly, how they manage consent for this.

  1. The demise of cookies and rise of new solutions

Closing out 2024 will see the final 100% deprecation of cookies from Chrome and by extension most of the open web, the moment we have all been waiting for since 2020! Globally, GroupM is working with Google Chrome in a first of its kind partnership which will give us greater understanding of Google Privacy Sandbox APIs and their use in advertising. Locally, as one of five focus markets in the pilot, our clients will be at the forefront of these ecosystem changes.

In place of cookies, we will see the rise of new targeting and measurement approaches. Attention should become an increasingly important metric for advertisers, with many of the attention measurement vendors connecting higher ad attention and business outcomes. However, we currently don’t have an industry aligned approach to how attention can, and should, be measured. Methodologies from the vendors can generally be grouped into providing one or a combination of these techniques; Ad Tech, Eye-Tracking or Neuroscience. For attention metrics and measurements to succeed in the way viewability did many years back, there needs to be industry wide adoption of a standard currency.

  1. Martech – the big tech evaluation

While it’s hard to predict the future, we can expect a large evaluation of technology partners and platforms, spurred on by the changes to data privacy and regulation, as well as advancements in AI. Many advertisers and businesses have scrambled to enable Martech to help them navigate the many potential privacy challenges and the deprecation of cookies. In doing so, they may have bought into complex stacks that are hard to integrate, not fully utilised or simply not cost effective in the current economic climate. Expect to see many of these brands look at alternative solutions, such as composable CDPs and modular tech stacks, leveraging existing technologies and cloud computing. We have already seen Lendlease move in this direction, stripping out Salesforce, among others, from its tech stack.

With the evolution and resolution of the featured themes, the hope is that we usher in a new era of media, creativity, personalisation and UX.

With cookies a thing of the past, advertisers will focus on new ways to engage with their audiences. There will be a movement away from post cookie conversion attribution, to updated measurement methods such as MMM and the impact of attention on business outcomes. Adoption of AI will arm our creative partners with the tools to be able to create, test and execute new and creative ad formats to drive relevance and attention at scale.

Data will continue to be the bedrock of decisions, with a greater importance on governance, validity and accuracy due to updates to privacy and consent, as well as the use of data within AI in an ethical way.

Evaluation and potential consolidation of technology will continue as AI becomes embedded within advertisers’ businesses, enabling them to get a better understanding of their customers, develop insights faster and make more informed decisions and prediction, all leading to better personalisation, user and customer experiences.

I’m personally excited to see what new emerging technologies materialise in 2024 that we haven’t yet seen or thought about, and what new opportunities this will provide to drive breakthrough thinking for our clients. One thing is for sure, 2024 is not going to be a quiet year!

Nick Hinchley is head of data and technology at GroupM’s EssenceMediacom Sydney


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