The first year for the US Census to collect information on computer ownership and use was 1984. They reported that only 7.9% of US households had a computer. It was during that same year, 1984, that a husband and wife in Wisconsin formed a punk rock band named Timbuk 3.

In 2016, the Census reported that the ownership of one or more home computers had grown to 89.3%. The mostly unknown band, Timbuk 3, was able to secure a place in history as an 80’s one-hit-wonder. The name and chorus of that song could be an anthem for online marketing, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.”
The success of rock bands may not be predictable, especially those from the ’80s, but, betting on a higher trajectory from digital is. The question is, what advancements will pay off?

In no particular order, we have put together a list of five things, to which we believe both marketers and advertisers should pay attention in 2019.

1. Augmented Reality

While currently dominated by platforms like Snapchat and Facebook, Augmented Reality (AR) ad revenues are expected to top $2 billion by 2022. One example of a business using AR technology is Home Depot. Their app allows users to see what a certain paint color will look like in their home and how furniture looks when placed in a specific room. The app then allows users to share their images on social media to get friends’ opinions.

Apple believes in the merit of this emerging technology enough that they created their own Augmented Reality-enabled app called “Measure.” Because they anticipate other similar apps that utilize the measure app function will be created, the app is automatically downloaded, as a utility, with iOS12. If you find yourself without a traditional tape measure, just take out your phone, you will be amazed with the capabilities.

A couple of the reasons for the success in AR advertising are emotional connections and the ability to be hyperlocal with ads. Emotional connections can be derived from ad personalization and the length of time users interact with the brand’s AR. By combining the physical and digital worlds, these experiences are made more personal to consumers and increase brand recognition.

Capabilities for hyperlocal targeting are made possible, primarily through GPS data gathered from smartphones and other mobile devices. Geo-location means that brands can differentiate messaging based on the user’s location and the brand’s goals. AR technology allows advertisers to utilize real-time data based on user preferences to dynamically affect messaging, timing, placements, and more.

It may sound creepy but, this isn’t science fiction and there is a lot more to come in the growing AR world. Brands need to find ways to bring this technology into their marketing plans.

2. Programmatic

When will we stop mentioning Programmatic in predictions…when they stop coming true?

Zenith’s Programmatic Marketing Forecasts reports that an estimated two-thirds of all digital media advertising dollars in 2019 will be Programmatic. Usually, when people are thinking Programmatic, they are referencing an auction environment. This is known as RTB, or real time bidding in an open exchange. Programmatic just means using automated technology for media buying. Programmatic and RTB are not interchangeable, RTB is only one tactic in a Programmatic strategy.

An October 2018 eMarketer report attributed 58% of 2018 Programmatic ad spending to Programmatic direct. Unlike RTB, Programmatic direct buys are not purchased in an auction environment. These buys are negotiated one-on-one with a publisher. The downside for this type transaction is the length of time that is required to facilitate it.

If it requires one-on-one negotiations, why spend the time making the buy programmatically? The reason that we recommend it, is that it allows brands an opportunity to activate their first-party data in a controlled setting. In the era of data protection, this is key.

3. Influencer Marketing

While not a new trend, influencer marketing continues to be on the rise in 2019. Today, 81% of consumers regularly purchase items after seeing them shared on social media. Influencers can range from YouTube personalities to bloggers to any individual with a large following on social media. The main component of influencer marketing is the relationship between the brand, products and the individual endorsing them.

Additionally, a growing component of influencer marketing is micro-influencers. These are influencers that usually have a smaller following, but still have a highly engaged or a niche audience. When thinking about niche, don’t get hung up on industry. Location can be a powerful niche as well. An influencer with only 500 followers can be as powerful as one with 100,000, if they are the right followers. A Phoenix restaurant does not need a celebrity to discuss their seasonal menu as much as they need one of the writers for Chow Bella, the Phoenix New Times restaurant blog to recommend them to local followers.

One reason influencer marketing has become successful is the organic feel to the content. While scrolling through some of their favorite blogs or favorite Instagram accounts, consumers can be shown advertising for a product in a natural way. This exposure feels less intrusive, like a friend recommending something, instead of receiving an obnoxious display ad.

Another key to the success is the level of trust developed by the relationship between an influencer and their audience. According to an article in ‘Olapic’, 43% of global respondents cite authenticity as the top reason to trust influencers and 66% say an influencer’s content must be relevant to their interests. Ideally, you should select an influencer who is already using your product or is a fan of your brand. While regulations require influencers to call out endorsements that are paid for, selecting someone that uses or knows your brand will lend authenticity to the relationship between the brand and influencer.

It is very important to ensure your business is following the guidelines when you are paying influencers to market products. This will continue to promote transparency and trust with their audience. No one wants to feel as though they are being ‘tricked’ by an influencer or brand.

4. Audio

An August whitepaper issued by the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), stated that digital audio may be one of the most brand safe places for advertisers to utilize. A few reasons for their safety status include:

  • Fewer publishers, resulting in less clutter
  • Implementation of technical uniforms like DAAST (Digital Audio Ad Serving Template) ad tags, to help filter ads and assure
  • Opportunity for advertisers to align the context of their commercial with the content that the listener is choosing
  • Understanding that a listener can only listen to one message at a time
  • Ability to exclude problematic or divisive content alignment

Annual reporting for digital audio by IAB showed that there was a 39% lift from 2016 to 2017. Half-year reporting for 2018 shows a repeat performance for audio growth. On-demand streaming music services may have made up more than 54% of consumption in 2017 but, podcasts have grown 275% since 2015. Unique advantages like; host read ads, longer ad lengths, integrated, baked-in, and edited-in ads are some of the reasons that they continue to exceed expectations.

5. ChatBots

Increasingly popular in 2019 will be the use of Chatbots by businesses and online retailers. According to Grand View Research, the global Chatbot market is reaching $1.2 billion with 24% annual growth rate. For those unfamiliar, Chatbots are a computer program that simulates human conversation, or chat, through artificial intelligence. Chatbots are primarily intended to provide users or customers with real time interaction for frequently asked questions and other common inquires.

There are obvious benefits of Chatbots; they are always on, never request a vacation or sick day, never get tired or annoyed, cost far less than human employees, and they can provide a better user experience. Other key benefits, although less known, include data and insights. Chatbots can accurately decipher and replicate a user’s experience. They gather and analyze buying patterns and behaviors, can notify you of price changes, and provide product suggestions to customers as they navigate your site.

A current weakness to the use of Chatbots is their misuse. Consumers are okay with the advancements of Artificial Intelligence (AI), but they want to be able to find a real person when things get too complicated for a script. Consumers want technology and humans, not technology instead of humans.

During an episode of the popular podcast Above The Fold, Cyrus Shepard, previous Head of Audience Development at Moz and current Founder and Owner of Zyppy, provided a quotable definition of a good Chatbot, “A good chatbot is one that you don’t know you are reacting with right away.” He went on to say, “People are reacting with chatbots more than they realize, a good chatbot is invisible, just like a good toupee.”

In Conclusion

Another verse of the song previously mentioned is, Things are going great, and they’re only getting better. Well “things are going great” for digital marketing. In early November 2018, the IAB issued an earnings report for the first half of 2018. The record-breaking $49.5 billion spent during the first half of the year by advertisers marked a 23% YOY increase in spending.

But, for things to continue “only getting better,” digital will need more than the five things that we discussed. We identified these topics because we believe they will be most relevant in 2019.


Thought Catalog: An online magazine with over 30 million monthly readers. The site serves as a platform for emerging and seasoned writers to voice their thoughts and to flourish creatively.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB): The group empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, it develops technical standards and best practices. IAB and the IAB Education Foundation are committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry.

eMarketer: eMarketer is one of the most widely cited research providers in the media, quoted frequently by virtually every major news outlet in the world. eMarketer is a 93%-owned subsidiary market research company that provides insights and trends related to digital marketing, media and commerce.

US Census: The Census Bureau’s mission is to serve as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy. The goal of the Census Bureau is to provide the best mix of timeliness, relevancy, quality and cost for the data we collect and services we provide.

Grand View Research: A U.S. based market research and consulting company. The company provides syndicated research reports, customized research reports, and consulting services. Their database features thousands of statistics and in-depth analysis on 46 industries in 25 major countries worldwide.

Forbes Agency Council: Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only organization for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative, and advertising agencies.

Publicis Groupe: Zenith Media is a part of Publicis Groupe. Publicis Groupe is the third largest communication group in the world.

Olapic: From pioneering the first visual earned content platform to creating unique, brand-relevant content formats for use across all consumer touchpoints, Olapic helps drive brand engagement and performance, at scale, for hundreds of the world’s top brands.

Above the Fold: Two guys in the trenches of digital marketing bring humor to all things content marketing, SEO, and technology. Each episode features three hot topics being discussed in the digital marketing industry, starting with a 20 second download.