The reason? Marketers are simply keen to know which ad platforms, styles, and formats are working for other brands so that they can compare their results and get some new ideas.

So at a recent Econsultancy event, it was no surprise to see that the Online Advertising table was one of the most popular and had some of the liveliest discussions.  Hosted by Veronika Lugina, VP, Digital & Content, HSBC, client-side marketers there revealed some of the trends which will be driving their online advertising strategies in 2018, five of which are summarized below.

Before we start, we’d like to let you know about some related training in the form of Econsultancy’s Social media and influencer marketing training.

So, according to brand marketers, what are the online advertising trends for 2018?

1) Building up internal ad teams

One of the first and most-agreed-upon trends discussed was that brands are going to stop relying so heavily on agencies in 2018 for media buying. Instead, participants said, marketing heads are now hiring online advertising experts to be part of the in-house team.

The reason for this, according to attendees, is that the quality of the traffic and leads are higher from internal campaigns and so the cost-per-acquisition (CPA) ends up being lower than those from agency-led efforts.

Participants felt that agencies still have a role to play in the media buying process, but they want their agency partners to diversify and improve on what they can offer.

Marketers, it seems, are no longer willing to pay a premium for a routine ad-buying strategy.

2) Focusing on mobile and social media

Another trend which was mentioned by most attendees was that brands will continue to focus on mobile and social media for their advertising strategy.

Participants stated that, in 2018, mobile will remain the best place to reach a wide audience and that social media will continue to provide the highest-quality leads.

On the other hand, many participants were less enthusiastic about programmatic advertising. Those that had taken it in-house said that they had experienced mixed results with programmatic buying last year and may use it less frequently in 2018.

3) Trying new ad ideas

Another interesting trend was that brand marketers are looking for new content for their online advertising campaigns.

Some attendees said that they will be leveraging 3rd party content in their ads, such as news articles from major publishers, as it has more authority than the run-of-the-mill brand message.

Others said that their online advertising will include more branding content and thought-leadership pieces, and have fewer direct-selling ads. Some said that they struggled to get buy-in for these types of ads, though, as they do not improve their KPIs, such as click-through-rate.

4) Becoming friends with legal and compliance

Another challenge which marketers will take up in 2018 is to get on better terms with their legal and compliance departments.

Part of the reason this is a trend for the coming year is that (as per #1) many brands are moving online ad buying in-house, and so the marketers themselves will be directly accountable for the ad content.

But another reason for this trend is that marketers, especially in the banking and insurance space, feel that they could do a lot more with digital ads if only legal and compliance understood the online advertising market a bit better.

Some attendees suggested that brand marketers should look to find a champion in either legal or compliance and invite them along to digital marketing events to better understand the challenges and opportunities of digital marketing.

5) Developing a nurturing strategy

Finally, many marketers lamented that their online advertising efforts were not widely appreciated at their company. The reason for this, one admitted, was that digital lead generation rarely turned into actual sales.

So to improve the perception of digital marketing, some said that the big push in 2018 will be to create a more effective nurturing strategy. This will include ensuring that leads are followed-up systematically so that conversion rates improve.

While all participants agreed that this is desirable, many also felt that it will be difficult to do, especially for B2B marketers.  At most B2B organisations, programmes such as lead nurturing will require working closely with the sales team.  And, while sales and marketing should be working together already, the reality is that many still are not.

So participants concluded that striving for improved relations between online advertising and sales is probably another trend for 2018!

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank our table host Veronika Lugina, VP, Digital & Content, HSBC for guiding the discussion about what marketers should expect in online advertising in 2018.

We’d also like to thank all of the marketers who attended Digital Cream Singapore and shared their valuable insights. We hope to see you all at future Econsultancy events!