June8-2016.001With the second quarter nearly over, it must be time to start to make predictions for 2017. Why?

Because everyone is still “uncertain” about 2016 and “bullish” about 2017 in the “run up to 2020”.

Rather than debate the oil price, regional turmoil and subsequent market fluctuations, one thing is for sure — 2016 isn’t as buoyant a market as many had hoped.

And budgets are being cut. Sure, it’s not 2008 all over again. But let me repeat budgets are being cut. And when that happens every dollar spent needs to be scrutinised even more than before.

Which is why by the end of 2016, there will be no more mass marketing.

Wooing niche audiences is everything. Do you remember Chris Anderson’s 2006 book, The Long Tail. In this oft-quoted tome, he spoke of Amazon’s ability to sell obscure books to obscure people while the high-street retailers only have space to sell the mainstream units. And this is now being adopted across all industries.

I was at the Step Conference in Dubai the other day. Startups and venture capitalists, mainly. And when you look at all the startups, each one of them solves a very singular problem for a niche audience.

A niche audience that will be big soon. Or so their business plan will assure you.

There’s no other reason to set up a business. It has to solve a problem. We set up Blue Logic to help businesses harness their data and add content that collects eyeballs. Monitor what the audience is doing and give them more of what they want. And monetise. Simple, right?

I met at the Step conference a startup called My-Sign.com, a new social media app that links cool kids to relevant brands right from the beginning.

And Chess Boxing was announced there, too. Do you know what that is? It does what it says. Iepe Rubingh, the founder of this startup, tells us it’s a sport lasting 11 rounds: alternately boxing and chess. Brain and brawn.

First to knockout or checkmate his opponent wins. And the business plan he took me through is thoroughly focused, from niche to mass audience.

So, these businesses have specific purposes and they will find specific audiences. To begin with the founders have a hunch who their audiences are.

We all have a hunch about who the audience is. But only time will tell who and where the real audience is.

And this is why 2016 will mark the beginning of the end of mass marketing. No more will we need to waste big budgets on one homogenous audience, because there is no such thing as a homogenous audience.

Instead, each big audience is a collection of lots of little audiences. And, currently, we can only find these little audiences across the internet and mobile phones. Not on mass marketing channels.

How will this change? “Programmatic” is the answer. In the land of programmatic, the little audiences are called audience segments or custom audiences.

“Programmatic radio” is coming for example. It’s already alive and well in some markets.

Imagine two people driving to work, to the same office block. One in his new turbocharged four-cylinder Subaru Forester — a fun family car. The other in her look-no-kids-convertible Audi A5.

One has been browsing for family-friendly beach holidays; the other has been looking for new jewellery. Of course they will soon be able to hear different ads even though they’re both listening to the same breakfast radio show.

Just the same way that we all see different ads when browsing online.

And then they should see the relevant banners and videos to go along with this targeted radio spot. How? Well, it will all bought by the same “programmatic trading desk”.

This will be likely to be one of the hot topics that we talked about on the stage at the Festival Of Media MENA.

As an advertising industry we’re bringing technological advancements for 2017, which enable businesses to easily target niche — or custom — audiences. And smaller budgets will go much further than they can today, because today, in the Middle East, “programmatic” is mainly relegated to internet advertising.

Not for long.


Gulf NewsFirst published on 8 June 2016,
Special to Gulf News 


PS – this article was submitted in April 2016, published in June. Hence the reference to Step Conference (April) and what we’ll “soon have talked about” at the Festival of Media (May), where I was on stage with the Steve Smith, the COO of ARN whose story I’ve pinched – about radio ads in the two cars. Thanks, Steve!