I’ve been bombarded with commercials for Windows 7 this Christmas advertising ‘The Cloud” such as the one below:
As annoying as I find these ads, it does mark the first time I’ve seen a brand talk about cloud computing to a mainstream audience. If 2010 was the year the cloud computing became more commonplace, then 2011 will be the year cloud computing becomes mainstream.
Aside from the aforementioned Microsoft example, there are three events in 2011 that feel will be game changers:
1) Spotify launches in the US. Will they? Won’t they? Surely they must this year. And when they do, it will be the end of Last FM and a change in the way people listen to music. If you’ve used Spotify in Europe then you know how great it is. Streaming music, on demand, with targeted advertising in between. A win for music lovers and advertisers everywhere.
2) Chrome OS (and the CR48). Google sums it up nicely: “Experience waitlessness. Waitlessness means never having to wait for the web.”. Take a netbook. Strip it to the bare bones. Make it cheap. Make it lightning fast. Use the web to store your data securely and be able to access it anywhere. If tablets can catch on, then this can too.
3) Whatever Apple is building in North Carolina. A massive server farm for an unknown reason? A new MacBook Air with no hard drive? All signs point to a future cloud based hardware/software from the guys at Cupertino. And if anyone can make cloud computing catch on, then Apple can.
2) More mobile apps (and, hopefully, less rubbish ones)
“We need an iPhone app” says the Creative Agency Art Director from across the room. The client nods in agreement, knowing that because they just purchased an iPhone, everyone else has one and wants an app based on their third in market industrial glue product. You’ve seen this before. I have too.
This time last year, smartphone used to equal iPhone as far as apps were concerned. You rarely hear of many non-US brands looking to develop Android apps, yet Android sales look set to equal iPhone sales within the next six months. 2011 will the year when simultaneous iPhone/Android app releases are the norm. And that’s great news for Android owners like myself. But should there be more apps? Maybe.
There’s a lot of great apps out there that use smartphone features to give value to the consumer (I’m not going to list them all). But so many branded apps available are simply reformats of their brand’s web presence – essentially a shortcut to sections of their website. My phone has too many apps. I download most, use them once, then never use them again.
If I had my way, 2011 would see creative agencies will make mobile apps that play to unique smartphone features, and recommend that their clients make mobile friendly sites (ideally in HTML5) instead of making redundant web-reformatted apps. I can only dream about this one I think…
3) Western web brands continue to struggle in the East
Mid this year, Egypt registered its first web site under the .misr domain (Misr being Arabic for Egypt). That doesn’t sound particularly ground breaking until you realise that this was the first URL registered in non-Latin script. Egypt may not exactly be a online powerhouse, but this new domain system launched in late 2009 by Icann adds yet another major hurdle for Western brands trying to dominate the web.
Consider this – 2/3rds of the world uses non-Latin script in their day-to-day communication. Even if you exclude India (who use English as a common ‘web language’), that still represents over half the world’s population, and includes strong/fast growing web markets such as Japan, South Korea, Russia and, of course, China. If this URL trend catches on in these markets, it becomes a major advantage for local brands, who often have foreign language brand names.
For all the talk this year about the growth and dominance of Facebook and Google across the globe, you’d be mistaken to believe that they also dominate these markets as well. Baidu, Vontakte, Mixi and QQ dominate their respective verticals in their home countries, and Western properties don’t get much of a look in.
As 2010 comes to a close, Mark Zuckerberg is making a trip to China to (rumour has it) try to launch Facebook in that market (it is currently banned). Will he succeed where Google and most other Western web companies have failed? Given previous track records, and the ever-increasing barriers for the West, such as the non-Latin URL systems, I’m hesitant to say yes…It’s just going to get even harder.
4) Twitter increases revenue by thinking outside the US
Yes, Facebook is huge. But don’t forget Twitter. It has over 175m members now – exceeding MySpace’s peak membership of 125m members. It’s worth over US$3.7b. But how does it make any money?
This year saw the launch of promoted trends, tweets and accounts. The most successful is the promoted trend - rarely does a day go by where I don’t see one on the Twitter homepage. But if you’re like me and not in the US, the product is not that relevant as most of my business is in Europe and I would waste about 60% of my inventory. On the flip side – US marketers now waste about 40% of their inventory on this product! And this is going to continue to be a problem for the US as Twitter growth is being driven by non-US markets.
I don’t think 2011 will see additional sales innovation from Twitter (I think they’ve got it nailed now), but I think we will see the launch of regional promoted tweets and trends in key international markets, driving additional revenue from outside the US (just like Facebook started doing 2-3 years ago). This will create a better experience for non-US Twitter users, less wastage for advertisers and, ultimately, more money for Twitter.
5) The death of viral and the reign of ‘quality branded content’
Remember the Art Director who cried out for more iPhone apps earlier in this article? Well, a couple of years ago he cried out for more ‘viral’ ads.
If there was one great thing about 2010, it was that I could see the death of (what we know as) the viral on the horizon. Folks – you don’t make a viral, you make good content and it goes viral. And the proof was in the pudding this year.
The two big ‘viral’ hits of 2010 were TVCs.
These were not specially created online content, they were just great pieces of content that happened to be online too (although Nike’s TVC ad did launch on Facebook one day before TV). They also demonstrated that you can extend the value of your great content online – the follow up Old Spice response campaign was probably the most viewed/talked about campaign this year.
As 2010 comes to a close, Foster’s Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge put the nail in the viral coffin. Twelve ten minute-ish long pieces of branded content, far better than anything on TV right now, two million views so far and nominated for a South Bank award. No low budget shaky cameras, no subtle brand mentions, no fake PR hype. Just great branded content.