8 Trends that Will Help Marketers Win the Battle for Attention in 2016

Pandora CES

As marketers across the nation pack away their tacky holiday sweaters and sweep up the last bits of New Year’s Eve confetti, they will redirect their attention from parties and celebrations, to executing on their 2016 marketing plans. In order to be successful in this next year, marketers must adopt an Attention Strategy that hinges on engagement and emphasizes audience choice.

Attention is such an important topic for marketers this year because living in a connected world means our attention spans are at an all-time low (8 seconds1, to be exact), turning people into master jugglers of devices and content. Marketers will need to embrace innovation, personalization and unique experiences to battle for consumer attention in 2016.

As the media industry kicks off the New Year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, we wanted to highlight several trends to expect in 2016. Understanding and leveraging these trends will play a crucial role in helping marketers develop their Attention Strategy and win this ongoing battle.  

Trend 1: Design Experiences For The Mobility Mindset

It’s no secret that we’re living in a time of the Mobility Mindset, where connectivity has reached ubiquity and marketers must take a consumer-centric, device-agnostic approach to advertising. A connected world means people’s expectations for immediacy and relevancy are at an all-time high. Successful marketers must focus on how to best engage people based on a clear understanding of both the user and what is happening around them. Multi-screen campaigns no longer support a “one size fits all” content experience, but personalized campaigns based on a specific audience profile or usage will identify the best way to maximize context and relevancy. As advertisers increase mobile ad spend to win the attention of a connected audience, designing more customized screen experiences (inclusive of native advertising, shorter form or interactive content), blended with Smart Data will deliver a better, more personalized experience designed with the Mobility Mindset in mind.

Trend 2: Transform Big Data into Smart Data

Speaking of Smart Data, it’s going to be imperative in 2016 to extract actual intelligence from the many data sources marketers can access. It’s the only way to translate the trendy “Big Data” into value for your business. As advanced analytics and intuitive data visualizations come online, Smart Data will begin to come into its own as the driver of fully personalized and actionable insights. As a result, we will see more advanced targeting strategies from marketers, shifting to signal-based segments that incorporate intent and other behavioral indicators. Through our massive logged-in user base and investment in data science, Pandora has been able to develop unique audiences based on behaviors and traits to improve ad relevancy and drive KPIs.

Trend 3: Embrace The Next Phase of Personalization

You may not engage heavily with virtual assistants right now, but anticipate you will in 2016. With more and more connected devices offering voice-enabled “personal assistants” to anticipate a user’s needs or offer relevant, new solutions to discover, people’s expectations for personalization will skyrocket. In 2016, marketers need to not only be thinking about personalizing creative and messaging, but also how to optimize digital content for audio-only environments. Pandora pioneered personalization and digital audio, so we give this trend a double thumbs-up! Our vision to be the effortless source of personalized music and discovery through hyper-personalized audio experiences is the secret sauce that fuels why Pandora is the listening destination for more than 78 million active monthly listeners2.

Trend 4: Think Total Market vs. Multi-Cultural

Today, 1 in 3 people in the U.S. identify with cultures other than American3. In response, marketers are shifting multi-cultural spend to a Total Market approach. This means brands are integrating multi-cultural priorities into mainstream advertising efforts to engage all audience segments. With this in mind, 2016 is bound to see media strategies with an increased focus on person-level data, mobile and digital. Marketers who seek out advanced targeting solutions with verified data sources will ensure their media mix reaches all ethnicities with the appropriate representation. Publishers, like Pandora, that offer deep first-party audience insights, as well as Spanish-language targeting, will enable marketers to achieve their Total Market goals with more relevancy and efficiency.

Trend 5: Leverage Live Video Streaming

If you missed the buzz around Periscope and Meerkat last spring, then you must’ve been living under a rock. More than 150 million viewers are already watching live video streams each month, and usage is expected to triple by 20174. The interesting part about this growth is how these services capitalize on a person’s desire for real-time, front-row access to “can’t miss moments.” Marketers will get in on the action in 2016 by leveraging opportunities to align their brand with live-streamed content, with many approaching this as a period of experimentation. As a result, live streaming will continue to flourish, driven by politics, sports and entertainment—but especially music. Pandora leveraged live streaming in 2015 with several major concert events and is looking to expand those opportunities for our artists and advertising partners in 2016. 

Trend 6: Adopt Programmatic 3.0 (If You Haven’t Already)

Programmatic technology has forever changed the way we operate. It has made it possible to reduce the noise and inefficiency of media buying to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Pandora’s Premium Programmatic solution, has enabled our marketing partners to have an always on, data-rich connection to Pandora’s high-quality display inventory. The next evolution of programmatic for the industry will unlock cross-device capabilities to bridge the gap between web and mobile in-app environments. This will help marketers realize the promise of individual-level, cross-screen data portability for both targeting and attribution. Pandora is working hard toward a DSP-agnostic, deterministic and cross-device offering for early 2016 that will enable advertisers to holistically use their first- and third-party cookie segments to connect with the right Pandora listeners in an effortless and timely manner.

Trend 7: Develop Brand Storytelling With 2nd Screen Syncing

Marketers seeking to have a single view of the consumer across screens will further unlock the potential for more customized creative executions, frequency capping and message sequencing across devices. And targeting for second screen syncing will hinge on Universal ID’s (instead of cookies) because of inherent limitations on mobile. Armed with Smart Data and Programmatic 3.0, cross-device marketing will become the new playbook to connect the dots and capture attention across a consumer’s always-on, connected day. This unlocks the potential for more high-quality storytelling for the brand. Forming relationships with publishers who already have a large, connected user base and the right audience insights will be key to capitalizing on second screen syncing in 2016.

Trend 8: Crack the Code on ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend)

It’s nothing new: marketers wanting to understand their Return on Advertising at all times. But in the next year, greater adoption of omnichannel analytics will evolve past traditional TV-based measurement models to better attribute every dollar spent. To identify the full, holistic impact of advertising decisions, a call for the merging of Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) and data-driven attribution measurement will come from all marketers in 2016 to help develop measurement best practices that will deliver faster, more efficient and more insightful results across the marketing ecosystem. At Pandora, we have been working hard to help our brand partners measure their holistic impact across screens on Pandora by offering enhanced campaign and audience measurement solutions. We are expanding that focus to cracking mobile ROAS in 2016.


1 National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine and The Associated Press via Statistic Brain Research Institute, April 2015

2 Pandora Internal Metrics, October 2015

3 U.S. Census Bureau, Projections of the Population by Age and Sex for the United States: 2010 to 2050; % change in population 2050 vs. 2010

4 ReelnReal Research, November 2015

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