A Year In Review: 2016

2016 is over. Take a deep breath.

Wow. What a good year for music and what a busy year for advertising.

At Pandora we’ve been laser focused on rolling out new innovations for both our listeners and our advertising partners and we know that you’ve been working hard too, cranking out winning strategies and delivering results for brands small and large. Like any advertising professional, you’ve been diligent and aware, making a point to keep up with all the headlines, what’s new and what’s trending in this “roller coaster” industry we call home. We know you haven’t missed a beat…

But on the off-chance you did, we compiled a list of the major advertising trends and highlights of 2016. Use it to jog your memory, buff up your knowledge, share with a coworker or share with your boss!

2016’s Top Advertising Trends
From mobile, to data, and everything in between, here are the most noteworthy advertising trends from 2016:

Trend #1: Influencer Marketing

Mannequin Challenge Anyone?
Social media has totally changed the game and the definition of “influencers”. When you consider who influencers were just a few years ago, you would point to people like Richard Branson and Steve Jobs, or celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Brett Favre. While they’re still influential, today’s influencers consist more of social media personalities like Instagram (and formerly Vine) magic Man, Zach King, or YouTube star Meredith Foster. These everyday people have carved out an audience of millions of followers just by having a passion and sharing it online. We saw many brands cozying up to the likes of these relatable stars in 2016 as a new way to advertise their products or services.

Trend #2: Viewability

Now You See It, Now You Don’t
Viewability is huge for any online publisher. Period. But new technologies and innovations have created an ever-changing landscape of viewability measurement and standards. Tackling these complex challenges has been a major focus for many leading publishers this year, including Facebook, Google and here at Pandora. We will continue to see shifts in viewability for digital publishers but expect to see some major progress in 2017.

Trend #3: Mobile Advertising

Work From Home…or the Plane, Train, or Wherever You Get Service
Even though “Mobile” has made an appearance on nearly every year-in-review and predictions list for the last several years, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it yet again. In 2016, we saw new, emerging technologies break through roadblocks for optimizing mobile advertising. Brands jumped at the chance to do more targeted and personalized mobile ads. We also saw a shift in usage in 2016 towards mobile apps, push and SMS, in addition to placing ads with popular mobile publishers. Now, the average global mobile user has 33 apps, 12 of which they use daily. As more and more people use mobile apps as a replacement to traditional websites, we will continue to see a huge shift by brands to doing more mobile and mobile app marketing.

Trend #4: Advertising Through Storytelling

Cool Story Hansel
Storytelling is the oldest method of relaying information, so it may seem like there’s nothing new here. But watching the advertising community adopt this ancient technique to make their messages more relatable and memorable was a true highlight of the past few years, and especially 2016. Brands now have a more complete understanding of what attracts attention–and for many consumers it’s not a hard sell. For a few years now, pundits have claimed that “Content Is King”, but this year we saw the advertising industry shift to this same mindset. In an AMA post, Karen Zuckerman, CCO, President and Cofounder at HZDG explained, “Advertising will become more and more about content, with a focus on storytelling. Campaigns and messages will be made with a more journalistic approach.” Brands have shifted their campaign strategies to form an emotional connection with their audiences through stories, and that is a trend we will continue to see from brands and agencies alike in 2017.

Trend #5: Programmatic Media Buying

Don’t Hate—Automate!
While programmatic has been around for a few years now, it quickly grew to become one of the hottest methods of buying media in 2016. No longer relegated to remnant inventory or undesirable environments, many of today’s programmatic solutions offer high-quality placements with sought-after online properties. This has meant brands can actually benefit from this new level of automation and optimization, which directly impacts their marketing ROI. With so much money going to digital, having an easy and time-saving way to automate media buys is understandably key for many companies and agencies alike.

Trend #6: Data Management Platforms

Doing It With Data
The popularity of DMPs, or Data Management Platforms, took off in 2016. Moving outside the scope of media buyers, brands are becoming more and more interested in purchasing tools such as these to help ensure their advertising efforts (and dollars) are being fully optimized with the best potential reach. DMP’s give marketers the ability to connect their data at scale to publishers like Pandora, leveraging the combination of what the marketer knows about the consumer with what the publisher knows about their users, to produce deep insights that can be leveraged for even more value. This pairing of data is key to getting in front of the right audience at the right time on the right channel. Krux, Adobe, Merkle, Acxiom, Experian, and Oracle Data Cloud are some of the major DMPs that Pandora integrates with today.

Trend #7: Ad Blocking

To Block or Not to Block
Ah, the most dreaded hot topic of 2016 that no one could look away from (even if they wanted to). This year saw the adoption of ad blockers reach a new level, causing concern industry-wide that even the best-executed campaigns may not be reaching their intended audience. Recent estimates put ad blocker usage in the U.S. at 23% for desktop and 2% for mobile. For such a dire problem, we were proud to see the industry tackle this issue at its foundation by looking at the reasons people use ad blockers: because they “annoy” or feel “irrelevant.” More than ever brands are looking to deliver their message in new ways that are less disruptive and more personalized.

Pandora’s Top 10 Greatest Hits in 2016

With a huge focus on innovation, as well as on continuing to collaborate with labels and artists alike, this year has been a busy and rewarding one at Pandora as we continued to deliver more and better opportunities for marketers to connect with engaged listeners on our platform. Check out some of our top hits from 2016:

Cheers to a great 2016! It was a rockin year for Pandora and the industry at large, but what is recharging our engines is all that’s in store for us in 2017.

Tell us: what do you think were other advertising hits in 2016? Tweet us @PandoraBrands.

Or stay informed on all our new innovations at Pandora, and follow along with all the happenings at CES using #PandoraCES.

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