Every once in a while during a media interview, a moment of serendipity occurs. Such was the case during a recent conversation with Hisham Ghostine, Dentsu Aegis Network’s president of media brands.
Ghostine was talking about how voice technology and a rise in connected devices is benefiting the radio industry. “Growth is being driven by accessibility, rather than being so dependent on where the medium sits,” he said. “If you asked me five years ago where I listened to the radio, I would have said always in the car.”
But today, no matter where they are, people only have to utter a phrase like “Hey Siri! Play some music,” to quickly and easily access audio content. His remarks prompted a nearby Apple device to immediately respond with its trademark chime. “And that’s accessibility,” said Ghostine with a laugh.
Dentsu Aegis Network estimates there are now 4.4 billion voice assistants in use worldwide, which it says is creating a new audience for radio. According to its numbers, smart speakers accounted for about 16% of streaming of public radio stations in the U.S. in 2018.
Radio ad spend in that country is expected to grow 2.3% this year (outpacing the global average of 1.7%) and with the number of voice assistants worldwide expected to double by 2023, Dentsu says increased radio spend could become a long-term trend.
“Radio has been facing headwinds for the past few years, and suddenly it’s started gaining momentum,” said Ghostine. “Clients want to try and build reach quickly, and radio is one of the facilitators that can help campaigns at an efficient cost.”
The rise of voice assistants is among 10 key media trends identified by Dentsu for 2020 in its latest ad spend forecast. The media services firm is also calling for mobile’s share of advertiser spend to surpass TV (32.1% versus 31.5%), digital as a whole to rise by another 10.5% to US$276 billion and significant drops—7.1% and 6.3% respectively—for newspapers and magazines.
Global ad spending is predicted to rise 3.9% to US$615.4 billion, propelled by key events including the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics 2020, the UEFA European Football Championships and the U.S Presidential election (which is expected to attract as much as $10 billion in incremental spending).
While Dentsu did adjust its 2020 Canadian ad spend predictions down slightly—from $13.5 billion to $13.4 billion—Ghostine says there are indications marketers are keen to leave what he describes as a “very tough” 2019 behind. On a percentage basis, Dentsu is calling for Canadian spending to rise by 5.5% this year before dropping to 3.9% in 2021.
But while digital’s momentum continues, Ghostine says there is also renewed client interest in traditional media channels like TV and out-of-home as they continue to adapt their business for the digital world.
“What used to be known as analogue media has transformed to a certain extent to become a bit more digitized, and we feel that clients are believing more in those media,” he said.
Ghostine said he is encouraged by how Canadian TV’s “three-opoloy” of Bell, Corus and Rogers are responding to advertiser demands for connected TV via the continued roll-out of services like Rogers Ignite and Bell Fibe. “It still has a long way to go, but the discussions have started happening and it’s a reality,” he said. “The base is small, but it’s there, and it’s going to continue to grow in the high double digits.”
One byproduct of broadcasters operating more like their digital counterparts, said Ghostine, is that it places increased pressure on companies like Google and Facebook to improve their content strategies.
Where the digital giants have long stood apart from their traditional media rivals, they are increasingly part of the same advertising ecosystem, he said. “The only way for them to transform and to continue to be different is to think content. How can they compete with Grey’s Anatomy [when] people can watch it on a TV screen or a mobile [device]? Google can’t offer this today, so they’re upping their game.”
One potential result of any shift towards more legitimate, high-quality content, he said, will be a cleaning up of the digital supply chain, with digital companies less reliant on user-generated content.
Cleaning up the digital environment was one of the key topics at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) revealing a plan aimed at stemming the flow of advertising dollars that might support harmful content.
“Clients will pay more for a clean supply, and video that is not brand safe or suitable, and subject to fraud will shrink more and more,” said Ghostine. “We keep on nagging and crying about how many billions of dollars are [lost] to fraud every year, and no-one’s doing anything about it, and I think this is the opportunity to do something about it.
“[Advertisers can] start spending locally and get away from fraudulent and unsafe content,” he added. Sounds terrific. If only such a seemingly ambitious objective could be achieved via a simple voice command.