The Year Ahead: 2011 Predictions for Digital Marketing

What to Expect in Social Media, Mobile and Gaming

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It's officially the New Year. What now? Well, the economy might be brightening, but we're not in the clear yet. Ad Age took the pulse of top executives in the major industry sectors to compile this preview. See sidebar for more predictions.

Social media

While in some ways social media has made communication easier, it's made many digital lives -- and digital marketing -- infinitely more complex with Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, YouTube, Quora and myriad other platforms and tools competing for time, attention and dollars. But 2011 is the year it gets a little simpler.

Ad Age has rubbed its crystal ball and predicted industry moves in:
  • Marketing
  • China
  • Media
  • Agencies
  • Digital
  • Social platforms will continue to proliferate and will be fertile areas for experimentation. But increasingly only one really matters: Facebook. That's because only Facebook is truly global and now has in place the tools to be a partner the way brands had long hoped it could be. With nearly 600 million members, Facebook is still growing rapidly; it's now the largest photo site and the largest mobile property. But more than that, Facebook isn't just Facebook anymore. Thanks to Facebook Connect and the ubiquitous "like" button, it's everywhere, including on onetime competitor MySpace. It's a digital hub and online passport intertwined into the very fabric of the web.

    This year, for the first time, the company has all its ducks in a row: management, a sales team and an automated buying platform. And thanks to Goldman Sachs, it will soon have $2 billion in the bank to build out the product, make acquisitions and retain executives.

    "Every year I start by saying this is the year we launch on five new platforms and there will be more competition for Facebook, but this is the first year I really think Facebook is the game," said Mike Lazerow, CEO of Buddy Media. "Their ad product today is much more elegant and powerful than it was a year ago."


    When it comes to the big consoles, we already expect them to fuel a new combination of TV, gaming, social media and movie-watching. But Aaron Greenberg, chief of staff of Microsoft Interactive Entertainment, said that biggest opportunities will be in controller-free entertainment.

    BioWare's The 'Old Republic MMO,' rumored to be the most expensive game ever made, is due in 2011.
    BioWare's The 'Old Republic MMO,' rumored to be the most expensive game ever made, is due in 2011.
    "Kinect is an unprecedented hit out of the gate, but the next wave will be even more spectacular," Mr. Greenberg said. He added that since gaming is no longer limited to "gamers" -- traditionally younger men -- that the opportunity in that sector is enormous. "Gaming is pervasive: from home consoles to mobile phones to social networks, more people are gaming around the clock."

    When it comes to titles, Mr. Greenberg is looking out for BioWare's The "Old Republic MMO," which is rumored to be the most expensive game ever made, and "Gears of War 3." "This is a year for the Epic Games studio, with the just-released 'Infinity Blade' for mobile phones," he added.


    While 2010 was undoubtedly a giant year for mobile, that's not likely to slow down anytime soon. Nielsen expects 2011 to be the year more Americans carry smartphones than non-internet connected mobile devices.

    Beyond the mobile web and apps, advances in smartphone technology could finally find consumers using their phones as wallets this year. While mobile payments have long been a fascination, new handset releases expected this year will come equipped with the technology -- called near-field communication -- that makes it possible for users to touch their phones to pay, or get more information. The most recent Google handset, Nexus S, will ship with a NFC ship and Apple's next iPhone release into its next iPhone release.

    Bob Lord, CEO of digital agency Razorfish says to watch mobile's growing dominance at home. "[Mobile is] not just a channel for reaching people on the go," Mr. Lord said. "People are choosing the phone over the PC at home in certain situations, likely driven by TV multitasking." That will mean brands will have to rethink how consumers interact when at home, meaning Flash-free mobile websites that actually work on phones.

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