Agencies plan to focus on TikTok, among other channels, in 2023

This article is part of a limited editorial series, called The 2023 Notebook, and is designed to be a guide to marketing and media buying in the new year. More from the series →

Even as we start 2023 clouded by economic uncertainty, marketers are looking to digital video, retail media, social media and the metaverse as priorities this year.

Forecasts predict streaming and digital video to grow, as will social media — TikTok especially. Overall, social media is expected to recover, if only slightly coming out of a turbulent 2022.

Media buyers continue to seem to be intrigued by emerging channels, such as the metaverse and live shopping on social media and other commerce platforms, according to five experts who spoke with Digiday. While efforts to participate in the metaverse largely remain experimental, some marketers and planners are optimistic that its retail potential and immersive storytelling could resonate with consumers.

 “GroupM’s end of year report predicts growth in advertising for 2023 to come in at 5.9%, with strong gains in connected TV and retail media in particular — the latter being the fastest growing component of digital in the U.S.,” said John Wittesaele, global CEO at Xaxis, the digital and AI unit at GroupM under WPP.

Here is a look at the channels marketers are eyeing this year:

Streaming and digital video expected to continue to grow

Connected TV and digital video across social platforms will continue to accelerate the market next year. GroupM and Magna had an overall positive outlook for 2023, with digital advertising driving the greatest growth. Social is expected to recover next year after some platforms faced regulatory scrutiny (TikTok) and other tech giants made massive staffing cuts at the end of 2022.

Despite those setbacks, Magna anticipates the global digital advertising to grow by 8% to reach $557 billion, accounting for 65% of total ad revenue in 2023. The growth is driven by e-commerce and media consumption shifts into digital video, the fastest-growing ad format expected to reach $65 billion. Magna points to CTV usage and streaming consumption continuing as “a tailwind for long-form streaming growth.”

Ian Liddicoat, CTO and head of data science at AI advertising company Adludio, agreed that CTV will “become increasingly popular amongst marketers as streaming platforms continue to develop content and direct consumer engagement.”

In particular with streaming services, there is still room to scale for advertisers. Mateusz Jędrocha, head of upper funnel solutions at marketing firm RTB House, said the CTV market seems “far from being saturated,” as the launch of ad-supported plans on Netflix and Disney+ seemed to show. He said this hunger for on-demand content will continue to grow.

“Marketers have been looking closely at OTT video, not only on mobile, but also on CTV,” Jędrocha said. “This premium experience provides a more measurable and addressable alternative to linear TV buying, hence more and more brands are investing heavily in it.”

Where social media channels are headed

Among the social platforms, experts believe advertising dollars will continue to shift toward TikTok in 2023. For Vickie Segar, founder of influencer agency Village Marketing, clients are still spending the majority on Instagram and Facebook. However, she noted they are beginning to shift from experimenting on TikTok to actually diverting dollars toward it from other platforms.

“Our biggest shift, if you were to look at the data across all of our clients, is taking more money from Instagram and pushing it over to TikTok,” Segar told Digiday. “It’s just the very clear number one answer.”

Spending across other platforms such as YouTube and Pinterest remains steady, but the investment in TikTok is increasing faster particularly when it comes to spending on creator content. “2023 is [where we] commit to a 12-month strategy that actually really extends what we’re doing — but don’t give up on Instagram. Reels is becoming much more of a part of the Instagram game,” Segar added.

Magna’s 2023 forecast supports a notable trajectory for TikTok. While social media ad revenue faced a storm of headwinds in 2022 compared to previous years, TikTok was the only platform to post advertising growth while its competitors saw flat or declining ad sales.

The retail potential may also help TikTok’s rise. The platform introduced features such as shoppable ads, “shop this trend” and other creator and commerce solutions in recent years. We may begin to see that brands previously relying on Facebook and Instagram advertising will see “huge success with TikTok ads,” said Ryan Turner, founder of marketing agency

“We feel that in 2023 we’ll see a sizable shift in social media advertising budgets moving over to TikTok from other channels and networks, especially for e-commerce brands,” Turner said. “The lower prices and built-in viral nature of the content can mean CPMs and CPAs for purchases are much lower… The ad landscape on TikTok is still fairly young and it offers many of the benefits advertisers enjoyed for the first few years of Facebook and Instagram.”

Overall, Oz Etzioni, CEO of ad personalization platform Clinch, added that social media will continue its evolution toward programmatic advertising as they expand their ad-tech offerings. “The process of planning and buying social media will start to more closely resemble programmatic,” said Etzioni. “Third-party solutions will create the fundamental building blocks and define standard taxonomies across social media platforms, unifying workflows and making the overall process easier for everyone involved.”

Will the metaverse or live shopping take off?

It’s too early to tell whether the metaverse or immersive content or commerce trends like live shopping will take off. While live shopping, in particular, became popular in China in recent years, there are mixed feelings for its potential in the U.S. In 2022, Segar said brands wanted to experiment with live shopping and believed it was “going to be the thing” — yet it has not evolved into a part of the social strategy as much as they expected.

“We watched that Asia was ahead of us and that we were going to then follow suit,” Segar said. “And by the holiday of this year, we expected gift guides to be done live… but it is not a table stake part of anyone’s social strategy at all.”

Part of the reason is creators don’t like the QVC approach to selling, she added, so adoption has been slow. She had expected TikTok Live and YouTube Live would evolve into live shopping, but it has not moved in that direction.

However, Richard Jones, chief revenue officer at performance marketing agency Wunderkind, believes there is still potential for live commerce features. Jones said this can become “the quickest way brands can monetize on consumers who are shopping on-the-go and on social media, and showing more interest in the metaverse.”

Speaking of the metaverse, in 2022 we saw many holding company giants and media firms testing out content in the metaverse — from building a campus on virtual reality platforms to partnering with brands on immersive experience for consumers. Some agencies look at it as a way to help guide their clients into the metaverse, but there is still debate on what that will look like in the future.

As Val Vacante, vp of solutions and innovation at Dentsu, previously said, the firm’s goal is to create the right experience for each client. “I’m just a firm believer that you need to be experimenting,” Vacante told Digiday. “We cannot advise clients if we are not playing, exploring, testing, winning, failing, right?”

The metaverse may also be a way to expand current out-of-home advertising applications, said Paul Dimmock, co-founder and director of strategy at media agency Eidgensi. This could be digital audio or other digital out-of-home campaigns that combine with immersive storytelling.

“Within nascent metaverse environments, we’ve already seen how DOOH screens can engage users, while back in the real world, DOOH screens could be harnessed to bring NFTs to life thanks to embedded QR codes or visually engaging creative,” Dimmock said. “The endless creative possibilities of these environments means audiences can be engaged by interactive, immersive content that can help to create a cohesive customer journey across all channels.”

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