It's still early in the year so we're going to issue some additional trends for 2017.
We now think that boycotts will be a big media trend in terms of coverage.
And actually, we're not even talking directly consumer boycotts.
We're actually talking about corporate boycotts.
We think there will be more emphasis over the next few years on how to help brands better manage their online programs. It remains to be seen what impact that will have on public relations.
But we're not talking about consumer boycotts, from the left and the right because we're not interested in taking a political perspective on this.
Instead, the boycotts we're talking about here are by big brands not against big brands.
The big brands seek to avoid controversy so they are trying to avoid placing ads on or working with sites that don't resonate with their consumers.
For example, we see concerns about controversial content on YouTube, porn content on Snapchat that are testing advertisers' tolerance for risk as well as concerns about advertising on potential fake news sites or politically biased sites.
One challenge for big brands is that the automated nature of online advertising known as programmatic advertising has made it easier and more efficient to get their ads out there. At the same time, the programmatic aspect makes it more difficult to control where ads appear. So a brand may have decided to not place ads on what it deems to be a questionable site but the way online advertising works, an ad may be placed ad on that site anyway.
This is the aspect that interests us.
These big brands won't stop advertising but until there is a new tech solution combined with a business model that provides more control over where online ads appear, companies may want to consider changing the mix of their marketing activities since other marketing disciplines may be able to get the messages out without associating with the media brands that companies seek to avoid.
Further, PR and social media may be better positioned to help brands respond to concerns from their customers about ads placed on questionable sites.
While the tools don't exist quite yet to manage ads to the degree that big brands want, we expect that big brands will continue to avoid advertising on questionable sites, and will continue to need to communicate the core values that matter most to them (while avoiding online sites that do not mesh with those values). We expect the trend of big brands to boycott to continue.