Every year around this time I take a step back and to ponder some predictions for our field for the coming year. Some come to be, others are a few years early, and then there’s predictions I’m still waiting to come true years later. You can’t win them all, unfortunately. That said, the trends I’m following lead me to believe that the seven predictions below will become true in 2018. So without further ado, I present to you my seven predictions for next year:

1. Blockchain Infiltrates Paid Media Significantly

It’s the technological foundation for today’s crypto currencies. It has the ability to digitize, decentralize, secure and incentivize the validation of transactions. It’s the democratization of trust using distributed digital ledgers. Its impact will be significantly felt in the programmatic ad world – driving down costs, while eliminating waste and fraud. Blockchain companies like adChain, Bitteaser, Native Video Box and NEM have all entered the ad tech space.

2. Artificial Intelligence Transforms Web Analytics and Integrates with More SSPs

We’re seeing artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and/or natural language processing being used in programmatic solutions as well as influencer advertising solutions. Many of the most successful demand side platforms (DSPs) have some form of AI already integrated. Next year will be the year supply side platforms (SSPs) will start to embrace AI en masse.

In addition, there’s a new wave of AI-driven analytics cropping up (DemandJump) in 2018. These solutions will completely disrupt the traditional analytics tools many are used to using. These will allow marketers to be more choosy with how they spend their time and ad dollars, thus, maximizing return.

3. Influencer Marketing Moves from a Tactic to a Strategy

I just finished a comprehensive case study on a small business that uses influencer marketing to power every aspect of its marketing. They only publish influencer articles on their blog and all of its ebooks and guides are from influencers. It features influencer content in all of its newsletters and its annual magazine. It even controls some of the social media accounts of some of its influencers.

This approach has led to a 35% increase in sales since last year. Influencer marketing can be so much more than a roundup post. I predict more companies will begin to adopt a strategic model like the one described above in 2018.

4. Media Companies Will Start to Take Significant Market Share from Agencies Globally

Whether agencies know it or not, media companies (especially in Europe) are signing significant service contracts with brands. Historically, this budget went to agencies. The advent and rapid growth of native advertising has propelled media companies to create and build their own content studios (internal agencies).

Media companies have a distinct advantage over most agencies, too. They have their own significant audiences to tap into post content creation. This year we saw media companies branch out more by offering more than just creative services. From paid media to virtual reality, content studios are really beginning to look like full fledged agencies. The NYT has even built its own influencer marketing network. These trends will certainly be felt in the wallets of many agencies.

5. Net Neutrality Elimination in the US Will Take a Heavy Toll on Digital Marketers

This is the one prediction I hope doesn’t come to fruition. If Net Neutrality gets overturned by the FCC ISPs will be given the green light to create fast and slow lanes on the Internet. Potentially, this could mean that consumers will have to pay more to access certain websites and that certain websites will have to pay ISPs more for consumers to access their websites.

This literally will likely impact all of the work and tools digital marketers use on a daily basis. It also has the potential to create a massive barrier to entry for any cloud solutions – both consumer and cloud company. Imagine waking up tomorrow and not being able to access your social media accounts, analytics, Google Docs, Dropbox, Skype, GoToMeeting, and so on, and so on.

6. Native Advertising Agencies or Agency Service Lines Will Begin to Crop Up En Masse

To date I only know of seven agencies globally that specialize in delivering native advertising distribution of content. This is surprising given the fact that there’s over 360 native ad tech companies in this space. With native advertising spending predicted to surpass $85 billion globally in 2020, it would be shocking if we don’t see more agencies looking to get their share of it next year.

I’ve also been approached on more than one occasion by agency owners this year asking to help them create a paid content distribution team or native advertising team. This isn’t coincidence. I predict whole specialized service lines built around native advertising from agencies in 2018.

7. The Native Advertising Technology Landscape Will Surpass 500 Vendors

This year alone we’ve seen the native advertising technology landscape move from 272 native ad tech companies to nearly 370. There’s no reason to believe this trend will slow down in 2018. In fact, on the contrary, it will likely speed up. If the Chief MarTech lumascape is any example, surpassing 500 vendors in 12 months is being conservative.

That’s my seven predictions for 2018 folks. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that number five doesn’t happen. We’ll know next month what our fate will be. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this list is that we’re entering a new era of transparency with paid media, whether native or not. AI and blockchain will have a transformative impact on all paid media. If you think I’m off on any of the above or just have some predictions of your own, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. Until next year’s predictions, I bid you adieu.

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Chad Pollitt
Chad Pollitt is a decorated veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and former Army Commander; a member of a Forbes Top 100 List, and the Director of Marketing at DigitalRelevance (formerly Slingshot SEO). He’s a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and has been designing online campaigns for over 11 years. His other digital marketing related articles have been published in dozens of newspapers, magazines, and websites throughout the world. Follow him on Twitter @chadpollit.

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