Trying to set the year gone in some kind of context is always tough – and 2014 has proved no different. Often, the problem is trying to distinguish how the previous 12 months differed from those that preceded them. That’s not an issue this year; so much has happened, it’s hard to know where to start.
My partner in crime Albert Ng has already rounded-up his key themes of the recruitment sector in 2014, so I’ll limit my review to the topics that have dominated this blog in the last 12-months (Ye shall know them by their fruits, and all that). So, what exactly have we spent 2014 writing about?
Content marketing, native ads, and brand publishing
By far the most common topic covered in 2014 was Content, but in an advertising context. Whether it was firms delivering effective campaigns across social media and their own platforms, courting controversy through content campaigns, or working with publishers to develop native ads as way of promoting themselves through association with a trusted publisher, content was king.
An indication of how seriously publishers are now taking advertiser-driven content as a potentially rich stream of revenue came in March when The Guardian launched it’s own in-house agency (called Guardian Labs) to work with brands to develop native ad content that – for a fee – could sit on it’s site alongside it’s editorial content.
Then, of course, we had the World Cup, which brought content campaigns across the major social networks, the scale of which we had never seen before.
Almost inevitably, given how much content is now produced by, or on the behalf of brands, we were asked in the autumn to stop and ask about the effectiveness of these campaigns – were we really measuring them correctly?
With such a great emphasis on content creation during the previous 12 months, almost out of necessity social media has also been a dominant theme for us. Perhaps unsurprisingly, its use as a platform for feeding content to a community has been hot topic in 2014. In April, we highlighted the strategy behind Disney’s use of social media to creatively push content and engage fans.
Although, by July we were hearing a different take on that story from Mondelez Europe (formerly Kraft). Sonia Carter, Mondelez Europe’s head of social and digital media, detailed how her firm used Twitter and Facebook to ‘buy scale’ for advertising campaigns. Mondelez used its community of followers almost like a focus group to test run pieces of content. Those that worked well (garnering ‘Likes’ and ‘Retweets’) then had money thrown at them and became sponsored or promoted content that found it’s way into the feeds and timelines of users in the firm’s key demographics. In 2014, brands started using social networks to buy advertising space at scale in the same way they had previously and traditionally bought television advertising, but with a greater control and oversight of the audience. With such huge volumes of cash being pumped into advertising on social networks, it made perfect sense later in the year when Pinterest started offering promoted pins and self-service social media ads as it looked to professionalise its revenue stream.
But social media isn’t just for the big guys. In May we also ran a guide to getting a small and cheap campaign off the ground for those SMEs that were just feeling their way across these new ad platforms.
Data and technology
The impact of Big Data on business is a fundamental change of the age, so in an effort to avoid stating the obvious I’ll park claims proclaiming 2014 as the Year of Big Data. In the year just gone, we’ve found ourselves often writing about data from a perspective of how it affects the way job roles are shaped: we’ve looked at how analysis and data skills are changing the way executives make big decisions, how supermarkets are becoming tech companies, running hackathons and forming partnerships with start-ups, and how, if it’s a job with a newspaper group that you’re after, then you’d better brush-up your data skills (that’s both commercial and editorial people!).
But in a year of great change in recruitment, the single data issue that seems to have dominated the blog (perhaps rather peculiarly) is programmatic ads: we’ve written about the effect on publishing industry job prospects, ad-buying team roles, and the overall relationship shift it may cause agencies and their client firms.
Despite all this attention, programmatic ads remain a relatively unknown quantity for many. Perhaps that’s an indication of how much more we’re we’ll be writing about them next year.
What about recruiters?
Over the course of the last year we seemed to have written most weeks about the systemic changes with which our clients are grappling. It wouldn’t be right to finish off without mentioning two themes that have become increasingly significant for recruiters in the final months of the year and may grow evermore-so into 2015: the launch of Glassdoor in the UK can serve only to increase transparency around recruitment and retention of staff, while those pundits who have spent the last few years tipping gamification to be the sector’s next big trend may finally get their wish.
So, there you are, our round up of the themes we have covered most often on this blog. If you’d asked us before the year began to predict the topics we’d end up covering, I’m not sure it would have been a list quite like this; but isn’t that always the way?
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.