To round off 2012, we bring you our collection of top stories that shaped the digital landscape. It was an amazing year, with the continued speed of change towards a more digitally centric society: the rise and rise of social, the migration to mobile, the rising value of online businesses and the growing regulation to manage the digital economy. The stories show big rewards for getting the strategy right – and brutal realities of failing to innovate.
As the digital sector has grown, this year we’re examining the big stories of 2012 across a 9 different sectors, including search, social, mobile and advertising. We’ve also collected our favourite viral videos of the year, and taken an irreverent look back at some of the stranger stories and biggest blunders of the year. Enjoy!
Viral video marketing case studies – the best virals of 2012
2012 was another great year for viral video marketing case studies. As online ads get smarter and more engaging, viral marketing briefs are becoming the toughest that any creative agency can receive.
For a viral to really travel it needs the combination of a brilliant creative idea, the right timing for its audience and the right seeding.
That’s why we collated together 25 of our favourite viral marketing case studies from 2012 which clearly checked all the boxes. Grab a coffee, leave the browser open, sit back, relax, and enjoy…
View the top 25 virals of the year here
Facebook trends in 2012
Forget the movie, this year provided plenty of real-life drama for ‘The Social Network’. The controversy surrounding Facebook’s IPO and the value of its ‘likes’ (after the BBC’s ‘bagelgate’ report) has led us to dedicate an entire section of our 2012 review to Mark Zuckerberg’s company.
It was truly a rollercoaster year for Facebook, riding high on ad demand, gaming revenues and 1bn users… only to come crashing down to earth in a disastrous IPO that lead to accusations of insider trading, faked ‘likes’ and big advertisers (very) publicly doubting its worth as an ad platform. The reality check lead to a renewed focus on mobile and advertising revenues, coming at the expense of organic fan reach for brands. The company also introduced a myriad of new ad tools and bought popular photo app Instagram. The year ended with Facebook weathering stock sell-offs and high-profile staff exits, leaving it in a (relatively) stable stock market position for 2013. Astonishingly, Zuckerberg also managed to find time to get hitched this year…
View our top 10 biggest Facebook headlines here
Search marketing trends in 2012
Online habits are changing, and while search remains the gateway to the internet, consumers are expecting a lot more than ’10 blue links’. This year, search went social and mobile as consumers used their tablets and mobiles in ever-more sophisticated ways. Google, Bing, Yahoo and Facebook all made major changes to their search tools for advertisers and web users alike.
The introduction of Google+ last year heralded a new era in social search, with likes, shares and comments from friends influencing rankings at a far greater level than before. Facebook continues to make inroads into the sector with sponsored search and rumours of a Yahoo partnership, while Twitter has become a major news aggregator as much as it is a micro-blog. Mobile search is also on the rise, and multi-channel shopping has lead to savvy shoppers searching for online deals while browsing in-store. Key phrases themselves are also getting longer, as consumers get more specific in their research.
View our top 10 biggest search marketing headlines here
Digital advertising trends in 2012
Despite the global economic gloom, online advertising spend and revenues continued to soar during 2012, outpacing all other media. Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon all made major moves this year as the battle lines for digital ad dollars online became blurred.
As consumers become more savvy and technology gets smarter, the big players jostled for dominance across markets and territories to appeal to advertisers, media owners and web users alike. Google introduced a host of new ad tools, including TV-style branding metrics and AdWords for YouTube. Facebook launched its own third-party ad network and ‘Premium’ mobile ads, Microsoft rolled out its ‘metro-style’ Windows 8 format and Apple broke free of Google to cater for its own expanding ecosystem of iAds and iTunes. On a global scale, China looks to be catching the US and UK in terms of ad revenues, and advertisers are beginning to target consumers on a more granular level, ditching large portals for niche interest sites.
View our top 10 biggest digital advertising headlines below
Social media trends in 2012
Social media continued its rise in 2012, pervading more and more aspects of modern life, from Twitter’s live news reporting to Pinterest’s digital scrapbooks. Despite being labelled a ‘ghost town’, Google+ has become a major player in the sector, beginning to rival Twitter in terms of global active users. For marketers, social media ROI remains rather elusive, but some inroads have been made this year with new analytics tools looking beyond clicks to measure the power of online recommendations.
Pinterest was the social media success story of the year, offering a more visual alternative to Facebook and Twitter that synced neatly with ecommerce and affiliate marketing. Facebook continued to dominate and Twitter grabbed most of the headlines (although not always for the right reasons). Twitter clamped down on third party apps to pave way for more ads, LinkedIn added follow tools and bought SlideShare, while Salesforce boosted social CRM for clients buy snapping up BuddyMedia. Google+ continued to make progress, boasting millions of members (although engagement levels remain low). China’s social networks continued to rival their Western counterparts in terms of size with Sina Weibo, Ren Ren and Tencent catering for huge audiences. Perhaps the biggest sign of the times came from a BBC report, which declared the age of the ‘lurker’ over, with 60% of the UK online population now ‘participating in some way’ on the web. Further proof the brands need to engage consumers in conversations, not sales pitches.
View our top 10 biggest social media headlines here
Mobile and tablet trends in 2012
In Western markets, it’s easy to forget that feature phones still dominate globally, but this is changing fast. Smartphone sales accounted for 40% of total mobile phone sales in 2012, up 47% on last year. The technology behind mobiles and tablets is evolving rapidly, with Android and Apple leading the charge in an increasingly competitive battle for consumer and advertising cash alike. This year tablets went ‘mini’ while smartphones got bigger, and mobiles began to catch up desktops in terms of web use and and ad revenue.
Apple continued its (increasingly bitter) battle with Android and Samsung for mobile dominance. The Korean manufacturer was hit by a $1bn fine in a copyright tussle with Apple that shows little sign of ending soon. Android now accounts for 75% of all smartphones globally, but Apple still gets more engagement and spend from its users. Apple also made an uncharateristic bluder with its wobbly native maps app leading to much soul-searching (and a number of sackings) at the firm. Meanwhile, former phone kings Nokia and Blackberry continue to decline, with RIM now focusing on business users. 2012 also saw the introduction of super-fast 4G connections, heralding the next phase in digital media and marketing as speed and download barriers come crashing down.
View our top 10 biggest mobile and tablet headlines here
Ecommerce trends in 2012
Shopping went social in 2012, with online retailers integrating ‘Likes’ and ‘Pin It’ buttons to boost sharing and purchases. In the UK, Christmas 2012 is on track to be another record-breaker for online retail, while in the US, $1.46bn was spent on cyber monday this year alone.
Facebook added a ‘Want’ button, while some brands took to the social network to sell their wares. Google expanded its sponsored shopping results, and Amazon looked to vanquish ecommerce’s ‘Achilles heel’ by offering same day delivery. The dark side of customer reviews reared its ugly head, with Gartner claiming that marketers were increasingly paying for positive reviews on sites and app stores.
View our top 10 biggest ecommerce headlines here
Digital media trends in 2012
As Google’s upcoming augmented reality glasses show, digital media is fast encroaching on every aspect of modern life. The pace of technological change has been phenomenal, and as technologies converge and media habits change, marketers need to adapt their budgets accordingly.
This year saw many key trends emerge, such as ‘cord cutters’ in the US ditching cable subscriptions to watch TV online only. Microsoft made its biggest gamble yet, with a bold new design for Windows 8 to rival Apple and Google with a cross-platform operating system. Google took on Dropbox with ‘Drive’ and iTunes with ‘Play’, and YouTube now makes as much ad revenue as US TV networks. In these austere times, it’s telling that a financial website, MoneySavingExpert, was one of the biggest success stories of 2012, selling for £87m. The biggest shock of the year was the runaway success of the Mail Online, which overtook the New York Times to be the most read news site in the world (30% more popular overseas than the BBC). Whatever your views on its editorial, it certainly knows what makes online audiences tick…
View our top 10 biggest digital media headlines here
Gaming and app trends in 2012
From social media and maps to games and news updates, mobile and web apps are now fulfilling many of our day-to-day tasks in a faster and more convenient way than before. Reading the news, sending mail, reading and updating social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and downloading or streaming music and videos are things that in the past we would have done through web pages.
This year saw both Google expand in-app advertising, Facebook open its own app store, Amazon launch its own Kindle Fire tablet and Apple continue its domination of the market.
On the gaming front, Zynga began the year on a high (making 12% of Facebook’s sales) and opening its own standalone gaming site, but ended the year splitting up with the social network and axing 5% of its workforce. The games-maker suffered from association with Facebook’s IPO fiasco and a misguided purchase of ‘Draw Something’ creator Omgpop. What a difference a year makes…
View our top 10 biggest digital media headlines here.
Marketing regulation trends in 2012
As digital grows at a rapid pace, law-makers struggle to keep up. In the UK, Lord Levinson would have us believe in his final media ethics report, digital media is an ‘ethical vacuum’ beyond regulation. Despite this rather despondent outlook, there were plently of high-profile legal tussles over the past 12 months.
US government crackdowns on piracy met hacktivist shutdowns and consumer protests, while The Pirate Bay simply moved its servers to the cloud to evade capture. Across Europe, a water-down EU cookie law came into force (and was initially largely ignored). In Germany, all web users were forced to pay an €18 monthly TV license fee, while in the UK Amazon and Google came under fire for (perfectly legal) tax evasion. Advertisers had a tough time of it too. In Australia, a judge ruled that brands are liable for Facebook fan posts. Meanwhile, Microsoft caused outcry for making ‘Do Not Track’ the default in its new IE 10 broswer, potentially driving down the value and reach of targetted ad campaigns.
View our top 10 biggest internet regulation headlines here
Weird news: The 25 oddest digital news stories of 2012
From self-driving cars to fridge magnets that order pizza, 2012 saw more than its fair share of odd digital news stories. As part of our year in review series, we look back at the stranger side of marketing, with the 25 weirdest digital news stories of 2012.
Changing consumer habits have led to some unexpected developments- and rather bizarre news stories as a result. For example; who’d have thought a company as high-brow as Waterstone(‘)s would so brazenly abuse grammar by ditching their apostrophe to appear higher in search results? We also got a sneak peek behind the scenes at Facebook and Apple, with leaked employee handbooks showing how the social network moderates content and how Apple ‘Geniuses’ make a sale. Treading the thin line between cool and creepy, this year also saw ‘Minority Report’ style bus stop posters scanning user’s faces to tell if they are male of female- and broadcasting a different advert accordingly. A 3-year-old girl managed to get Sainsbury’s to change their ‘Tiger Bread to ‘Giraffe Bread’ after her letter to the customer services team went viral, and a video from 1995 surfaced, predicting current technology trends with unnerving accuracy… right down to the web’s obsession with cats.
View our round up of the 25 weirdest ‘digital oddities’ of 2012 here
20 biggest marketing blunders of 2012
Everyone makes mistakes- but some mistakes are bigger than others. From Apple’s wonky maps to Yahoo’s boss being fired over alleged ‘fake CV claims’- this year saw plenty of high-profile digital disasters. As part of our 2012 review, we salute those campaigns, companies and people that slipped up in spectacular fashion- providing ample warning to us all to sanity-check digital strategies, proof-read hashtags and always use common sense…
View our round up of the 20 biggest marketing blunders of 2012 here