Email will become a bigger part of the media mix

Email is the number one online daily activity. A report from McKinsey Global Institute stated the average person dedicated 13 hours a week to email. In the UK more than 60% of the UK adult population use it every day outdoing every other online activity. If you consider companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Groupon, it’s a core part of their engagement and marketing programmes. As an advertising medium, several studies show how efficient and effective email can be for both branding and acquisition campaigns

Despite high consumer usage, the IAB/PwC Adspend surveys found that email’s advertising share is minuscule compared with display and search.  The core reason for ad spend not following the consumer is that it is difficult for advertisers to run large campaigns on email. Display and search have developed sophisticated self-service buying platforms that enable advertisers to buy and execute campaigns without outside help. Email is still very labour intensive, with traditional sales and a lack of transparency.

In 2014, expect to see new marketplaces for email that copy the advances that have been made on display and search. It will become much easier to buy email inventory at scale, with reporting becoming far more transparent.  With advances in attribution modelling, media buyers will start to include email in their plans, particularly if it can be made as simple as display and search to buy.

Consumer consent is being redefined for the digital era

Data protection and privacy has risen to the top of the political agenda. In the US and elsewhere, the Edward Snowden revelations have created a massive debate on privacy. Meanwhile, the EU is in the final stages of agreeing new privacy and data protection laws which could have a major impact on marketing practices from 2015 onwards.  

In advance of these new laws the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which oversees the data protection and privacy legislation in the UK, has issued new guidelines that tighten up the rules concerning consumer consent.

One of the ICO’s key goals is to improve the current situation where the consumer who provides consent for third parties to contact him/her, is bombarded with marketing messages from multiple companies forevermore.  To meet this goal the ICO is limiting third party consent to six months and in exceptional cases 12. If the consumer has not interacted in that time then their consent cannot be considered to remain. The ICO is also trying to restrict the number of companies that can use data with third party consent.

These and other new ICO guidelines will help to improve email’s image. The good news for the advertiser is that email companies will need to be much more professional in their approach. For example, automatically removing inactive data, explicitly checking consumer consent and using targeting to improve retention rates. The good news for the consumer is that they will receive fewer, but better targeted campaigns.

The ICO guidelines have also stated that consent should be explicit and cannot be hidden in a privacy policy. This means that a consumer must tick a box at the time of submitting details to say they consent to first/third party emailing. There is still clarification on what is explicit, as there are mixed feeling as to whether ticking to say you read the privacy policy will suffice – the DMA are sourcing clarification on this.

With these new ICO guidelines, I would expect to see a reduction in the volume of third party consent data in 2014.  Advertisers who use companies to send campaigns will expect them to use more specialist email sending platforms that manage first party and third-party consumer consent. For example, providing auditable consent information, and using activity filters to remove old inactive data. These functions exist on our own broadcast platform and as a result we have seen an uplift in delivery by 30%, and average open rates of 15%. Companies may also introduce opt-in preference centres so that consumers can control the type of marketing message they receive, rather than removing their consent altogether. 

I believe in 2014 there will be greater focus, but on retention strategies, as brands face losing large legacy files. Likewise if you are looking to build an email database, real consideration will need to be given to sign-up incentives.

Mobile or desktop?

In the last couple of years, the use of smartphones and tablets has risen exponentially.  We now see more than 50% of our emails opened on a mobile device.  At the same time, it is common for emails to be opened on more than one device – both mobile and desktop.

In 2014, I believe we will realise email is device agnostic. Email creative will be designed for all devices using responsive designs that automatically configure to the device. We have already made that move and expect this to become the norm.

Channel integration

With data management platforms (DMP) becoming mainstream, the consumer information that marketers can utilise will offer improved relevancy to the consumer.  At the email level we can combine demographic data such as gender with click behaviour to identify relevant targets. 

In 2014, I believe we will start to see DMPs combine data from different channels to support multichannel campaigns. For example, retargeting is a major part of display advertising. However, there is no reason why we can’t target an email based on data from other channels. By breaking down the barriers between different online channels, the consumer will end up with a more targeted and relevant message which is echoed to them across channels.


In 2014 I believe we will see email start to feature in more media plans for branding and acquisition campaigns.  As Google and others start to feed advertising into the inbox stream, the old questions about spam will further dissipate. For email to feature in media plans the call for self-service buying, transparency in data sources, and results will become greater and new technological platforms will emerge.