The next big thing for 2018: Senior industry figures give their predictions for next year

David Prior's picture
by David Prior

It's been another momentous year for our sector - but what of 2018?

We asked a variety of senior figures from across our industry to give their thoughts on what the next big thing in their sector will be.

A big thanks to all those who took the time to contribute.


"Insight and research will make a comeback"

Sue Little
CEO, McCann Manchester

In a year dominated by artificial intelligence, chatbots and augmented reality, it would be all too easy to opt for a technological innovation as a prediction for 2018.

However I’m putting my money on the industry going back to basics and us seeing substantial investment in insight and research to help us understand the increasingly complex journeys customers are making across every category.

The economic uncertainty being created by Brexit will amplify this focus as brands strive to get ahead. Insight and research might not be stealing the headlines at CES in Las Vegas in January, but it will be helping brands to bolster their bottom line in uncertain times.

"The automation revolution will continue"

James Doggart
CEO and Founder, Cloud Technology Solutions

I think 2018 will see even further advances in AI, Machine Learning and ultimately Automation. We're already seeing businesses make the move to Google Cloud Platform for exactly that reason and Google is investing heavily in this space.

This technology will ultimately be more revolutionary than any that has gone before it and will go on to affect more areas of the economy and jobs than any other industrial revolution. I suspect any visual task will be more automated throughout 2018 and we’ll see more medical diagnosis automation. 

2018 won’t be the year we see any dramatic economic change, but it will definitely have started.

"Internet of Things will keep transforming our lives"

Laura Harper

Partner and head of the law firm, Shoosmiths LLP’s IP and Creative Industries team

The continued and rapid growth in Internet of Things technologies will continue to be a major trend in 2018.

With increasing numbers of sensors and touchpoints in our homes and cities – from apps that allow us to remotely turn on our central heating to talking bus stops – this hyper-connectivity will generate incredible volumes of data with the potential to transform how we live and work, solve problems for business and promote productivity and growth.

Companies that are able to interpret and analyse this data to help other businesses become more efficient, and cities to deliver services more effectively will be the big winners.

"5G will have a transformational impact"

Tom Renn

Managing Director, Manchester Science Partnerships

I believe 2018 will be a big year across a number of areas. 5G technology is being tested and will have a transformational impact on how industry gathers and interprets data in real time.

The added speeds and capacity of 5G will further empower Internet of Things technologies - good news for Manchester which is already leading the way in IoT research through the CityVerve project.

2018 will also see continued growth and investment in the cyber-security, AI, VR and data analytics sectors, which we look forward to supporting within the new Tech Incubator at Circle Square in May.

"2018 will be the year Kubernetes puts you ahead in the cloud"

Daniel Keighron-Foster

Managing Director, Steamhaus

Maybe one more for the developer community but Kubernetes will be massive in 2018. Over the last year, this technology has firmly established itself as a key orchestration tool within cloud computing – being adopted by more than half of the Fortune 100.

With organisations now releasing and updating applications on an almost daily basis, establishing greater control has become vital. Companies now need to manage thousands of application containers which can be hosted over numerous cloud computing environments.

The community’s chosen solution is Kubernetes – a system based on Google’s Borg, which has a successful history of managing containers at scale for systems like Gmail.

"Voice activation will have a big impact on radio listening"

Jonathan Wall
Controller, BBC Radio 5 live

Voice activation will take off. Devices you can command by shouting instructions at them will start having a big impact on radio listening. People will demand the audio they want, from the latest news headlines to the radio station playing their favourite artist. Both the BBC, and commercial radio, are going to need to be proactive at getting their best material accessible via these devices because voice activation will start to become a trend among a sizeable number of people in 2018.

Also the podcast surge of the last 12 months will continue. 5 live launched a raft of pods in 2017 including Flintoff, Savage and the Ping Pong Guy, which is now a runaway success. In fact podcast listening will see a resurgence in under 35s listening to new forms of speech audio, driven by the desire to be entertained by great storytelling.

"The year we cut the shit"

Adam Rix
Creative Director, Music

2018 – the year we cut the shit.

Nutrition salvation. Alt packaging. Replenishment architecture. Activist dining. Beneficial biotech. Closed-loop agave. Post-fad wellness. Athleisure. Emerging youthquakes. Collective destiny. Convenience tech. Digital luxe. Brandlords. Crypto-luxury. Upward mobility. Local luxurians. Liberal leisure seekers. Immersive Interfaces. Mass tech migration. Modern heritage. Crunchy ideation.

Can we fucking hear ourselves?

A cartoon drawn by a chap called Hugh MacLeod (and stolen from Ben Terrett’s blog) reads ‘If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people they’d punch you in the face’. And if they’d punch the advertising, I fear deeply for what they’d do to the ‘Disruptors’, the ‘Heads of Innovation’ and the ‘Directors of Provocation’ behind it.

Some say jargon is used to control and maintain power. Some say its used only to make ourselves feel comfortable, not to communicate. However you look at it, language like this is used to divide ‘us’ (the agency) and ’them’ (the client).

I’ve always felt strongly that it takes a great agency / client relationship for a brilliant and effective piece of work to see the light of day. More and more, when we do our best work, the agency / client divide is invisible – and more and more we’re being seen as an extension of their marketing teams. Blah blah.

So let’s make 2018 the year that we cut the shit, and bring our clients closer, not push them further away.

Pete Davies
"The ‘film everything' mantra will continue"

Pete Davies
Managing Director, Sugar PR

2018 will see a deeper focus on strategic online reputation management. Clients will continue to place more trust in PR agencies to handle crisis issues that occur online.

The ‘film everything' mantra from marketing directors will continue to grow in popularity as demand soars for pushing out PR video content. More local newspapers will shut down their print operation and focus exclusively online.

Finally, we’ll see everyone who works in an agency buying BitCoin and boring everyone to death about how much money they’ve piled in. This time next year Rodders… we’ll all be millionaires.

"Next year we’ll see a different approach to work"

Louis Georgiou
Managing Director, Code Computerlove

From my perspective, the next big thing in the business world isn’t a ‘new’ piece of tech or marketing trend. What we’ll see is a different approach to work. 

For the last couple of years, the reality for most digital teams is that they are too focused on the day to day and leave the big tech innovation to someone else to see if it works first. This is why we’re seeing the same trends surface for 2018.

In 2018, businesses will finally understand and embrace agile/lean delivery practices and realise that optimisation and innovation need to be baked into their business-as-usual efforts. Embracing a culture of experimentation will mean they can explore trends in a way that is natural, valuable and validated, without the need for huge investment or organisational transformation.

"Purchase decisions will focus more on quality"

Dan Robb
Chief Marketing Officer,

We’re going to see some significant changes in 2018 relating to how customers are perceived and how they perceive themselves. We’ll see consumers taking centre stage as they start to think much more than just price.

At we’ve been developing a more agile approach to consumer behaviour; they are more powerful than ever with reviews, recommendations and social media at their fingertips.

We’ve seen customer expectations rise, especially with the growth of mobile services and this trend will continue into 2018.

Consumers are well informed, savvy and more discerning than ever before. Service quality is key, thus we believe we’ll see purchase decisions focus beyond just price into a quality driven decision.

For 2018, will be focussing on keeping customers front-of-mind in everything we do. This will include championing the consumer, removing friction from their journeys and ensuring we use our knowledge and insights to influence the industry to do better.

We believe that if we don’t, they’ll, quite rightly, go elsewhere. This approach will be supported by our investments into people, agile product development and collaboration between our teams and stakeholders.

1 in 5 humans on the whole planet bought on line last year

Martin Balaam
CEO, Pimberly

Product data is the issue of the day. 1 in 5 humans on the whole planet bought on line last year – from all corners of the globe. Increasingly, your products and services are being found, compared and purchased via the web and more specifically by mobile. So if you don’t have product data, then you don’t exist. If you don’t have great product data, you won’t even appear when shoppers are browsing let alone converting that browsing into a purchase. 

Ultimately, if your product data isn’t great the consumer will choose to buy through someone else. I think there will be a dash in the new year to get this aspect of ecommerce sorted, particularly as technologies such as AI increase in popularity and make the need to be found even more critical. 

"GDPR will force a rethink on how to talk to consumers"

Nicky Unsworth

Chief Executive, BJL Group

The rate of change is faster than ever and we are alll watching out for the “next big thing”. Personalisation enabled by use of data has been a mission for most brands in recent years: consumers expect brands to know and recognise them and woe betide any brand that delivers anything other than directly relevant information to its customers.

The need for human connection has never been more important. But now with GDPR on the horizon, it is going to be harder to deliver direct personalised messages to the broader group of consumers. Some businesses are ahead of things and ready for the change, but it is still forcing a renewed look at how to ensure access to consumers, how to talk to them, and what it means to personalise messaging and make it directly relevant to individuals and groups.

The upside is that when customers opt in, brands know their direct communications are more likely to hit the mark. But new techniques will need to be evolved to ensure stronger relationships are forged.

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