Tricks, Not Treats: Scary Digital Trends


At Blue Engine, we’ve grown our team and expanded our capabilities to stay at the leading edge of the changing communications landscape – taking full advantage of innovations in public relations and digital communications on behalf of our clients. We often write and share growing trends in our industry, highlighting the newest and most exciting tech, tools and tricks. But in a twist timed for Halloween, here are a few “scary” digital trends that we hope soon disappear:

Bad Data – Bad Bots – Bad Strategy

In public relations, results are important – and sometimes hard to quantify. As we increasingly incorporate data wherever possible to showcase the results of an advertising campaign or PR effort, we’re looking at everything from engagement metrics to impressions to measure which messages are most compelling and effective. That information then guides us as we adjust our efforts. Therefore, it’s understandably frightening to find that the data once considered the benchmark for the measurement of performance may not really be what it appears.

One recent example: just last week, Twitter announced their metrics had been overstating user numbers for years. Concerns around bots on platforms like Twitter and Instagram continue to plague us as we seek to track the impact or reach of a news story, or measure authentic engagement with a campaign’s content.

The Takeaway: While quantitative data are a critical part of communicating in 2017, nothing can replace the human factor. A summary of quantitative data backed by qualitative insights can more accurately measure a campaign’s true performance and better inform what to do next.

Video Intrusions

Lately it seems almost impossible to scroll through any social media platform without coming across at least a handful of posts featuring video. Over time, brands have increasingly been incorporating more and more visual content to spur engagement – first with shareable graphic images, evolving into video, as production becomes even easier and cheaper to execute.

However, with this rise in video usage comes a rise in user annoyance. Recent polls showcase strong dislike for pre-roll video ads, and in order to cater to this growing sentiment, Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari have announced they will stop autoplay of videos. National Journal’s annual poll of Washington influencers found video was perceived as untrustworthy and inefficient due to the use of sound, automatic play and the time it takes to digest the information compared to reading an article. In fact, a growing percentage of respondents in this year’s survey reported less faith in or use of video compared to opinions in 2016. While engagement with video content may still be high, the startling concerns identified in the survey should give pause to communicators everywhere.

The Takeaway: Despite the concerns about autoplay, video is still one of the most engaging ways to inform an audience – particularly when you’re trying to communicate the intricacies of a certain viewpoint, policy or educate audiences on a new technology or product. When creating video, keep in mind how audiences interact with that product and consider the need for audiences to be able to access your information without sound, or absorb a message without video altogether. Using engaging subtitles, pairing visually interesting video content with graphics and well-written language can help tell a powerful story that doesn’t intrude on an audience or turn them off to a message or product.

Telling the Good Ads from the Bad

Digital ads can be a concise way to reach highly targeted audiences with messages, unencumbered by a media filter or opposing perspectives, but the rise of ad blockers, ad fraud and issues with placement (not to mention faulty reported metrics) raise concerns about the ability to reach the right people – or anyone at all. Digital advertising has also opened additional doors to inappropriate or false content.

The Takeaway: While there will always be people or groups who look to circumvent the rules and concerns about new tools, many platforms are taking steps to ensure ads are reaching the right people, cut down of fraud and stop placement with controversial or inappropriate content. Tools like the new Interactive Advertising Bureau’s ads.txt project will help advertisers and brands monitor and control what platforms can place their ads – an innovation in digital advertising we hope continues.