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Corporate communications trends for 2015: the monetization of attention

Olga Kazaka
Dr.sc.comm., A.W.Olsen & Partners/Scholz & Friends Riga Partner, lecturer at the University of Latvia

In December, I always think about the keyword I would use to describe the scope of communication last year. The year 2015, I would describe as “virtual celebrity”.

In autumn, we conducted a small study where we tried to investigate the most popular Latvians among social networks users. The results were very curious, as revealed a new generation of celebrities. These young people are gaining immense popularity due to their online activity. For example, they have interesting Instagram accounts, which several tens or even hundreds of thousands of loyal users are closely monitoring every day. In Attention economy, in which we live, such a situation logically leads to monetization of attention. Virtual celebrities begin to receive gifts and promotional contract by brands that wish to draw the attention of the loyal audience.

Under the influence of this trend, corporate communication gets new shades. The notion of product placement is not new. We have become accustomed to it, not only in Hollywood, but also in the local films. Now we see it in a more intimate setting, in the home of real people who are nice to us, to whom we trust, with whom may associate ourselves.

This gives rise to new forms of communication. One of them is Celebrity box, which allows a virtual celebrity to try the product and share one’s experience. Another form is when the virtual celebrity is invited to the event together with journalists and other guests. They have also become part of the advertising and PR campaigns, denouncing the brand promise in understandable language to their target audience. Thus, the Ministry of Finance of Latvia this year to attract young people’s attention to the payment of taxes has attracted popular rappers who wrote the song #nomaksāt (#pay). The target audience enjoyed listening to the song, published it on social networks, and were singing the refrain that taxes must be paid.

 

Under the influence of these processes, celebrities familiar with tabloid also have to raise their popularity in the online environment. This year I have noticed a trend that some of them because of the limited capacity of the number of “friends” on Facebook have created their social network pages, and began actively and purposefully to communicate on Instagram. In 2016, let us see if Periscope which in the beginning became quite popular among virtual celebrities, will be accustomed. Although, it seems, some of them have realized that an interesting video broadcast genre is more complicated than one beautiful photo with a nice little text a day.

Does it reduce the effectiveness of any new trend of other more classical forms of corporate communication? Hardly. Each form of communication meets the objectives, audience and context. I see here expansion of the arsenal available to us, not the replacement of one element by another.