François Nicolon, Kantar Media CMO EMEA "It is in many aspects a kind of schizophrenic 'less and more' at the same time."

In the past five years social media has changed our societies and industries. New fields have emerged and gained impact on our daily lives in work and leisure. How things have changed, which surprises occured and why current developments in China are pioneering, we discussed with François Nicolon, CMO EMEA at Kantar Media.

François Nicolon, Kantar Media CMO EMEA

François Nicolon, Kantar Media CMO EMEA Social Media is not only changing businesses, it is in a constant change itself all the time. You carried out the Social Media Trends for five years now. Can you sum up the most relevant developments during that time?

François Nicolon: Social media usages are changing the media environment, the way we socialize, the way we decide a purchase, the communications strategies from brands, etc… We observed all this fields and many others going into massive changes in the last 5 years. What we could see as the hard trend is that:
a) Most social platforms are now part of the big tech giant leagues, they are much more than just social platforms and get involved in other tech businesses;
b) On this basis and following massive AI-based investments, they are developing in many areas but showing a kind of convergence: Amazon has launched a social network while Facebook has launched a smart speaker device and Instagram is building a standalone app for shopping that could be called IG Shopping.
c) Meaning that it sounds like all are aiming to build the kind of "social interaction to e-commerce" seamless funnel, like it has been the case in China from the beginning. In your report in 2019 you are talking about "many surprises" and "contradictory developments". What did surprise you?

François Nicolon: The current incredible success of the stories, becoming a standard format – although the story feature was launched by Snapchat in 2013. Actually stories as a format are going through a phenomenal boost after adaptation on Facebook channels (Instagram, Whatsapp, Facebook), and current adoption on almost all social major platforms (YouTube, LinkedIn). Instagram has announced to reach 500 million daily users of its Stories features for last January. In my view it highlights how creativity is successfully staged in mixed formats for social interactions by the users. Brands should get inspired by this creativity and I am sure we’ll see great communication initiatives from them using stories in 2019. And what developments did you find contradictory?

François Nicolon: It is in many aspects a kind of schizophrenic “less and more” at the same time:
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning are making stunning progresses again, but we can see also tests or even concrete moves for some kind of a partial ‘de-algorithmization’ of social networks (YouTube Kids less algorithmized, Twitter’s option for time rank - hiding the algorithmic feed).
- When control checks are increased (through ID, gamification, engagement bait, to keep users captive on the platforms), all are advocating the power of trust in the now famous claim "no trust no business".
- Influencer marketing is getting professionalized and paid brand endorsement is fast developing, we even develop virtual influencers; but this does not prevent the industry from seeking more authenticity, transparency and credibility. In your press release you also mention the pioneering role of China. Can you name the current developments in China, the rest of the world can learn and profit from?

François Nicolon: On Chinese social networks, it is a seamless continuity that leads the users from the social interactions to the purchase and its payment, with the “smart wallet” being part of the social platforms – and we are nearly there on the Western social networks, years after. And it goes even beyond now in China, where social platforms are used as interconnectors between the different successive brand experiences, whether they are online or offline experiences: physical shops, online ads, offline events, e-commerce, key opinion leaders, etc. In this model, social platforms allow to connect all these in one single all-channels centripetal brand experience (diagram below sourced from Kantar Media CIC in Shanghai).

Industry needs to get back to good practices in influencer marketing, in order to protect the credibility from both sides, brands and influencers. © EMEA Kantar Media
Industry needs to get back to good practices in influencer marketing, in order to protect the credibility from both sides, brands and influencers. © EMEA Kantar Media Influencer Marketing is one of the buzzwords in Social Media and Content Marketing today. How do you think this trend will evolve in the next years?

François Nicolon: Influencer marketing will continue to develop and grow through the all range of influencer types: from top celebrity ambassadors to micro- or even nano-influencers.
But the industry needs to get back to good practices in influencer marketing, in order to protect the credibility from both sides, brands and influencers. Hopefully influencers are moving to more transparency about their agreements with brands; while more and more brand-owner marketing teams are proposing influencers their charts for good practices. Thank you for your answers, Mr. Nicolon.

About François Nicolon

With more than 20 years of experience in the global media industry, François previously led international senior roles at AFP news wire and media giant RTL Group. Now CMO at Kantar Media, he oversees the strategic positioning, communications and go-to-market plans for the EMEA region. He is in charge of deploying the renewed Kantar Media offer in the different markets, integrating online and offline media data, analysis and insights, for media reputation management, audience segmentations, advertising monitoring and all-device media measurement.


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