Digital Marketing Trends in 2024

Mac desktop screen with words 'Digital Marketing' displayed2024 will be the year of change. The Marketing and Consumption group at the University of Bristol Business School predicts a shift in the digital marketing landscape as new technologies become more widely available and sustainability continues to rise higher on the agenda. Here our Marketing academics and PhD researchers weight in on the imminent developments in the sector.

Ad Overload – Rethinking Gambling Advertising Regulations in the Digital Age

By Dr Raffaello Rossi, Lecturer in Marketing

In 2020, the UK government announced an overhaul of the Gambling Act to make the laws “fit for the digital age”.  Having spent a couple of years researching gambling ads on social media – I thought: “wow, this is exactly what we need” – not only because our own research had shown:

  • 1m UK gambling ads per year on Twitter only,
  • Two-thirds of all gambling accounts followers online are under 25,
  • Gambling ads on social media are highly appealing to children – but not to adults, and that
  • During one weekend, gambling ads on X (Twitter) reap an incredible 34 million views – putting social media marketing now at the heart of the industries marketing efforts.

However, my enthusiasm waned when the Gambling Act Review White Paper was unveiled in April 2023. Surprisingly, it lacked in actual interventions around (online) gambling marketing, and did not follow what most of our European neighbours have recently done. Whilst Belgium and Italy have recently almost entirely banned gambling marketing, Germany and Netherlands have intervened in several key areas – making Great Britain increasingly an outliner by allowing almost all forms of gambling marketing with minimal restrictions on online efforts.

Source: Rossi, R., Nairn, A., Ford, B., and Wheaton, J. (2023). Gambling Act review: how EU countries are tightening restrictions on ads and why the UK should too. The Conversation. UK.

The challenges of regulating online advertising

The core challenge lies in the fundamental differences between online and offline marketing, rendering our current regulatory framework, rooted in the offline world’s regulations from the 1960s, inadequate and unable to work efficiently.  Online marketing presents distinct features that require tailored regulations, and I’d like to highlight three crucial differences:

Firstly, the advent of “targeted ads” – enables incredible precise demographic targeting, surpassing traditional marketing capabilities. This enables brands, for example, to show ads only to males, age 18-25, that play football, and follow sports-related accounts online. This targeting far exceeds the possibilities of traditional marketing, and if not restricted, could enable gambling brands to focus their marketing communications on young and vulnerable audience – who, from a business point of view, is the most lucrative audience.

Secondly, the transient nature of online ads, such as “stories” or paid-for ads, poses a challenge to accountability.  Unlike TV commercials with a centralised database were ads are stored, there’s no mechanism to store and monitor online ads. Once they are gone (e.g. after 24h for stories, or after being deleted by the account) – they are gone!  So, how is this policed?  Currently, we are mainly relying on users to report potential breaches.  This means users need to act quickly when encountering a suspicious gambling ad, screenshot the ad, and finally, report it the Advertising Standards Authorities.  However, I don’t think many people do so.  But, what this means, is that the lack of policy in place to deal with this systemically, has created a “dark space” where advertising may go unchecked. In other words, I believe, that neither researchers, policy-makers nor enforcement officers at the ASA have a clue of what is actually happening out there, as we do not have the provisions to monitor it.

The final challenge stems from the unprecedented volume of online and social media advertising.  With 1 million unique UK gambling ads on Twitter alone, the sheer diversity of content makes policing and monitoring a daunting task. With AI coming into the mix – as Edoardo Tozzi has shown – this might make things even worse.  So far, gambling brands’ main costs in creating their 1m ads per year has been paying for their staff to design them.  Now, with AI being able to create ads within seconds, soon we might not see 1m ads per year, but 10-times or 100-times as much – there is virtually no limit.  And no policies in place that would protect us.

So, where are we going from here? 

Well, first of all, I believe we need to start accepting that online marketing is so fundamentally different, that our old laws and regulations don’t work. What should follow is the introduction of online specific marketing regulations.  However, I also believe that we need to start facing an uncomfortable truth: we need to start regulating the volume of (gambling) marketing, as opposed to solely focusing on the content.  Because even if the 100m AI-generated ads adhere to all regulations, do we really want to see our world plastered in gambling ads?


Navigating the complexities of social media and digital trends in the 2024 elections

By Adrianna Jezierska, Doctoral Student in Marketing

2024 is poised to break records in global elections, with countries like the United States, Mexico, Russia, India, South Africa and the European Union heading to the polls. Amidst the surge in voter participation, the impact of social media on political outcomes is a topic of intense debate. Previous research suggested that while social media may influence the content we consume, its effect on voting preferences is minimal. However, the social media and digital landscape has evolved ever since, with AI tools and algorithmic decision-making now mainstream. These digital trends will shape social media discourse, presenting a compelling case study for observing evolving patterns beyond elections.

Navigating new social media platforms

The social media terrain has become increasingly complex. Platforms like Facebook have waned in popularity, while others, like X (formerly Twitter), have faced user exodus post-Elon Musk’s involvement. Meanwhile, new players like Telegram, Substack, and TikTok are rapidly gaining traction, diversifying content formats and fragmenting the social media landscape. Navigating this fragmented terrain poses challenges for political actors seeking to engage with audiences, complicating assessments of social media’s societal impact amid data access restrictions.

The proliferation of echo chambers and polarisation concerns this diverse social media landscape. While users can connect with like-minded individuals, it also fosters divisive discourse, as seen in Poland’s recent parliamentary elections. Personal conflicts overshadowed substantive issues, exacerbating ideological divides and distracting voters from critical concerns like environmental protection.

New tools prime for misinformation and disinformation

Generative AI tools present another dimension to the social media landscape, facilitating the spread of misinformation and disinformation. Their ability to generate a wide variety of realistic-looking video and visual content across various digital mediums has the potential to supercharge disinformation. Take the example of deepfake videos impersonating Rishi Sunak in the run-up to the UK elections.

The critical question is how well social media users will be aware of such content. If AI-produced content can be precisely targeted towards individuals and is harder to identify, its effects on trust in both conventional and digital media platforms are significant. This prompt calls for enhanced digital literacy and content moderation efforts.

Some social media platforms, including YouTube and Facebook, now require their users to disclose if the content was digitally altered; with policymakers taking the first steps into national regulations, e.g., the EU AI Act, it remains a big task for institutions and policymakers to give a clear steer for the future legal and policy recommendations. Social and digital literacy programmes or content moderation need to be implemented urgently. This is not to say that we do not need meaningful legislation around AI, but usually, it is more complex and takes longer to implement. This remains an exciting area to watch as more governments, researchers, and civil society start to organise their knowledge and potential solutions.

Another question about AI-generated content is related to misinformation and disinformation. Academics, businesses, and governments have recently ranked them as the top threats to society. Disinformation and misinformation studies are on the rise; however, researchers from the field describe the current situation as ‘chilly’ with new technologies stirring the field even more. The true impact of these phenomena on elections may take years to assess comprehensively.

Can social media change our votes?

Research on the 2020 US presidential elections suggests that while social media shapes user experiences and engagement, it has limited influence on political beliefs or polarisation. However, the emergence of new algorithms could alter the political content landscape, potentially reducing societal polarisation by exposing users to diverse perspectives. Yet, attention constraints and information overload constrain such interventions’ efficacy.

It will be interesting to see the impact of new algorithms in changing the political content landscape. Traditionally, our social media feeds were based on networks based on our preferences and other people sharing content within our network. For example, in the same research on presidential elections in the US, the researchers found that 50.4% of content comes from politically like-minded sources, compared with 14.7% from cross-cutting sources. The remaining sources included Facebook Groups, Pages and friends. This is now changing, with companies such as TikTok altering the algorithmic decisions of their users. Hence, they see content from outside their networks, which might help reduce the polarisation of society. However, our attention is limited, and we can consume only so much content, which can limit our overall confidence in the information environment.

While social media’s influence on political views may be overstated, its role in shaping social discourse is undeniable. The convergence of new platforms, AI-generated content, and algorithmic changes makes an intriguing experiment in the intersection of technology and politics. Monitoring these dynamics will be crucial for understanding their impact on society as the political landscape evolves.



The Rise of AI in Content Marketing: A Boon or Bane?

By Edoardo Tozzi, Doctoral Student in Marketing

The world of digital marketing is constantly evolving, and artificial intelligence (AI) is playing an increasingly prominent role. From automating mundane tasks to creating personalized experiences, AI is transforming the way businesses reach and engage their customers. And content marketing, a crucial aspect of any successful digital strategy, is no exception.

AI is already being used to automate various aspects of content marketing, from keyword research and topic generation to content creation, editing, and optimization. This can free up marketers’ time to focus on more strategic tasks, such as building relationships with influencers and developing creative campaigns.

Another exciting area of AI application in content marketing is personalized content creation. AI can analyze vast amounts of data about customer behavior and preferences to deliver tailored content that resonates with each individual user. This personalized approach can and will significantly enhance user engagement and drive business results.

However, the use of AI in content marketing also raises concerns about authenticity and ethics. Will AI-generated content lack the human touch and emotional connection that resonates with audiences? And how should businesses ensure that AI-generated content is ethical, unbiased, and free from bias?

Harnessing AI’s Potential While Preserving Authenticity

The key to harnessing AI’s potential without compromising authenticity lies in striking a balance between automation and human creativity. AI can handle the repetitive tasks of content creation and optimization, while marketers focus on the human element: developing creative ideas, crafting compelling narratives, and building emotional connections with their audience.

By incorporating AI into their content marketing strategies, businesses can achieve several benefits:

  • Increased productivity: Automation can streamline content creation and distribution, allowing marketers to focus on more strategic initiatives.
  • Personalized experiences: AI can tailor content to each individual user, enhancing engagement and fostering customer loyalty.
  • Improved ROI: Data-driven insights from AI can optimize content for better search engine visibility and targeted marketing campaigns.
  • Enhanced creativity: AI can assist in brainstorming ideas, generating content outlines, and identifying relevant trends.

Ethical Considerations and Transparency

To ensure the ethical use of AI in content marketing, businesses should adopt clear guidelines and transparency practices:

  • Acknowledge AI involvement: Clearly indicate when AI has been used to create or optimize content.
  • Respect copyright and attribution: Ensure that AI-generated content is original and appropriately attributed to the creator.
  • Avoid bias and discrimination: Train AI models on diverse datasets to prevent the perpetuation of bias or discrimination.
  • Embrace human oversight: Maintain human oversight and review of AI-generated content to ensure quality and ethics.

Conclusion: A Bright Future with AI-Augmented Content Marketing

In my view, the true essence of AI’s power lies in democratization: individuals with limited resources can now craft valuable content, as exemplified by the article you’ve just read which – up to this point – was entirely written by AI. The horizon is even more promising with cutting-edge tools like Dall-E and Midjourney, capable of producing what many would deem artistic masterpieces. Yet, a significant hurdle in this democratization journey is the apprehension surrounding human relevance. It’s crucial to acknowledge that AI algorithms, for now at least, are authored by humans, inevitably inheriting our biases and anxieties. Hence, even this AI-penned article underscores the indispensable role of humans in crafting marketing strategies. Certainly, meticulous oversight is currently paramount, akin to a team manager supervising their subordinates. However, one wonders: Who’s supervising the supervisors?


Disrupting online fashion shopping with SUST, a digital device based on interpretive consumer research

By Dr Fiona Spotswood, Associate Professor in Marketing and Consumption

The environmental and social costs of the fashion industry are widely acknowledged to include significant ecological and human suffering. There remains limited broadscale cultural support for sustainable alternatives to buying new and cheap fashion products. Researchers have concluded that we live in a “see-now-buy-now society” in which achieving change to the ingrained patterns of overconsumption is particularly challenging. 30% of fashion is bought online, where sustainability is seen to be in conflict with expectations of wide choice, low price and fast cycles. Fashion is exciting, drawing consumers in to repeat patterns of desiring and buying.

An interdisciplinary research project by consumer researchers in the Marketing and Consumption group (Fiona Spotswood and Caroline Moraes), and computer scientists (Chris Preist), with industry partner Matter II Media (Tim Kindberg) has explored the possibilities of disrupting the embedded, persistent ways that online fashion shopping is done. This research, exploring the experiences of sustainably-oriented online shoppers, has underpinned the development of a digital intervention; Sust (available from

The analysis identified that online fashion purchasing is extremely challenging to do in a sustainable way, even for the most interested and reflective consumers. Those with the deepest commitment to sustainability are pushed offline. Consumers who attempt to shop sustainably accrue knowledge of sustainable fashion – both the products and industry practices and processes. As they do, they find it increasingly difficult to enjoy online fashion. They can’t help reflecting. They miss the excitement and pleasure they formerly gained from shopping, particularly the ‘newness’ of buying clothes regularly.

Sustainably oriented consumers attempt to adapt their shopping and make different choices. They apply rules, such as ‘I only buying clothes made from natural fibres’, or ‘I only buying quality items that will last’. They scroll on second hand sites and reduce the number of brands they find acceptable. Yet, despite adaptation efforts, sustainable online fashion shopping feels difficult and frustrating. The process is laborious, and many participants described feeling ‘overwhelmed’ or ‘overloaded’.

Consumers with the deepest commitment to sustainability and the highest levels of reflexivity and scepticism move offline. Moving offline, consumers shop in vintage and charity shops. They also make their own clothes and seek out original designers with sustainable production processes.

From these underpinnings, Tim Kindberg developed an intervention in the form of a digital device to disrupt and shape online sustainable fashion practices. Sust is an integrated web browser extension that works with many mainstream fashion websites. The extension annotates products with sustainability-related information and links to actions that promote more sustainable choices. Sust provides information and alternatives such as second hand products and rental and repair services directly at the point of scroll, without requiring the user to consult separate sources of information. The extension decorates each such product with a “Sust button”, which is colour-coded according to brand ratings

On the logo in the top right hand corner of this image, the upper-right colour reflects the brand rating according to Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index; the lower left colour signifies the Clean

Clicking on the button produces a pop-up with direct links both to pre-owned alternatives and to pages on the website where the user can find new alternatives. The links to second-hand and rental alternatives incorporate keywords from the product description, to help narrow-down the search. The pop-up also includes the brand’s social media links so that the user may easily message the brand with questions or concerns.

Through the alternatives supplied next to products, SUST enables committed consumers to expand fashion brand constellations, to shop more sustainably and support challenger brands. Currently the extension operates on c. 50 websites. Most are mainstream, such as ASOS, H&M and Zara. Although someone committed to sustainability is unlikely to shop there, they might want to scroll there. Sust keeps them only a click or two away from potentially more sustainable alternatives. Not only do sustainably-minded consumers benefit from increased choice, they can also recommend to others who are less sustainably-minded that they should give the extension a try.

Screenshot of SUST on the H&M Fashion website

Through Sust, and our ongoing collaborative, interdisciplinary research, we hope to continue exploring ways that consumers can work with brands to drive social change. We hope to see broadscale change in the way online fashion shopping is done.


Consumer wellbeing in digital age

By Dr Rushana Khusainova, Senior Lecturer in Marketing

In 2024 brands will find themselves more than ever moving away from reactive approach to consumer wellbeing towards a more proactive strategy. This year, it will mean supporting consumers on their journey of reclaiming their attention and focus.

Companies will need to start working on innovative digital marketing strategies and solutions to adapt to this new trend.

Minimalist mobile phones

‘Dumbphones’ are seeing their return, as customers are attempting to take back control over their lives and attention spans. The side effects of smartphone overuse, such as addiction, attention problems and sleep disruption, are well documented. As a result, 2024 may see a slow but steady increase in purchases of minimalist mobile phones. Although, such aspects of digital marketing as mobile-friendly user interface and social media will remain of crucial importance, the return of a simple flip phone, may switch the focus of digital marketing strategies to put more emphasis on email marketing.

Paid-for social media subscriptions to remove ads

X (formerly Twitter) launches X Premium, the platform’s paid subscription which may signal that it is time for other social media networks to introduce paid ad-free memberships. Consumers are increasingly aware of problems associated social media algorithms, namely surveillance capitalism and commodification of lifestyle and consumer behaviour. Social media have long been criticized for over-personalisation and even polarisation of their algorithms. In addition to that, consumers are getting less patient with noisy online spaces. As such, increasingly consumers may opt in to pay for social media platforms. Marketers will need to be flexible and creative in their approach and start working on innovative ways of targeting consumers in these new realities.


In 2024, brands are adopting proactive strategies, responding to a shift in consumer focus towards well-being. The rise of minimalist mobile phones and the introduction of advertising-free social media subscriptions signal changing consumer preferences. It seems like marketers have to adapt with flexibility and creativity to navigate this evolving landscape. It is going to be fascinating to see what brands will come up with.


Metaverse: trends and applications in the business sector

By Dr Davit Marikyan, Lecturer in Marketing

We live in the era of Metaverse – an immersive virtual environment merging physical reality with digital virtual reality that was made possible by utilising virtual, augmented and extended reality technology, and blockchain. The Metaverse is not a new concept. It was coined in 1992 and became popular in the early 2000s with the introduction of the Second Life environment – an online multi-user platform for virtual interactions. The popularity was short-lived as the potential implications did not translate into wide business applications. Following the rebranding of Facebook into Meta, the interest in the Metaverse was reignited by the competition among technology companies seeking to monetise people’s attention and capture the market. Given the history of the Metaverse, many still associate it primarily with gaming, such as Fortnite. However, its recent widespread popularity has prompted organisations to explore and embrace the Metaverse, attempting to integrate it into their current business models. The adoption of the Metaverse can have a significant impact on organisations in different aspects and sectors, offering new possibilities while also raising concerns. Some of such applications are in the realms of organisation management, healthcare, education, marketing, supply chain management and tourism.

Organisation management

For instance, in a work context, the Metaverse can provide virtual office spaces where employees can meet and conduct their day-to-day tasks and meetings. Such meetings in the Metaverse can be more immersive, making business-related interactions with colleagues and clients more accessible and interactive. However, concerns may arise about the ethical use of Metaverse platforms, potential privacy and security issues, and the long-term impact of the technology on individuals’ wellbeing. For instance, the long-term effects of the Metaverse on employees and organisational performance have not been proven yet. While being initially interactive, employees might develop Metaverse-related fatigue and prefer actual meetings in physical spaces. Additionally, individuals with less technical expertise might feel excluded from the Metaverse experience.


In healthcare, the facilitating metaverse technologies—namely, the Internet of Things (IoT), implantable devices, wearables, and monitoring equipment— can enable virtual medical practices and monitoring, thus propelling the advancement of telemedicine and telehealthcare services. Apart from virtual consultations, the Metaverse can transform medical education and training, whereby AR technology can offer an ideal setting for demonstrating practical procedures. Moreover, immersive technologies are pivotal in popularising virtual workouts and interactive fitness services with gamified elements. Consequently, remote accessibility to healthcare services not only economises time and expenses but also optimises spatial utilisation. The most significant impact of the Metaverse will likely be seen in how the virtual environment enables intricate surgical and therapeutic planning. Through virtual practice, the trial-and-error approach can be iterated for procedure rehearsals. This aligns with existing surgical systems, permitting surgeons to operate remotely using high-speed internet. However, there are also sceptical opinions about the implications for the healthcare sector. For instance, given the surge in telemedicine and virtual consultations, it is uncertain whether the quality of care delivered within the Metaverse aligns with the standards set for in-person medical treatment. Moreover, the stringent regulatory framework governing health data raises questions about how these regulations are applicable in virtual settings.


In the realm of education, the simulation of the face-to-face learning experience using the Metaverse could be seen as a natural progression from the widely acknowledged concept of remote learning, which gained prominence in educational institutions during various lockdowns. The establishment of virtual classrooms equipped with digital twins can contribute to the creation of a more engaging learning environment, which mimics the physical world and overcomes spatial boundaries. The difficulty, however, lies in effectively designing comprehensive virtual learning methods that align with course requirements, achieve learning goals, and uphold students’ expectations. Additionally, the ease of use and inclusivity of virtual educational environments for all students and educators becomes a topic of concern.


The Metaverse also presents a tool for unveiling novel market opportunities, particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized enterprises constrained by limited budgets. It makes it possible for businesses to effectively promote their products and services to a broader and more diverse audience. Brands can benefit from better interaction with potential consumers, product visibility and brand positioning. For instance, research has shown that incorporating the Metaverse enhances brand image. It also fosters the development of purchase intent, ultimately resulting in a heightened intention to engage with brands. As appealing as it may seem, harnessing advanced digital resources for enhanced marketing can be a challenge for companies in the non-technology sector due to their limited awareness of technology functionality and use cases.

Supply chain management

The potential of the Metaverse has also undergone rigorous examination within the supply chain sector. Although the practical applications of the Metaverse in supply chain operations remain limited, it is expected that the technology will have a transformative impact on manufacturing, procurement, transportation, and warehouse management. By employing Metaverse platforms, organisations can simulate manufacturing processes to discern avenues for enhanced efficiency and reduced waste. The Metaverse can bolster efficiency and transparency in operations, thereby augmenting stakeholder trust. It offers the capacity to simulate futuristic transportation methods involving robots and drones. Moreover, Metaverse simulations of warehouses could optimise available space.


Utilising the Metaverse can represent a pivotal step in extending the horizons of tourism and hospitality. Empirical evidence supports the notion that Generation Z will exhibit interest in exploring various cultural heritage sites through metaverse platforms. Furthermore, in light of the adverse implications of frequent travel, including contributions to global warming and climate change, emerging technologies and platforms can facilitate individuals’ engagement in virtual tourism. This encompasses activities such as embarking on virtual flights, immersing themselves in new cultures, and even partaking in simulated skydiving experiences.

Is the Metaverse a hype or the future for organisations?

It is debatable whether the Metaverse is merely hype or an inevitable stage in technological evolution and the likely path forward for businesses to transform and consumers to have better use experiences. Unwavered by uncertainties brought about by this new technology, firms seem to put a lot of faith in the Metaverse. For example, a recent survey of companies demonstrated that many organisations view it as the future and the new way of doing business. However, the willingness of firms hinges upon the beliefs in the actual capability of the Metaverse to create a competitive advantage. The expectation of a competitive advantage is defined by organisational factors, namely, culture, structure, human capital, organisational capabilities and organisations’ willingness to change.

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