RAVES Advertising: How to Start Leveraging the Future Today

by Catharine Findiesen Hays and Jerry Wind

What could/should advertising look like in 2020?   We posed this question to thought leaders, visionaries and innovators around the world starting in the spring of 2012. Since then, over 200 forward thinkers have weighed in, creating a mosaic of diverse perspectives, from cultural anthropologists, to creatives to cutting edge neuroscientists. Mostly essays of 1000 words or less, along with a few more creative expressions, each entry can be found on the Advertising 2020 Project home page. The project will result in a book to be published in January 2016, a Coursera Course in Fall 2016, and an interactive app soon thereafter.

Highlights of findings from the project will be featured in a series of blogs intended to give a snapshot of what the future of advertising could/should be…and what it WILL be if we collectively take steps now to make this desirable future happen.


By 2020, “advertising,” broadly defined as communications delivered through all touch points and every interaction a brand has with people including customers and other stakeholders, could and should be relevant and respectful, actionable, valuable, and provide an exceptional experience and a surprising story. It could and should be RAVES.

Relevant and Respectful: In the digital age, these are two sides of the same coin. Heads you win: on one side of the coin, the speed and breadth of digitization and mobilization enables communications between brands and their audiences to be tailored in a myriad of fine-tunes. This can be locational and temporal as well as aspirational: where we are, where we’ve been and where we are heading; different messages when I am in my work mode during the day or my mom mode in the evening. By 2020, the notion of “responsive” will be a given – the appearance of messages will be optimized according to the device. And beyond emotion, mood will be able to be taken into consideration – just as it is (or should be) between people: “Is this a good time to talk to you about…?”

On the tails side, this notion of consideration is at the core of the Respect that could/should characterize advertising in 2020. Just as messages can be tailored in all the relevant ways described above, and more, all this risks coming across as “creepy” the technical term for crossing the line without full disclosure. Imagine all of the advertising now that doesn’t feel respectful. We don’t stand for that in interpersonal relations, why should we in communications with brands and the companies behind them? What if advertising actually raised the bar for what is respectful and authentic and honest? Given the $500 billion global spend, the potential for positive impact is huge. Inspired Advertising 2020 contributors envision a future where advertisers are known for their ethical considerations and accommodations for their audiences and reap long-term benefits as a result.

What isn’t respectful? Think of the “In’s”: intrusive, inconvenient, insulting, invasive, inappropriate, inconsiderate, incomplete, indiscriminate, insensitive.

Actionable: All advertising in 2020 should be two-way, giving audiences the option to immediately and easily take action. Social media offers reverberating options to tweet, like, post, comment, share, pan, react and more. Innovative payment options collapse the “purchase journey” to one click. Learn more, opt-in, opt-out, try on, borrow, watch, explore, request, save, later, tag, rate, respond, recommend, remind, schedule, co-create…

Valuable: Advertising in 2020 is seen as creating value in the eyes of its audience while driving long and short-term value for the advertiser thereby creating a positive impact on culture and society. Cognitive value appeals to our brains: this solves my problems, is good for me financially, makes sense to my life and what I am trying to accomplish. Yet, more and more is known about the heart as ruler: we make emotional choices and then follow them up with cognitive rationales. We respond to advertising that will make my life better, give me a sense of identity and self-worth and have a positive psychological impact on my sense of well-being.

These two aspects of value suggest that the worlds of logic and equations must be married with all the senses and muses from music to scents, visuals to touch, virtual to reality.

Finally, value should be co-created, rather than zero-sum. In his book, Doing Both, Inder Sidhu provides years of evidence to demonstrate that challenging managers to make decisions that achieve more than one positive objective results in outcomes that are significantly better than those that assume that trade-offs and win-lose options are required. Advertising of the future seeks ways to create value for the audience while creating value for the brand.

Exceptional Experience. In 2020, people will not make distinctions between the touch points they have with a brand. All will be expected to be excellent. And an exceptional experience with one brand becomes the de-facto standard for all experiences. Most compelling about the exceptional experience is the win-win. The Forrester Customer Experience study, conducted since 2007, measures the effect of 3 criteria that impact the bottom line of the company/organization:

  • How effective were they are meeting your needs?
  • How easy were they to do business with?
  • How enjoyable were they to do business with?

A portfolio of the top 10 performing companies had 8% higher word- of-mouth recommendations, 38% lower churn and 54% higher additional purchases for a total annual impact of $4.7b than a portfolio of the bottom 10 performing firms. For the 6-year period from 2007 to 2012, the Customer Experience Leaders in the companion Watermark study outperformed the broader market, generating a total return that was three times higher on average than the S&P 500 Index.[1] Creating exceptional experience should be the goal of advertisers in 2020.

Surprising Story. Wow! No way! Really? Look! With an overload of communications in 2020 and so many vying for our attention, the element of surprise, essential to the human spirit, should be the standard for advertising by 2020. It is appropriate that this finding comes last, else shock value would reign. But taken with all the other RAVES element, this one is meant to overcome the indifference that most people have toward the messages of brands.

Yet surprise falls flat if not connected to a story that can withstand the scrutiny of the empowered consumer. Is the story manufactured or is it based on something that employees would tell and tell with pride? Does the story connect with what is important to an audience, as well as with each member of the board of directors?

If the advertising bar of the future is set to find a way to achieve all the elements that have come before AND deliver an element of surprise as part of an authentic story communicated through every touch point, then brands will embrace the lesson that journalists and storytellers have understood for the last 30,000 years. (Stay tuned for our forthcoming blog: “Forget the media mix—Conduct all touch point orchestration.”)

Imagining “advertising” in 2020 affords us the opportunity to set a standard for today in hopes of achieving all that it could and should be by 2020…if not before. What would the world look like if this were achieved? How would people feel about brands and advertising? What financial and social benefits would be afforded employees and shareholders? How could “advertising” be redefined? What if advertisers were named person of the year by Time Magazine for these transformations?

[1] “Customer Experience Affects Your Bottom Line.” Forrester. Forrester Research Inc. 2013

Discussing the “Domain Name Land Rush” With Knowledge@Wharton

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which administers the internet’s address system, is planning an expansion of generic top-level domain names. This potentially allows for domain name address tags such as “.pizza” or “.cars” and has triggered an increase in the number of applications for top-level domain name registrations–1,930 in an initial round, far more than an expected “few hundred” applications, according to James Cole, an ICANN spokesperson .

WFoA Executive Director Catharine Hays is quoted in this Knowledge@Wharton article about the increase in applications, noting that it offers brands an excellent opportunity to “take back control of [their] top level domain.”

Read more about the potential expansion of internet domain names in the full article, found at this link.

Storytelling in the Digital Age on “Marketing Matters” May 14, Sirius XM 111

Aired May 14, 2014

The latest broadcast of “Marketing Matters” explored Storytelling in the Digital Age of Advertising. Kirk Cheyfitz, award-winning journalist and CEO & Chief Storyteller of Story Worldwide, a “post advertising agency,” joined Catharine Hays and Jerry Wind to talk about whether the principles of storytelling have to change to be relevant in the digital age of advertising.

“We have to separate what changes every ten minutes in our world–mainly technology–from the things that haven’t changed in 30,000 years–the human psyche,” said Cheyfitz. Although we are in an era of instant distribution and interactive communication, Cheyfitz argued that the core principles of storytelling have not changed–what matters most is still providing “something meaningful and engaging” to audiences. “The main difference is that today, the only messages people will pay attention to are those that they’re interested in.”

The next two guests, Amy Noah, VP of Development at Purdue University, and Charles Coxe, VP of Narrative at Story Woldwide, spoke about “A Day of Giving” at Purdue University and how they energized the normally staid activity of philanthropic giving with those same principles–reaching people with messages that they’d be interested in.

The emotionally engaging theme of “Opportunity Granted” formed the story platform for customized videos and messages involving students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Over a 24-hour giving period, Purdue used streaming videos, hourly competitions, personalized messaging, and social media contests to incite fun, friendly competition. The result was a huge increase in the number of donations to the school and an activated and united campus.

In the third segment of the show, Andy Dahlen, VP of Sales and Marketing for Beech-Nut, discussed Beech-Nut’s recent successful transformation and the development of their new product line, “Real Food for Babies.” Facing a decline in baby food purchases across the category, Beech-Nut reached out to parents to discover why their needs weren’t being met. They learned that today’s parents want to feed their babies minimally processed whole foods that they themselves would eat. Beech-Nut then asked themselves a question that had never been asked in their 80-year history: “Without any constraints, what would the best possible baby food product be?” They then worked to achieve the “home-made” gold standard.

Working with as much transparency and authenticity as possible, Beech-Nut developed trusting relationships with consumers who felt that their concerns and desires were being addressed. This compelled consumers to spread the word about the new product line–a form of story sharing.

Take-aways from the program include the importance of: reaching audiences with meaningful stories, harnessing the power of customization and competition, and developing relationships with people to discover their real needs and aspirations. Moreover, stories don’t have to be verbal–they can be told visually, with experiences, and by integrating all relevant touch points to add up to a holistic, consistent, and lasting story sharing.

The Wharton Future of Advertising Program will air programs monthly on Marketing Matters, a weekly call-in show airing on Wednesdays from 5pm to 7pm on Sirius XM Channel 111, Business Radio powered by Wharton. The next edition of Marketing Matters featuring WFoA will be broadcast live from the Cannes Lions Creativity Festival, and will air on Wednesday, June 18th from 5pm to 7pm. Programs will be rebroadcast throughout the month. Full channel information available here: http://businessradio.wharton.upenn.edu/

Alexa de los Reyes, WFoA Associate Director

Cannes Lions Workshop on “How to Ignite Creativity in Your Entire Organization”

Professor Wind will lead this “how to” workshop on June 17, 2014 as part of the Cannes Lions Creativity Festival.

Consumers and clients today expect a seamless experience through all touch points, and even the most creative advertising will not be able to deliver the desired objectives if the rest of the organization and its supporting network are not aligned. Success in today’s rapidly evolving business environment requires that every function in the organization must challenge the conventional way of doing things, not just the “creatives.” This session will provide guidelines for how to challenge our mental models of creativity and ignite the creativity of ALL functions and individuals in the organization, turning them into change agents.

With small group assignments we will identify and challenge the most stubborn and persistent mental models of creativity. We will design experiments that will overcome our aversion to risk by delivering understanding about what works and what doesn’t. And we will practice applying the WFoA RAVES standard of effective advertising through all touch points. By the end of the session participants will have a set of tools for taking on risks and reimagining what’s possible.

The workshop will take place twice on June 17, from 11am to 12pm and from 3:30pm to 4:30pm. Both sessions will be held in the Workshop Room.

WFoA and GenHERation Announce Challenge Winner, Award Scholarship In High School Pilot Program

The GenHERation pilot program, in Collaboration with WFoA, recently selected Buffalo, NY high school student Jane Gold as the winner of the Wharton Future of Advertising Challenge.

The Challenge called upon students to create an advertising campaign to raise awareness about an important community issue. Gold’s campaign, entitled Kindness, Interracial, and Diversity (K.I.D.) is a project to promote random acts of kindness across all races and ethnic backgrounds through social media and participant outreach, ultimately promoting diversity in communities. The K.I.D. campaign began on April 28 and will engage GenHERation members in more than 10 schools.

Lauren Budzich, also a high school student from Buffalo, was awarded the Wharton Future of Advertising Program $250 Scholarship for an essay she wrote about the role advertisers play in girls’ leadership development.

GenHERation is a female empowerment startup for millennial girls founded by Katlyn Grasso, a junior at the Wharton School. GenHERation provides girls the opportunity to work with national corporations and nonprofit organizations to implement their own advocacy campaigns to address community issues. Currently, GenHERation is running a pilot program with more than 200 girls in the Northeast. For more information about GenHERation visit http://www.genheration.com.

Storytelling in the Digital Age on May 14 Edition of “Marketing Matters” on Sirius XM Channel 111

sirius-wharton1

Read a blog post about the broadcast here.

“We’re living in an opt-in culture… The only way to get positive attention in this environment is by creating great media.” So goes the mission statement of New York-based “Post Advertising Agency” Story Worldwide.  But what makes great media? What qualities in a brand make for great media content? On the May 14 Edition of Marketing Matters, hosts Jerry Wind and Catharine Hays discuss this approach to advertising with Story CEO Kirk Cheyfitz and VP of Narrative Charles Coxe.

Also joining the program will be guests Amy Noah, VP of Development for Purdue University, and Andy Dahlen, VP of Marketing for Beech-Nut, both of whom have developed campaigns with Story, to discuss how a “storytelling’ approach to marketing plays out in practice.

The Wharton Future of Advertising Program airs programs monthly on Marketing Matters, a weekly call-in show airing on Wednesdays from 5pm to 7pm on Sirius XM Channel 111, Business Radio powered by Wharton. Programs will be rebroadcast throughout the month. Full channel information available here: http://businessradio.wharton.upenn.edu/.

Wharton Students Gather to Discuss “Should Advertising Have a Social Conscience?”

muselogo-300x89“Should Advertising Have a Conscience?” WFoA Executive Director Catharine Findiesen Hays recently asked this question of a  gathering of UPenn students, in an event organized by undergraduate marketing club MUSE.

In the April 24 talk, Hays proposed that marketing exists on a spectrum of social consciousness, ranging from companies like Warby Parker or Toms, in which positive social impact is a key component of their business model and is complemented by their marketing, to companies like GoDaddy, whose advertising can be seen as an empty, base provocation.

Hays also discussed the increased power of the consumer in the digital age: “With the advent of social media, if [consumers] don’t think you’re doing a good job, they can and will call you out on it.”

Read more about the event in this story from the Daily Pennsylvanian.

“Marketing Matters” Discusses Overcoming Indifference on April 30th Edition

Aired April 30, 2014

Brand Advisor Tom Morton, winner of a Gold Effie for Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World campaign, joined Jerry Wind and Catharine Hays in the latest edition of Marketing Matters to discuss methods of overcoming consumer indifference. To Morton’s eyes, brands should not be attempting to convince consumers to devote themselves wholeheartedly to a product or brand; rather, brands can succeed via a “friendly nodding acquaintance” with a large number of light buyers. In unpacking the Most Interesting Man campaign, Morton pointed to the slogan “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I prefer Dos Equis” as an example of an amusing low-pressure pitch that reached audiences in such a manner.

Snickers Global Brand Director Dan Burdett echoed these thoughts, and pointed to Snickers’ own “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign as taking a similar strategy of leading with broad-stroke emotion and evoking amusement. He also shared stories about adapting the campaign’s approach for various worldwide markets–“You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” currently runs in 80 countries around the world.

Finally, Alan Hallberg, Chief Marketing Officer of RF Micro Devices, spoke about rethinking marketing for his company, which manufactures components for smartphones and tablet computers. RFMD simplified the technical language in its campaigns and refined a message about “unwiring the world” that appealed to its employees as well as its potential customers. As Hallberg put it, “Engineers have emotions too.”

The Wharton Future of Advertising Program will air programs monthly on Marketing Matters, a weekly call-in show airing on Wednesdays from 5pm to 7pm on Sirius XM Channel 111, Business Radio powered by Wharton. The next edition of Marketing Matters featuring WFoA will address storytelling, and will air on Wednesday, May 14th from 5pm to 7pm. Programs will be rebroadcast throughout the month. Full channel information available here: http://businessradio.wharton.upenn.edu/

-Matt Wiegle, WFoA Program Assistant