Akihiko Kubo – Advertising in 2020

Akihiko Kubo, EVP, Ogilvy & Mather GK

The days of big ad agencies satisfying their client’s needs with a catchy slogan and a series of slick print and TV ads are long over. They have been for a while. Today, we talk about sponsored Tweets, the number of Facebook subscribers or YouTube hits. Audiences, especially in matured markets, are harder than ever to pin down, and marketers are constantly having to adapt and play catch up. Today’s trends are tomorrow’s old news.

But some things remain the same. At least for the foreseeable future, people will continue tuning into their favorite TV channels and marketers and advertisers will continue to use this medium to get their messages across. The difference is, today TV is often just a launching pad for other forms of media, namely digital and social media.

Yes, Lady Gaga may be able to reach 26 million plus followers on Twitter with a single Tweet, and Gotye’s surprise pop hit “Somebody That I Used to Know” has racked up nearly 270 million times over the last year. But TV remains the only medium where an advertiser can reach over a 100 million people in literally in an instant. The 2012 Super Bowl had some 111 million viewers and advertisers chalked up $3.5 million for one 30-second spot. Not even Justin Bieber can achieve numbers like that! In short, we can’t sound the death knell for TV and this important traditional media just yet. No other type of media can guarantee the immediacy and scale of TV.

While we may not feel more sophisticated than consumers of 15 or 20 years ago, we are. We can watch our favorite TV programs on demand—nicely skipping past any ads—and we can stream movies and music to our myriad devices and pay to have versions without ads. And even those bus and billboard ads get ignored with everyone’s noses buried in their Smartphones and tablets. For marketers, this means relying more on new and social media, while using traditional media as a foundation and catalyst. Paid and owned media will continue to be essential and trusted outlets, but getting the right level of earned media often spells success or failure for advertising campaigns.

But is there a right formula for this “triple mix”—a dash of TV, an informative homepage and maybe a dollop of social media? If only it were that easy! We as communication professionals have to tailor programs that communicate our client’s message and brand ID, while giving consumers ownership in this process. In short, there is no magic formula.

People are no longer happy to sit back and be easily influenced. They want engagement. They want to better understand how products and services are relevant to their lives. And if they are happy, impressed or satisfied (and we hope they are), you can bet that they will let their friends and family know it. Consumers—and the word of mouth that can be unleashed with social media—are a powerful tool for today’s marketers. Some of the best ad campaigns of the past few years were those that cost very little to make, but achieved that Holy Grail status of “going viral.”

Consumers these days, however, are getting better at sniffing out a commercial campaign disguised as something organic or homegrown.  These can have the opposite effect and actually alienate consumers. Trying to force something to go viral is like trying to make it rain in the Sudan.

All of this will likely still be true in 2020. While there may be modes of communication and technology that we can’t even imagine, people will still be watching their favorite reality TV shows, sit-coms and sporting events. The question is how and where will they be tuning in. We may be walking around with 3D virtual realty visors and riding around in self-driving cars. Smartphones may become an even bigger part of consumer behavior. Whatever the case may be, there will be new opportunities to engage with the consumer—in addition to the traditional ones.

The question is how do we in the advertising and marketing business prepare for the future? It seems as soon as we get a handle on new technologies and communication modes, people are already moving onto the next thing. What will be the Facebook or Twitter of 2020? Ten years ago, Facebook was just an idea germinating in Mark Zuckerberg’s head—now it has half a billion users and is one of the most effective and widely used communication modes on the planet. Social media may fade into the cyber graveyard, or it may take on new forms.

And what will replace today’s Smartphones and tablets, and how will people get their entertainment and information? We have to continuously pay attention to learn or anticipate the answer to these. Clients expect us to have a pulse on consumers and target audience, but we have to go one step further. We have to have a pulse on technology and communications.

To be prepared for tomorrow, we need to embrace change—almost before it happens. The rapid rise of digital and social media left a lot of us in the advertising field scratching our heads for a while. But I think now we are catching up and adapting. We are spotting opportunity and finding new ways to communicate our messages. In a word, we are evolving and will continue to do so.