Anant Rangaswami – The world of Advertising in 2020

Anant Rangaswami, Editor, Haymarket Publishing

  1. What could/should advertising look like in 2020?
  2. What should we do now to get ready for that future?

As I revisit these questions every now and then, it is apparent that there is, in our business of advertising and communications, no certainty except uncertainty.

At the root of the uncertainty is the speed, width and depth of changes in the way consumers consumer content. Forget, for a moment, 2020; think of 2015. Will newspapers, in the format we see today, exist in large parts of the developed world? What will the penetration of tablets be in, say, Ecuador or India? What will the cost of broadband be in Indonesia or in England?

As I try and answer questions such as these – and related ones – it’s apparent that there will be great change between today and 2020 – the size and implications of which we have never come close to seeing in any previous decade in communications.

If one tries to distil the changes (and, consequently, understand the impact and ramifications), I’d say that these would be the biggest changes – changes that communications professionals will have to learn to grapple with,

  1. The major impact as we ‘go’ digital is measureability.

We will have vast mountains of data on what content is being consumed, on who is consuming the content and where and when the content is being consumed – and, frighteningly, on whether the content is liked or disliked

  1. We will be able to correlate, in very short time spans, communication and the impact of the communication
  2. The explosion of content providers and addressability will allow micro-targeting of defined target audiences in cost-efficient manners
  3. The ‘participation’ of consumers in communication of all forms will heighten the focus on brands’ efforts in: a) staying in the conversation and b) trying to control or influence the conversation

The impact of these changes is manifold and I attempt to list a few

  1. We will see, across the world, an attempt to understand the long tail of consumer groups – the smallest of the slicing and dicing. What do they want? What do they want to see and hear? What makes them tick? Many questions will be asked in the context of demographics that were not worth addressing earlier.
  2. From the attempt that began in the 1990s to try and bring about efficiencies by creating ‘global’ campaigns, brands will be forced to create more and more local – even hyperlocal – messages and advertising
  3. There will be a new demand for high quality consumer research and understanding
  4. There will be a new pressure on creative agencies, as measureability will no longer be a delayed, post-facto evaluation. Performance data will be available in near real-time, and creatives will be held accountable for failed communication