Ayal Levin & David Fogel – Advertising for Partners

Ayal Levin, Lead Digital Strategist, McCann Tel-Aviv
David Fogel, Head of Strategic Research & Business Consulting Department, McCann Tel-Aviv

1. What could/should advertising look like in 2020? 

Advertising in 2020 will stop communicating to consumers and begin sharing with partners.

Traditionally advertising has connected brands and consumers. However, for the most part, this has been a one-way relationship (from brand to consumer), characterized by the distribution of messages to wide audiences using different forms of media.

In a nutshell, “from one to all.”

Overtime we have seen advertising advance, enabling a more segmented approach to distinct target audiences through diverse media platforms and messages. The development of digital tools, in recent years, has enabled personalized offerings and ads based on shopping habits and behavior, which many believe to be the future of advertising. This under the assumption that if provided an offer based on the objective data collected on the consumer (through social media, mobile payment activity, search history, etc.), they will appreciate the commercial offerings. Sounds great! For marketers

But the reality is not that simple. These developments preserve the one way relationship, from brand to consumer, despite significant change in consumer behavior and attitude towards marketing efforts. Consumers have become more independent, apathetic towards ads (even if personalized), empowered throughout their purchase journey, and involved in the branded products and services they consume; making the traditional one-way relationship less relevant. And you know what? This is great news! For consumers… But also for advertising.

Advertising and marketing in 2020 will not be able to solely serve the advertiser; it will need to integrate consumers into all marketing activities. As such, advertising in 2020 will be based on a two-way relationship between brands and consumers.

The solution, as we see it, consists of a change in our mindset and approach to the consumer-brand relationship and a transition from a one to a two way relationship. We should start by looking at consumers as partners and use marketing’s fundamental model ‘the 4Ps’, where the Ps stand for Partnership:

1. Parternship in product development – share ideas with consumers, ask fro their opinion, allow them to contribute in the development, testing and production of new products. Volkswagen has proved, in their latest initiative “The people’s car”, that collaborating with consumers in designing its newest model has enormous demand and potential.

2. Partnership in promotion – build consumer-centered communities through content and unique (branded) experiences and encourage consumer initiated brand advocacy. This may sound easy or mundane, but in reality this is the most difficult partnership to create as it requires a delicate balance between allowing the to ‘run’ and ‘grow’ the community, while maintaining certain branded elements. Nike+ is an example of one such community which enables the members (i.e. runners and athletes) to share their sporting experiences in a way that also promotes the Nike brand.

3. Partnerships in brand identity – when Porsche decided to enter the SUV market, its consumers and fans protested, claiming their beloved brand changed its identity without consulting them. Marketing can no longer determine the brand identity on its own – consumers need to be part of the development of the brand’s identity and values.

4. Partnership in decision making – following a decline in revenue and consumer protest to the changes led by former CEO Ron Johnson, JC Penney, in their recent TV campaign, apologized to consumers for changing their stores, pricing model and shopping experience. It is no secret that brands and companies rise and fall thanks to to their consumers. Looking towards 2020 this will become even more apparent and brands should aspire to share crucial decisions with their consumers.

Advertising will have the crucial role of creating and operating the platforms which will enable consumers to express themselves and be true partners to their beloved brands. By creating the right platforms which combine unique experiences and provide true value – advertising will position itself as the third and important partner, in the new two-way relationship.

2. What should we do now to get ready for that future? 

Think partners! Think communities! Think sharing!

A recent incident in Israel exemplifies the outdated model of the one-way communication, and the necessity of leading a two-way relationship revolution. Better Place, an Israeli-led electric car initiative, declared bankruptcy and planned to discontinue services to consumers. The decision, made without consulting the consumers, left them high and dry with cars and inactive service stations. However, claiming the car was like no other they have driven, the consumers refused to return their vehicles and organized to purchase the company as a group in order to keep the services going. Better Place is an example of how traditional marketing and advertising failed to recognize and develop the relationships that evolved among their consumers, in relation to their product and service.

This teaches us that we, as advertisers, should be focused on creating platforms that will assist and nurture the development of consumer led communities surrounding brand related content. Thus advertising should be focusing its research efforts on understanding community dynamics and sociological and cultural affects on human behavior. To do this, we should embrace new research methods to uncover insights and inspire ideas from the worlds of design thinking, multi-disciplinary integration, and community centered problem solving approaches.

At the execution level, less focus should be put on creating a disruptive message and more effort should be put into listening and understanding consumer usage of new technologies and media. This requires new creative thought processes and capabilities to encourage rapid innovation based on consumer partnerships, collaboration and the adoption of interactive technologies, products and services.

A final consideration – the battle between Math Men and Mad Men remains undecided. Some view the future of advertising as an era of efficiency, ruled by algorithms and measured solely by the return on investment and conversion rates. Others claim that advertising is about persuasion, and persuasion has always been and will always be an art. However, both attest the notion that advertising will create its own future, where in truth the consumer will decide, so let us partner with him.