Bill Harvey, Vice Chair, Chief Research Officer, TRA Inc.
Today a new company Thinaire is placing low cost links to digital content in physical objects such as shelf talkers and magazines. People can just tap their mobile phone to the object and the content appears on their screen and can be shared in the usual ways plus by tapping a friend’s phone whereupon the content leaps phone to phone. This is only one small part of the continuing evolution of all (including in-store) media into digital media. All print media to the extent that they continue to involve printed copies will utilize links like Thinaire’s to become woven seamlessly into the one digital mediasphere that is forming. Radio is migrating into digital and cellphone+stereo earpods will be the next stage both by radio receivers in phones and by all-digital stations led by Pandora springing up.
The advertising industry is gradually becoming aware that sponsorship of good content (including fun/social games) and of good causes has far greater power to win hearts and minds than interruptive pitch/offer messages no matter how clever. Today Cause Marketing is still only a billion dollar slice of the advertising pie but in the future, with the precise media/creative ROI measurement now available through companies led by TRA, things that work will quickly balloon to the level justified by their economic efficacy. CMOs and bright agencies will devise mixtures of Cause, Game, Social aspects to make advertising and even promotion far more intriguing, fun, and self-satisfying for media audiences.
New forms of web-based testing, brain and psychographic research will develop that understand how people tick so much better than today that creatives will be equipped with powerful insights to help shape effective messages. Sophistication and creativity will merge into talent that is not only rational, emotive, perceptual and intuitive but also appeals to whole human beings instead of to one small layer of their most petty purchasing interests. Share of ROI Uplift will become a way that media and agencies are compensated, with trusted third party research companies led by the ARF, ANA and 4As ensuring that the ROI report cards are scientific and objective. The media business will become more fun for all with fewer doomsday scenarios and a never-ending game of day to day surprises enabled by technology and human ingenuity. Resistance to advertising which had always been futile will now also become nearly extinct due to the enjoyability of the new formats.
What should we do NOW to achieve it
Probably the best organization to make this scenario come true is the Ad Council. That estimable organization is in touch with the Philanthropy “industry” (an oxymoron of course since they are all by definition nonprofits) and is always discoursing with them about advertising as a force for social good. Upping their game they would bring in companies like TRA, comScore, IRI, Nielsen, et al who have the ability to read sales effects of advertising, and would engage the cable industry to use cable zones for A/B testing of equal allocations of media dollars to BAU (Business As Usual) vs. new formulations of crossmedia Cause marketing gamified and made into Social media.
The true investment required would be media costs – which are low in cable zones – and creative costs which would be the major part in this case. The advertisers willing to lead this charge would be those who agree with Jim Stengel’s analysis of what makes companies successful today: caring about social good – which Jim has analyzed in relation to financial data to prove his case conclusively. Stengel’s article has not been widely quoted yet but is actually the shot heard round the world for the future of the advertising business. When Jim’s findings have been doubly verified by extensive A/B testing across many product categories the seismic shift toward tying one’s messages to the largest concerns of humanity will be fully underway.