Bob Greenberg – Two Letters from 2020

Bob Greenberg, Executive Director, Advertising Week Experience (AWE)

To: Brands and their agencies
From: A customer

I was born in 2000. I’m 20 now. Just graduated college and starting my own life. Voting in my first presidential election this year – psyched!

I’ve grown up with mobile devices.

You used to call them “smart-phones” – quaint!

I have one in my pocket as intelligent as the Watson computer that humiliated Brad Rutter on Jeopardy 10 years ago.

And everything around me now tells its own story.

From buildings, to packages, to images, to products and more.

Like that car? Dog? Person? I just point my mobile device, click and learn all about them.

I carry my favorite companies in my pocket.

They’re like having friends in the industry. They advise, consult and propose, based on a deep understanding of…well, me. Not some cohort or quintile or special interest group.

And they’ll stay my favorites as long as they anticipate my needs and provide services that make my life easier.

I don’t own a TV. Not one like my Dad’s anyway.

Oh I have screens all right – big, thin, light, cheap, smart ones.  And I have little screens too. They’re in my pocket, on my wrist, in my glasses and in my car.

I never had a DVR.

Everything, and I mean everything, is waiting for me in the sky somewhere until I want it.

TV networks are a fading memory.

There are hundreds of “Networks” now and they don’t “telecast” anymore, They “custom-cast”. I’ve completely personalized my content – 24/7.

Now 360 degree imagery lets me control my point-of-view …… not the networks…mine! Actually, they’re not really “Networks” anymore, they’re “Servers”, in every sense of the word.

And now I’ve become the “Manufacturer”.

I’m downloading “Product Access Keys”. They let me “manufacturer” stuff at home on my 3D printer – kind of like Grandma’s fax machine, only it “prints” clothing, jewelry, appliances – whatever – right in my living room, and fast – so no waiting!

I don’t use money anymore – not like my Mom does anyway.

And I don’t shop in stores anymore, unless it’s exciting, fun and a cool “hands-on” experience. I don’t need to kick the tires… unless they kick something back to me.

Actually, lots of sites let you “feel” what’s on the screen. Talk about “hands-on” experience.

These days my friends and I are saying; “Don’t Hype me, Skype me”.

We’re dealing with humans now, face-to-face! Not always flesh and blood humans, but live people who get me. And some who just seem live, but they have all the answers, so what’s the difference?

I don’t go to “www” much anymore.

What you once called “apps” are now full blown, interpretive “servicesites”. For example, I have one for travel that “thinks “through my entire trip for me.

From wake ups, to traffic, all the way to what’s on the screens in my hotel room, taxi reservations, meals, shopping, site-seeing, nightlife – everything!

Are they “sponsored”? Of course – by service providers I choose! Privacy Schmivacy.

Back in the ‘teens’ GPS was already telling you where I was located.

But you’ve always wanted to know more about me.

Stop guessing. I’ll actually tell you what I’m wishing for, hoping for and in the market for. But abuse that info at your own peril.

And it’s gonna cost you; relevant information plus…points, awards, recognition, cash, make it exciting-I’m worth it!

So what’s the difference from where you are- and 2020? Attitude!

I suppose you’re thinking you have years to go before you get to 2020. But I guess the big question is – will you survive the trip?

Maybe loyally yours;
The Customer.


To: All agencies and clients
From: One of your own

Guys, it’s a different world out here! It’s so… well… 2020! Supermarkets are connected to customer’s refrigerators.

Doctors now track years- worth of patients’ vital info-instantly!

Digital health, fitness and well-being “connectivity” is off the charts. And there’s remote “Help” diagnostics for everything. Our bodies,

Machines, appliances, cars, you name it!

Speaking of cars, they’ve become rolling, connected marketing platforms. They practically drive themselves, actually…nahhh – you wouldn’t believe it!

Facial, Voice and Gesture recognition and Haptics now enable people to interact with machines in incredible new ways!

And we now have a much clearer idea of each of our customer’s “multi-dimensional- changing-all-the-time” lives.

We realized Big Data isn’t about Big Brother, it’s about Big Helper.

The killer point is we now have the capability to anticipate customers’ needs and desires. And it’s not like we had a choice-we had to!

Our big epiphany was that “Caveat Emptor” has done a 180! Now it’s truly “Caveat Venditor – Seller Beware”.

2020 is a new era, where the “Customer is no longer King – now she’s God

Brands are in her hands. She can make or break our reputation with a keystroke.

She’s not only involved in driving the perception of our companies, but also in creating our goods and services.

Sounds scary? Not really. But we have to rethink ourselves. We’re now service providers in the new service society.

But if we didn’t learn to treat our customers this way – would’ve been game over!

Brands were always about trust. Well, now we have the wherewithal and motivation to truly walk that talk. To interpret, align, advise, educate, service and inspire. And provide unified services and solutions for all of our customers.

So what’s 2020 like?

It reminds me of that old marketing story. Two shoe salesmen are sent to deepest Africa. One sends a message saying “coming home – the natives don’t wear shoes”. The other says, “Send me 10,000 pair, the natives don’t wear shoes”.

Half empty, or half full? Well, it’s a race to embrace.

But from my 2020 vantage point, I say prepare now and the opportunities are limitless!

See you in the future! Call me when you get here, but I’ll probably be with a customer.