Question 1: What could/should advertising look like in 2020?
Question 2: What should we do now to get ready for that future?
The future of advertising could be three-dimensional, holographic and feature barking cats performing magic tricks. But to many that will not matter, because in 2020, advertising also will be optional.
Sure, there will be events that shape the messaging, requiring that advertising of the future be hyper-personal, curated and social. But it also will be on demand, because advertisers are going to have to make their ad content compelling enough that consumers opt in to view it.
Privacy concerns will likely contribute to this change. A 2013 consumer survey by LoyaltyOne shows that more than half of consumers do not trust their data in the hands of companies and 46 percent find it unacceptable that a company tracks their habits. Add to that mounting pressure to give consumers the chance to opt-in to digital advertising and data sharing (rather than opt out) and marketers will likely find themselves designing creative not just for a brand, but for the “opt-in” button.
In other words, advertisers won’t simply be tasked with creating demand for a product – they will be tasked with creating demand for the ad.
And that task will exist in so many places, thanks to multi-channel consumption that has led smart companies to create omnichannel communications strategies. This practice requires the blending of the various communications teams to deliver one consistent brand experience across all channels. The goal: That the consumer looks at an ad in her eyeglasses or dinner plate or transparent pop-up screen (this is 2020) and thinks, “Hey, I want that brand.” Not, “Hey, there’s an ad on my dinner plate.”
Fortunately, we have the technology to prepare for that future now, through the consumer data we collect. I not only mean digital tracking, but loyalty programs, which serve as unique identifiers that establish a consumer’s preferences, needs and aspirations both online and offline – where no cookies can go.
My only concern is that we may not have the talent to support the need. Consider that 97 percent of companies with revenue of more than $100 million are pursuing expertise in business analytics, according to Forrester Research. Yet the data analytics field is projected to come up short of professionals by 2018 – almost 200,000 qualified data scientist positions are expected to be vacant by that time.
So the answer to advertising in the future may actually exist in the industry’s ability to attract the brightest minds today. I envision the most successful agencies will employ data analysts alongside their creative teams.
Let’s hope. Because without them, I am not confident the advertising industry will have access to the insights required to create those “in-demand” on-demand ads – cat or no cat.