Frederic Bonn – What could/should advertising look like in 2020?

Frederic Bonn, Executive Creative Director, Razorfish

Color_FredericBonnPeople don’t care about advertising. Seriously, when was the last time you sat on your couch, turned on the TV and thought: “I’m so glad this program will be interrupted every 15 minutes by a wonderful commercial that I didn’t know I was dying to see”? Never. OK, you’ve heard this all before—that’s old-school advertising and things have changed, it’s a different world these days. Digital revolutionized the industry. Through targeting and “big data,” brands and advertisers now know everything about their audience, which allows them to be relevant at all times and reach the right people wherever they go. They can interact with them on social networks and start a conversation. They can be in people’s pockets through the latest app they’ve created that’s location-aware. Cool, right? Actually, that may not even be called advertising anymore. After all, last year was when the Cannes Lions Festival—founded in 1954 and now the largest festival to celebrate creativity in advertising—decided to change its name to “the international festival of creativity.” “Advertising” disappeared from its baseline.

And yet when was the last time you said to yourself while searching for a video online, “I’m so glad I get to view this 30 second pre-roll about a brand that is so right for me before I can see the video I was looking for”? Or saw a banner and thought: “Wow, this looks exciting, I better click on this banner to learn about the product instead of finishing the article I wanted to read while I ate my lunch”. But OK, you know all about banners—that’s is old-school digital advertising and things have change. So, when did you recently rush to download a branded app on your smartphone because you were eager to spend some quality time with it? You can’t find many examples right? Me neither. 

But maybe you can.

Back to your TV (“old” advertising) for a second. There probably was one time when you were happy to have your program interrupted by advertising: During the Super Bowl. An annual rite where commercials are known for being entertaining—it’s possibly the reason you’re watching the game in the first place. Interestingly enough, on Super Bowl Sunday tons of people go straight to YouTube, Hulu, or  USA Today  to find out which commercial were best from the event.

The entertainment or emotional value of these commercial are what people connect with. These are the ones your friends share on Facebook because they make them laugh, or because they’re beautiful, or just are something no one’s ever seen before. They have value. Regardless of media being used, brands need to provide value if they want people to care. 

What digital truly did to advertising was to multiple the ways that brands can add value. Entertainment is one, but now, when everything is on-demand and in your pocket, there’s also value in providing useful tools and services. It’s about having a conversation, but actually listening. It’s also about transparency—consumers now have multiple ways to call brands on their bullshit.

What will advertising look like in 2020? I have no fucking idea. There will probably be entirely new ways for brands to interact with consumers: new media, new channels, new technologies. Whether we call it advertising or something else, what will remain is the need to deliver real value to the consumer.

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

To be ready for that future, we need to start thinking beyond campaigns, beyond media buys or social tactics. Beyond mobile apps or CRM, beyond advertising or e-commerce.

The ways people interact with brands will expand exponentially through digital channels. It is time to think about brands’ ecosystems—the brand’s multiple touch points and how they interact with each other, from a digital out-of-home experience to a tablet, from mobile to the store.

The more data we collect about consumers, the less we seem to understand what they really care about. This is partially due to the artificial silos we’ve created, dividing the client side from the agency side, dividing social from e-commerce from customer relations. Consumers don’t think about those distinctions—they’re artificial. Brands that want to be successful will not only need to deliver value through entertainment, information, tools, services, and conversations, but will need to deliver that value consistently regardless of the location, moment, or point of interaction.

Brands will need to be always-on, and should get ready for it now.