What could/should advertising look like in 2020?
Consumers have shifted to multiple platforms, devices and screens and many different pathways. Over the past few years, consumers have embraced—at remarkable speed—new digital devices powered by interactivity and fueled by the availability of content across a variety of different platforms. Consumers are moving freely and easily across channels and devices, engaging in real-time. Consumers are becoming increasingly agnostic and use multiple devices and platforms to consumer their content, whether that is TV, PC, smartphones, tablets, OTT boxes like Apple TV, Roku, or gaming consoles, like Xbox, PS3, video-on-demand systems, Connected TVs and even internet-enabled cars. The consumer has transformed from a passive spectator to an engaged activist.
Media, channels and technology will continue to change, bringing new ways to interact with consumers and make connections between advertisers and consumers in ways we can’t even imagine. Consumers’ media consumption will continue to migrate toward digital channels. The level of media fragmentation will only increase in the years ahead, turning today’s remaining mass (heterogeneous) audiences into a set of smaller and more on-demand groups.
Advertising will change its model to be consumer-oriented. Advertising will continue to move from a push model, where the advertisements viewed by consumers were at the discretion of companies and agencies, to a model where consumers can choose to see and engage with their ads or not. It will no longer be about bombarding consumers with advertising noise, but rather saying the right stuff to the right people ensuring greater relevance—the shift from the mass world to the hyper-personalized revolution.
By 2020, content will not be place, time or place dependent or restricted, allowing for greater accessibility—consumer’s media consumption will evolve, and the promise of anytime, anyplace, any device will become a reality. New technologies will increasingly provide consumers with unprecedented levels of control over not only what media and content they consume, but also when, where, and how they consume it.
Today’s media landscape and consumer is complex, and it’s a safe bet that they will only be more so in 2020. As the consumer becomes more complex and sophisticated, they will deride intrusions, and demand highly personalized communication, offers and experiences (that they actually value)—based on who they are, where they, what they’ve purchased before, etc. Consumers will become increasingly intolerant of ads that lack direct and immediate relevancy to them as individuals. Delivering relevance will no longer be an option—it will be a necessity!
Marketers will be able to connect with consumers in ways that are instructive, not disruptive. Marketers will be able to act with relevance and timeliness and maximize every interaction with consumers, minimize distractions and create meaningful and differentiating experiences for them across all channels. Marketers will be able to target and engage consumers precisely where their contextually relevant messages will have the most impact during the various stages (discovery, consideration and purchase) of the consumer journey—at the critical moment: the very place where the message is personal enough to inspire the required behavior. Marketers will be much more adept to turning consumer touches into consumer actions by delivering the right message—targeted, relevant, and engaging—at the right time—when the consumer is ready to take action.
Marketers will create content that is flexible and smart so that it not only gives information, but receives it as well, and adapts in real-time to become more relevant and appropriate. Marketers will have realized that delivering relevance to better engage with consumers is not a one-time activity, but rather a continuous process of iterations to fine-tune and optimize all aspects of advertising, leading toward personalization.
The goal of advertising which still holds up today and I don’t think it’s going to change in 2020: highly targeted and relevant information that delivers the right ad message to the right audience, the right place, at the right time, at an optimum and effective frequency. Advertising will be on-demand—not just always on, but facilitating relevant interactions with consumers, responsive to the consumer’s desire for advertising that cuts through the sheer amount of noise from other marketers with pinpoint delivery. If advertising has one goal, it’s to reach consumers at the moments, or touch points, that most influence their decisions.
The goal, of course, is to understand the customer so well that a meaningful relationship can be established across devices, channels, time and touch points. The key to creating and delivering this coveted one-to-one (deep connected) relationship with consumers throughout the journey and rapidly evolving the messaging (depending on the traits and behavior a consumer exhibits) is found in one word: data. The future of advertising may be digital. It may be mobile. But it will definitely be data. Data is and will be the brand marketer’s most important strategic asset to holistically understand who target consumers are (lifestyle, context and location), where they are going, what they want, when they want it and how they would like to receive messages that are relevant to them across the plethora of devices they interact with on a regular basis.
Data tracking and gathering (every sale; every customer touchpoint; each piece of industry data; every point of macroeconomic data; even the weather) from any source will be far more advanced as well. Data will have moved from a passive pool of potential insights, into an active mechanism for deepening the meaning behind each individual interaction. Data will ultimately enable right-time marketing—the ability to respond at the right moment based on the consumer’s characteristics as they interact with the channel of communication where the interaction is occurring, and the contextual situation of the interaction.
We should see the clear intersection of data (where consumers are, where they have been), media (is the consumer on a phone or tablet?), analytics (what will the consumer care about?) and technology (make a decision, get the media, get the creative).
In 2020, we will find ourselves in the midst of the data economy. Consumers will have realized the value of their personal data, and increasingly, expect to be rewarded for sharing such information. It will no longer going to be a question of consumers’ willingness to share data (in exchange for relevant and useful ads), but one of establishing a fair value exchange. Consumer data will become a currency and advertisers and agencies will offer incentives for it. Consumers will have the ability to edit, control and prioritize the data they want advertisers to see, making the data richer and more valuable.
Marketers already have more data at their disposal than they can usefully assimilate—and this will only grow by quantum leaps in the years to come. The challenge will be how to discern the information that has the most relevant value, what to do with it and act on it in the right timeframe. More data wouldn’t necessarily better, but more valuable data and proper analysis of it is.
What should we do now to get ready for that future?
Agencies and brand marketing leaders must adapt, evolve and structure themselves to better align and keep pace with the perpetually connected consumer. Agencies and advertisers need to come to a realization that consumers do not act within channels. Rather, they act across channels as they consume and engage content. In other words, the consumer could care less what platform they are on, as long as the content is there. In a world of fragmented platforms, devices and audiences, convergence is essential. In fact, it may be the only way to keep up with consumers.
While platforms, devices and screens are different, marketers and agencies need to look at them holistically (omnichannel—placing the customer at the heart of the strategy with each of the channel touch points working in unison). It’s a mistake to think of them as separate. Online and offline advertising campaigns can’t function independently anymore, because consumers don’t focus all their attention on one platform. Marketers and agencies need to realize that it’s not one against the other—it’s one with the other. It’s no longer a question of choosing either TV, online, mobile, social, etc., but rather how to best integrate them, so that they can co-exist.
Agencies and advertisers traditionally are organized by competencies and channels (i.e. work in silos across their respective channels). The last few years, during the sea of consumer change and media fragmentation, agencies have restructured their organization to be platform or channel experts—a display team, a broadcast team, RTB, online video, mobile, social, instead of becoming consumer experts. While there are of course broader campaign themes, the channels were largely independent from each other. But omnichannel demands a cross-functional team structure.
Agencies and advertiser will need to shift their paradigms, models and traditions and break down and transcend the physical and metaphorical single-channel (internal and external) advertising silos dividing initiatives to embrace a 360-degree approach in order to connect with consumers—with holistic conversation, consistency of messaging and (relevant, unified, customized and rewarding) experiences—wherever they are, whenever they want and however they prefer.