Jeff Boehme – What Should Advertising Look Like in 2020, And How Do We Get There?

Jeff Boehme, Chief Research Officer, Kantar Media North America

If hindsight is 20-20, then what should advertising look like in 2020?

Advertising is not only necessary, but essential and becoming increasingly more critical.


Because the essence of advertising is about the communication of information and ultimately it educates us and helps to inform our decisions. Advertising creates awareness, builds brand equity and can define markets. Most importantly, it drives purchasing and thus commerce,  and is a fundamental connection between a product and a consumer.

Advertising is also nothing new. A visit to one of New York’s many subway stations will attest that some advertising has changed very little over the years. What has changed, however, is technology. Today we find ourselves immersed in the information age, where innovation and technology are having a profound impact. Just like electricity literally shocked yesterday’s world with seemingly endless potential, digital technology is re-defining ours.

“One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There’s always more than you can cope with.”   -Marshall McLuhan

The Personal Age of Advertising

Since the mid 1990’s, the digital landscape has evolved and now information is delivered in far greater quantities, across multiple platforms much faster than ever before. Amazingly, our demand for more information and immediate gratification seems to be growing, not diminishing. The serious consequence of this digital age is information overload, and today’s marketers are increasingly concerned about wasted messaging and reduced attention spans.

If advertising is about communicating information in the digital age today, what should it look like in eight years? As we “drive into our future with our rear-view mirror”, we need to change the model so advertising is far more efficient and effective. Instead of simply bombarding consumers with messaging, we need to ask permission to opt them in. The benefit is a personalized advertising experience that is relevant and appropriately integrated within their media content on their terms. By the year 2020, we will live in the ‘personal’ age of advertising, with consumers controlling their content through technology.

The Consumer Is In Control

Advertising strategists must accept that the consumer is in charge and is also protected by legislation designed to limit intrusive marketing practices (the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, the CALM act of 2010, etc.). Our digital age will evolve into a ‘personal’ age, as consumers control each aspect of their media exposure. Most importantly, consumers have learned how to directly control their media for relevant content and maximum convenience through digital devices (remote controls, DVRs, tablets, PCs, smart phones and VOD).

In TV, the ratio between commercial and program content is growing, and over 25% of a TV program can be commercials.  Commercial clutter can be very high, with many networks carrying over 16 consecutive commercials in a given primetime pod. Our studies have found that consumer control is significantly impacting commercial tuning behavior.   According to our data, an average of 13% of total commercial content is not seen. The industry must seriously examine and acknowledge consumer tolerances for the amount and frequency of commercial messaging.


The ad model of 2020 should be smarter in campaign design, planning and media placement, with personal relevancy becoming a key metric in addition to audience reach and frequency.

How often are we confronted with ads with virtually no relevance? Lack of relevance depresses response, leading to massive inefficiencies. Each medium constantly struggles with balancing advertising profitability with effectiveness. With direct mail, a 2-3% success rate is common. Print has been upended by digital, and radio is criticized by many as becoming a seamless string of repetitive white noise ads. One aspect of the internet’s ad model is  intrusive pop-ups/banner ads which is driving  consumers to employ software to eliminate them.

With over $70 billion in annual media investment, TV is the reigning medium to establish brands, position products and drive purchasing. Large screens, HD quality, and thousands of program choices are why the average household tunes in for more than 8 hours a day.  But it’s not exempt from the relevancy problem, either. Commercials are still primarily bought and sold on particular networks, stations, programs or dayparts governed mostly by audience size and demographic concentrations, not on true consumer attributes. As a result, typical campaigns can include 40% or more wasted delivery against the intended audience segment – assuming they are even seen.

However, these issues can be rectified with advanced advertising models, such as interactive and addressable applications, that leap beyond the linear model by streamlining delivery of relevant content.

Preparing For 2020 – Getting There From Here

The good news for advertising is that we have already started to pave the road to 2020 with advanced measurement. We have innovated and refined return path data (RPD) as a more advanced method of measuring TV audiences. With second by second precision, we currently supply clients with comprehensive data and analytics that help them to understand true consumer viewing behavior. Our insights reveal how advertising really works and defines the relationship not only between the brand and the creative message, but also between the commercial and  the program environment.

Eight years from now, TV will likely remain the most relevant medium – because it continually connects the consumer and information through the best technology. Just as consumers are smarter in choosing the media which is most relevant and convenient for them, we are becoming smarter about engaging them based on their personal preferences. Our advanced methods will help the industry understand how to make advertising work more effectively.  Advertisers will be able to monitor how their ads perform (or don’t) in order to manage their campaigns for maximum results. As a result, consumers will see less clutter, be more receptive to commercial content, and be more focused on the messages delivered to them.

In terms of advertising effectiveness and efficiency, it doesn’t get much better than that.