Keith Blanchard, Chief Content Officer, Story Worldwide
Let’s start with the one thing about advertising that never, ever changes: the sultry allure of the 18- to 24-year-old demographic. These comely young things, busily cementing their lifelong preferences for sneakers and beer and condoms and bug spray, are prized by advertisers above all others, and they shower this “coveted demo” with attention and media dollars. To glimpse the future of advertising, watch who’s about to stumble into the crosshairs.
So who will be the coveted 18-24 year olds of 2020? Today’s 10-16 year olds, that’s who: the grossly entitled, helicopter-parented, permanently earbudded, pre-diabetic superbrat generation. Those blissfully ignorant walking babies born with fingertip access to all the world’s information, who can’t find Texas on a map. Cyborg-wired superslackers who spend their days texting, illegally downloading One Direction remixes and YouTube-chronicling the nonstop party that is their lives.
Yeah, you’ve seen ‘em around.
Having grown up never doing anything they didn’t want to do, this earbudded hipster-doofus generation is destined to be poor. Remember when we “spent our children’s money” bailing out the bankers? These are those children, and that was their money. And we let higher education prices outpace inflation’s wildest dreams, and we imploded the economy, and set a few other impressive barriers to normal societal entry. OMG soso sorry, LOL.
Yes, they’ll be broke and stupid by 2020, but when this degenerate generation gets hungry enough, they’ll crawl home from Comicon, cajole an aunt to do their resume, slip on a turtleneck to cover the worst of the tattoos, and amble into the job market. Where they will encounter—surprise!!—a greying, but firmly entrenched Generation X, unable to retire until they’ve finished their dismal 900-page novels, and willing to downgrade into even the most menial position to keep the paychecks flowing. Thanks to all this unwelcome competition, in 2020 one will be unable to get a job mopping gas station restrooms without two PhDs and a letter from a senator.
Unemployed and unemployable, the cursed cyberhipster generation will resort to living off prostitution and Kickstarter ponzi schemes. But then, advertising will save them!
See, most advertisers by 2020 will have completed their natural evolution from adjacency (“stand next to the stuff people want!”) to interruption (“stand in the way of the stuff people want!”) to content marketing (“be the stuff people want!”). Most, that is, but not all. Advertising will by and large have become content, but there will be holdouts: a few big advertisers, unwilling or unable to give up the ghost, still trying to bribe their way to scale the old-fashioned way, through massive paid campaigns designed leverage this huge, hungry, impoverished generation.
And so it will be advertising, in the end, that defines the digital “haves” and “have nots.” For those with the means to pay directly for entertainment and ad-blocking technologies, advertising as we knew it will disappear forever: a quaint 20th century footnote. The masses, on the other hand, will have to sell their attention to the highest bidder if they want to enjoy even the most basic discount travel recommendations. The percentage of paid advertising in their content diet will swell to 90%, because as the bribable demo’s buying power shrinks, so will the value of advertising to them. By December of 2020, enterprising college sophomores will have to watch the same Tahoe commercial upwards of seven hundred times a day to earn enough Chevybucks for a single Five Guys cheeseburger.
“Let them eat cookies,” the digerati will sneer. They will mean bits of stored browser data, but nobody will get it.