Noam Lemelshtrich Latar, Founding Dean, Sammy Ofer School of Communication, IDC Herzilya
A. What Should Advertising Be in the Year 2020 :
Advertising in the year 2020 should become a science and a major player within the social science fields. Advertising plays an important role today in motivating social political and economic behavior yet without being bound by any social objectives or values. Advertisers primarily aim to motivate consumers to purchase products or adopt opinions sponsored by the advertiser’s paying customers. Advertisers are not expected or required to perform value judgements. Their guiding principle is to maximize roi to those who pay for their services.
Advertising today is primarily an art form attempting to match creative images and texts to the subconscious of the consumers or their rational or irrational decision making processes. There is a substantial factor of uncertainty in these processes. This is today a legitimate activity which create jobs and promotes economic growth.
However advertising is undergoing ‘tectonic changes’ which by the year 2020 will transform it into a science with enormous powers to either manipulate consumers or to become a significant player in creating positive social change, creating social capital while effectively using the available natural and human resources.
The information technologies are for the first time in human history allow the individual consumers to express their individual voices , or grievances, and the social networks allow to magnify these voices which can create powerful waves of social change. One guitar that was shipped in the cargo of United Airlines and broke, for example, followed by poor mishandling of a consumer complaint caused United a huge damage once a creative musical complaint clip reached millions by viral movement (see”United Breaks Guitars”). Western societies are becoming more transparent and commercial entities small and large are being monitored by the consumers through the social networks. Advertising companies, by the year 2020 may be held accountable for their activities after their expected new powers will be recognized.
A few words on the ‘tectonic changes’ in advertising:
Search engines employing artificial intelligent algorithms which already operate within social networks allow to create digital identities (or profiles) to all consumers based on their behavior in social networks and all web activities. These digital identities may be augmented by the genetic profiles of the consumers. I termed it “Social DNA” in a paper published in 2004 on the subject of digital identities. The wife of Sergey Brin the founder of Google , for example, founded a company “23&Me” encouraging consumers to send a saliva sample and be diagnosed in the health and mental spheres. There are algorithms that allow today to predict consumers buying behavior based on a brief history of their past purchases(a company Sagramatha, of which I am one of the founders, allow retailers to propose new products to consumers based on their buying behavior and thus increase the retailer profits).
The fact that the activities of billions of people in the web can be monitored by these AI engines allow to develop the advertising field into a new historical phase- into a new behavioral science . The AI engines employ automatic cybernetic feedback loops which allow the systems to constantly learn from errors and thus continuously improve their accuracy in the prediction of human behavior and decision making.
Advertisers in the year 2020 should be expected to provide products and contents targeted per the consumers’ digital identities to maximize the roi of the dollars spent on advertising. There still be some ‘classical’ activity in mass advertising in sport, live political events or product placement in the film industry but this may not be sufficient to sustain the major players in the advertising business.
The question of “what advertising should be in the year 2020” is a question of values. In my opinion, advertising by the year 2020, which will become a behavioral science, should be a major positive social force with defined social objectives, devoting its talent and new scientific knowledge to promote products and services that will improve social capital, help preserve and expend natural and human resources. Advertising in 2020 will posses an enormous power which will not escape the attention of the public. Advertisers that will not adapt to these changes and social expectations may risk their existence.
Advertising needs to reinvent itself by the year 2020.
“What should we (advertisers) do to get there”:
Advertisers must be fully aware of the above ‘tectonic changes’ which are already taking place. They must develop sensitive social radars and should develop access to intelligent search engines and relevant data bases either by developing them themselves , purchase data bases or by merging or acquiring companies active in these areas. Advertisers should master the area of behavioral targeting and be able to develop abilities to monitor developing social trends in all media platforms (already done by Nielsen).
Advertisers should adopt long term social objectives and share them with the public. They should develop multiple platforms that will allow them to conduct open conversations with the consumers. In order to carry meaningful conversations advertisers should have a deep understanding of the social trends and to accomplish this they should employ a multidisciplinary team of experts from such fields as psychology, anthropology, linguistics and of various age groups.
In order to be effective in the year 2020 advertisers must closely monitor the behavior of the youth and young adults of today who are growing in a dramatically different media environment and social behavior. They should understand the psychology of the young generations, their multi-tasking behaviors, their limited attention span, their growing dependence on peer group recommendations and their new network languages. Advertisers should master the ability to make content viral.
The ability to predict buying behaviors could allow advertisers to develop a reverse relationship with their commercial sponsors. They should be able to propose to their sponsors which products to promote or even recommend design changes in the products to increase their appeal to better fit consumers digital identities. They should develop an internal body of knowledge regarding a wide spectrum of areas which affect buying behavior. Advertising managements should be open to expend the field of their activities (see Amazon…) and understand fully that constant change is here to stay. But most important, advertisers should understand that due to their expected growing powers they will be held socially accountable and therefore should prepare relevant long term plans starting 2013 along the time scale to 2020.
This paper does not describe a science fiction or technological forecasting. The trends discussed above are already taking place.