What could/should advertising look like in 2020?
The notion of blasting consumers with ads and campaigns in all mediums is dying as evidenced by the use of ad blocking technology, consumers using a second screen during ads and fast forwarding on DVRs. This is largely because the advertising isn’t engaging or relevant – and consumers can take actions to ignore it. With most brands, there is little to no emotional connection between them and their customers. The proliferation of touchpoints and lack of personalization perpetuates the problem. When current techniques are combined with savvy consumers, the trend creates a self-fulfilling prophesy.
By 2020, advertising must become invisible to consumers. Ads need to be replaced with relevant, valuable content in order for brands to communicate with their customers and prospects effectively. Native advertising is a current example that is successful, which validates the opportunity to invest more into a content strategy. We know consumers prefer and will pay for quality content as evidenced with HBO, Netflix and Amazon. Although they may not outright admit it, Amazon TV arguably creates TV shows to drive consumers to the eCommerce site. Are the TV shows a marketing expense for Amazon or are they a product to purchase? User generated content further validates that “content is king,” which advertisers are still learning how to take advantage of. Like Facebook and other social media companies, the market is evolving, but they are quickly catching up with the race for eyeballs.
Advertising must adopt the same philosophy across the board rather than selectively (e.g. the Super Bowl). The content needn’t be TV shows, just content which is valuable to their audiences. Depending on the brand and consumer preference, the content would be relevant: lifestyle centric, humorous, informational, etc. For example, B2B brands are much better than B2C brands about educating their customers due to a more sophisticated buyer and complex sales process. B2C companies can learn from them.
Fortunately for marketers, the opportunity is attainable, and data is the key. Customers now freely give information about themselves so they expect brands to use the data in ways that will benefit them. Brands need to use this data to deliver contextually relevant content in every channel – both physical and digital. Social media is improving their advertising effectiveness by mining social data; however, the tactics are still largely about selling products through display ads rather than relevant content. In 2020, artificial intelligence will become commonplace for marketers, which will then give them the ability to personalize content at scale in real-time.
A content strategy can build relationships, educate customers on products and brand values, and engage bi-directionally where mutual value is created. By better utilizing the data consumers provide and leveraging advanced analytical platforms, brands can regain their relevance and relationship with consumers by creating and executing a sophisticated content strategy.
What should we do now to get ready for that future?
CMOs, agencies and madtech vendors must adopt a systems thinking model and apply it to marketing. The silos that exist within marketing organizations were not intended to be so fragmented. Technology used by marketers was created independently of one another: Netscape web browser (1994), display ad (1994), Hotmail (1996), Facebook (2004), iPhone/mobile apps (2007), AppNexus (2007), Snapchat (2011), musical.ly (2014). As such, marketing departments mirrored the technology evolution and naturally became siloed. The technology vendors create products and sell to marketers in silos, including the large marketing cloud vendors (Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce and IBM) that claim to have everything a marketer needs. Agencies follow suit and organize around specialties to service the fragmented marketing departments and technologies. This has largely created a disjointed marketing system made of individual parts that perpetuates siloed practices.
CMOs need to demonstrate greater leadership to break down the silos that exist within their own organizations. By going back to the marketing fundamentals of delivering the brand promise of “one voice” and great customer experiences, CMOs must force the marketing disciplines within their organization to collaborate. Incentive structures, cross-functional teams and defining a common mission would enforce systems thinking to force collaboration and create “one voice”.
Organizational silos will persist if the madtech is fragmented too. The integration of all of the parts (paid, owned and earned media) and many the data sources is viable today with enough money and time to create a single marketing system. Imagine an ERP-like system for marketers. The maturation of madtech is helping to realize this, but marketers can’t wait for the hundreds of tech firms to sort it out. Although consumers don’t know how the technology works, they have seen evidence of brands that deliver exceptional brand experiences through technology. The rest of the brands must follow suit and leverage their technology and data investments to create marketing systems that deliver value through “one voice.”
Consumers don’t care about organizational silos, madtech features or ad agency structures – nor should they! They do care about meaningful engagement with brands. Brands must manage their marketing departments, technologies and agencies holistically using the principles of systems thinking. It isn’t easy because the behaviors and financial systems don’t reward this behavior. However, innovative brands will lead the way and win the wallet share war, which will inevitably force change everywhere.