Advertising 2020 – Fundamentally The Same, Technically Different
When asked about the “future of advertising,” I am always struck by the lay notion that there is a single thing called “advertising.” There isn’t. There are at least three different general categories of advertising: call to action, direct response and brand/lifestyle.
“Call to action” advertising does what it says; it calls you to perform an action sometime in the future. Examples include: “We’re having a Columbus Day sales this weekend, come to our store and get 25% off!” Or, “Star Trek: Into Darkness premieres this coming Thursday.” There is nothing you can do to respond, you just have to remember and act on the upcoming date.
“Direct response” advertising is considered by many to be the lowest, basest form of advertising — mostly, because it is often used to sell substandard products through infomercials, and magazine subscriptions through “win a prize” junk mail schemes. That said, the important attribute of direct response advertising is that the consumer can instantly respond to the offer using whatever technology happens to be available: Phone call, SMS, Internet, etc.
“Brand/Lifestyle” advertising is used to emotionally communicate brand attributes or qualities to consumers with no specific call to action or response asked for – it’s just a creative message that enlightens, informs and entertains. The goal of Brand/Lifestyle advertising is to make consumers aware of brand attributes and lifestyle enhancements offered by the advertiser. Examples include: Nike, Coca-Cola, Promise, etc.
Sometimes Brand/Lifestyle ads are combined with Call to Action tags. Examples include the :23+:07 TV spots for BMW that show how awesome “The Ultimate Driving Machine” is for 23 seconds, then tag a local dealer with an attractive lease or purchase offer for the last :07 seconds.
The possible combinations are practically endless and creative teams all over the world do their best to create communications that will serve clients’ business goals while cutting through the clutter and noise of media-saturated world. Importantly, these techniques are not limited to any particular media – you can use anything from smoke signals to targeted smartphone home screens.
So, you don’t need to be a futurist to understand what advertising will look like in 2020, it will look like advertising in 2013, which looks like advertising in 2006. However, you will absolutely see new combinations of the three categories mentioned above as technology empowers better two-way communications vehicles.
That said, in 2020 Intel says there will be 4 Billion consumers connected to 25 Billion M2M devices. If these numbers are even close to correct, the business of advertising will be in a transitional death match between what’s left of the nation states of old media, remnants of today’s new media and the kind of messaging required for people who have adopted exo-digitally enhanced lifestyles and wearable computing devices.
My suspicion is that the lines between the disciplines of advertising, marketing, PR and sales will be forced to strengthen by 2020, they are way too loose today.
Using data to understand target audiences will become so math intensive, that “creative” marketers will be forced out of businesses where data-driven marketing creates a competitive advantage. The “creative” group will probably silo back into the true creative advertising disciplines because, in a world of data-driven marketing messages, people who can create breakthrough creative messaging (based upon data-driven briefs) will be worth their weight in gold.
PR will continue to metamorphose from consumer and trade press-centric to a social media-centric discipline. The blurred lines between “professional” and “consumer” or “user” generated news and editorial will force the issue.
As computers optimize procurement needs, the role of sales people will dramatically change. In a world of computerized procurement, will personal sales relationships have a meaning impact on volume? It will depend upon what you are selling, but those who sell “things” should prepare for a tectonic shift.
The nature of “advertising” won’t change – people will still need to be informed about product offerings, and brands will still need to sell their wares. However, the business will evolve into a data-driven, value-centric game of “capture the consumer.”
In mature markets, convenience will continue to be king — in emerging markets, products that add value to the doing of life will continue to be king. I can imagine a heterogeneous world with wide spectrum of consumers from emerging markets to fully mature ones … just like today.
The practical differences between 2013 and 2020 will come from economic issues. Will the United States be on the brink of bankruptcy due to an aging population, out-of-control healthcare costs, entitlement programs and continued underemployment? Will Europe suffer a similar fate? Are there actually enough natural resources to support the surging middle-classes in the BRIC and D&E countries? Will the escalating number of climate issue-based natural disasters overwhelm the insurance industry?
If I let myself dream, I can imagine a Kurzweilian split of our species into three new suborders: fully organic humans, exo-digitally enhanced humans and endo-digitally enhanced humans. By 2020, it will be possible to implant a lens in your eye that has a wireless connection and allows you to live in an augmented world. Think of this as Google Glass implants. Computers will be powerful enough to allow common smart phones to have question/answering software that rivals human capabilities. There will be remarkable changes in analytics as machines start “thinking.”
It’s interesting to think about advertising in 2020, but the ethics issues, legal issues, business rules issues and other aspects of our journey as human beings so far outweigh it, it’s hard to give it its due.
Can a population of semi-connected exo-digitally enhanced humans possibly fend for themselves in a world where Fortune 500 marketing departments apply super-computer power to every aspect of business? It’s an unfair fight – far more unfair than it is today. By 2020, bifurcation into two worlds—one digitally enhanced and one non-digitally enhance—is a virtual guarantee.
While I believe that consumers are going to become increasingly more powerful in the marketing and advertising equation, the arms race to craft more efficient engines to separate them from their hard-earned wages will inevitably be won by very big businesses.
So, 2020 will look a lot like 2013 – only “The Voice” will be in its 11th season and there will be cooler toys and more gadgets to distract us. Of course, in the connected world of 2020, if the NFL decides not to renew its broadcast TV contracts, the world will be very, very different in 2021 (But that’s another story). To get ready, just keep paying attention. The pace of change will never be as slow as it is today, so buckle-up and get ready for a wild ride!