What could/should advertising look like in 2020 and what should we do now to get ready for that future?
Like today, advertising in 2020 will be a mix of the old – one directional broadcasting of more or less break through and persuasive brand communication – and the new – customized and relevant content based dialogue between brands and consumers.
However, the technological developments over the next 7 years will allow advertisers to dramatically alter the weighting of their communication and media choices to the highest ROI generating opportunities.
Following the mantra that “the future is already out there, it’s just not very evenly distributed” we are already seeing today what will be even more necessary and prevalent in at the beginning of the next decade:
- The fragmentation of media choices makes it more and more difficult to sufficiently reach brand targets via traditional media buys and therefore requires more diversified investments without significant increases in budgets.
- The increased demand for relevant and quality content in addition to purely product or service related communication requires for many brand to first establish a voice and authentic persona as well as editorial capabilities within their marketing departments.
- The need for relevance and personalization conflicts already with the efficiencies of heavily researched and centrally produced campaign assets. Advanced IT and big data solutions will need to get paired with sophisticated content creation and management capabilities to overcome this.
- Consumers in developed markets have become more and more discerning with regards to design and imagery for even ordinary everyday items. This increased ‘luxurization’ of many walks of life puts further pressure on client and agency capabilities and production budgets.
- As large parts of society continue to lose trust in once reputable institutions as well as corporations, brands will have to extremely carefully manage their relationship and image with their core customer base both in a broader social responsibility context as well as in one on one interaction.
- The slow death of once dominant types of retail (see for instance the state of department stores in the US and Europe) and emergence of new, agile and often aggressive online outlets that contribute little to brand building efforts will continue to incentivize brand owners that were previously able to fully rely on others to present their brand in the best possible way to further integrate vertically and add merchandising and retail focused communication as new capabilities.
While none of these developments are brand new, the pace in which these will require companies and agencies to adapt is going to significantly increase throughout the remainder of this decade.
Besides investments into technology and big data, the biggest – and potentially most difficult – challenge for companies and agencies will be
– the changes required to skill sets of individuals and
– experimentations with new and potentially radically different organizational structures.
Regarding skill sets, the brand or account manager that is equally well experienced in strategy, product development, advertising, media planning, digital, mobile and social as well as editorial and copy writing is and will remain a rare breed and the complexity of managing all these tasks with excellence will remain daunting even for the highest caliber of talent. Equal challenges exist for agency creatives.
Nevertheless, the industry needs to ensure today that those individuals that are groomed to be in senior executive positions in 2020 will get the opportunity to gain some first hand experience most of these disciplines by the time they have reached significant business responsibility.
Equally important will be the way both clients and agencies set themselves up. For the latter group there’s a clear call for increased integration of disciplines. Some attempts by larger clients to force clusters of shops with expertise in different disciplines to act as one team under one budget are mired with complexity and too many conflicting interest that they can be barely seen as temporary fixes until new and better integrated constellations emerge.
Clients face a similar challenge where too many marketing departments are still not aligned with media, PR, trade marketing and IT departments behind a common vision, strategy and measures.
In summary, the future is already here and it shouldn’t require too much clairvoyance to predict what advertising in 2020 will look like. What’s not clear though is which clients and agencies will be able to successfully prepare and evolve to mastery of new paradigms and practices. Only time will tell…