Thomas Harrison – Advertising 2020

Thomas Harrison, Chairman, DAS, Omnicom Group

The advertising industry has undergone a slow evolution from the romantic Mad Men era where insight led to the development of a unique sales proposition that inspired print advertisements, radio and TV commercials and where above-the-line agencies towered over other, less fortunate, below-that-imaginary-line disciplines that scraped for a position at the marketers’ table.  Intellectual blurring has resulted in a market in which all communications disciplines are now on-the-line every moment to ignite and build consumer engagements with brands that mirror that brand’s journey toward continuous relevance with its rightful consumers.

The bond consumers have with their brand today is affected as much by others’ experiences with the brand as their own experiences.  Brand advocates – or detractors – are incessantly on line creating viral messages that are more powerful, often more significant, than the traditional message vehicles to which some consumers are becoming incrementally and actively more immune.

The pace of the next evolutionary period will be marked by near micro-chip speed.  This transformational period will be marked by massive technological invention, innovation, disruptive behavior, application and implementation, continuous development and commercialization.

The evolving web will move from a platform built around information retrieval to a platform built around people – consumers who are global…but hyper-local.  Consumers who by nature collaborate, share and influence.  Consumers who already rely on peer critiques as much as if not more than professional advice.

To “emotionally reach” these consumers, agency creatives will become cognizant of the shift from intrusive force fed messages to engagement messages that invite consumers to opt in to a relevant brand’s message and assist in spreading the Facebook-like liked communication to their community of highly influenced and influential friends.  Advertising in 2020 will extend from friend to friend as part of a self-curated, shared recommendation (or not) support engine.  Backing up then, laser focused targeting will be critical to align content with personal needs, wants and behaviors.  The ad industry will move more toward mobile and on-line, open, wiki-like communications but with a reverential umbilical cord tied to traditional avenues of communication.  The later will not become extinct at the expense of the former.  They’ll just play a different role.

To prepare for this future, it is vital to understand that the greatest threat to progress is the inability to see around corners, the inability to respect our past and the unwillingness to realize that the way we succeeded is not the way we will succeed.  As senior leaders, we need to embrace the limits of our technological acuity and we need to become comfortable surrounding ourselves with the twenty someones who have an innate facility with all avenues digital and social, seek their mentorship and their view of the joined up world they’re crafting, listen to their point of view as they envision our industry, be mature enough to learn from them and balance their generational whims with our business building and business-evolving acumen.  They will imagine totally novel and never before thought of relationships between brands and their consumers in channels that move seamlessly across platforms and geographies.  We will be required to guide their vision and to create monitizable models to support the fundamental shifts occurring in advertising toward 2020.  It is practically upon us.