Tom Goodwin – Advertising Beyond Engagement

Tom Goodwin, Tomorrow Group

Posted August 22nd, 2014

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tomgoodwinTom Goodwin

Founder, Tomorrow Group

1) What could/should advertising look like in 2020?

The advertising landscape of 2020 will look very different, the definition of advertising and what it means to people will shift massively, it will have to.

For years, we’ve talked about the age of interruption coming to an end, while signaling a move to engagement, but that’s been a naive dream. The reality is that for most people, most of the time, they don’t want to be engaged. We have more content than ever, and as consumers, we now see ways to cut out any excess information. For me, the future lies in providing value.

The world of advertising has also entirely misunderstood what the digital age means, as we’ve simply taken what we’ve always planned, bought, measured and produced, and crudely attempted to make it all a bit more digital. The power of digital is in transformational change, not additive garnish.

The Ambient Internet

The ad world of 2020 will be anchored in the new consumer landscape, a new world where words like TV or radio mean nothing, where everything is digital, and where we endlessly record, share, process and act upon data that has become an ambient layer around us. Our TVs become large screens to access this ambient internet and content in an at-home, entertainment context. Smartphones become our portable, personal gateways, and smart watches record data while providing the simplest access points to this internet. Meanwhile refrigerators, thermostats, cars and ever more devices become connected through seamless background transfer of data between them. The Internet won’t be a deep experience of search and browsing like it is now, but it will mainly form a thin layer that will assist us in our daily lives.

Privacy will be exchanged for value.

The notion of privacy will be a nostalgic one, a fond memory of a time when we thought it was a battle we could fight, and where we hadn’t been educated to the benefits. Instead, all brands and companies will be monitoring our behavior and sharing it. Our “TV”will become smart and learn what we like, while monitoring our search behavior, our location history, or our phone calendar. Our phones will know what we’ve bought online and what our cars have been doing. Seamless sharing of complex data between all connected devices will create better opportunities to add the right value. Privacy will not have been lost, it will have been traded for enhanced value, we will have chosen relevance and help over secrecy.

Advertising is replaced by value based messages.

There will still be broad TV buys, storytelling, and print campaigns to build brands, but brands will tap into this equity to boost sales through broader marketing tactics like partnerships, creative business models, loyalty and branded content.

New TV Advertising

TV advertising will need to change drastically, as addressable TV technology will mean that ads are highly personal, crafted automatically by algorithms, and tailored to our individual circumstances.

Advertising will move from being broadcast to people to being predictive; it won’t wait for us to do things but start to anticipate what we want. We may be shown TV ads with live prices and the nearest location of the retailers for the car we’ve searched for recently. We may see TV ads extolling the benefits of a credit card we don’t have, or for the new product we added to a shopping cart but didn’t buy. Our phone may note that we’re stressed and suggest holiday destinations. All TV ads will feature new calls to action like “add coupon to phone,” “add to shopping basket,” “send deal to friend”- in short, new ways to close the loop.

Mobile Marketing as notifications.

Mobile advertising will give up on the primitive idea of small banners, and progress to providing us with rich value-added services.

The new mobile web will be thin, it will use the notification layer and invisible apps to pass contextual information to us to act upon, this is the perfect context for advertising.

Our phones will know we’re running late for a meeting and that it’s about to rain where we are, and displays an option to book an Uber with one touch. iBeacons may inform us about flash sales in the locale based on our likes and needs and tell us about items that would go with what we recently bought from them. Mobile coupons will be passed to us socially or from direct mail. We may be told our friends are near and suggested a place where we can all meet at.


Digital maps will become a new channel, they will be our routes to book restaurants, to find clothes, to find a movie theatre. Advertising on the map layer and making suggestions will become an entirely new business channel.

New Business Models

We’ll see interesting new modes of commerce, perhaps connected refrigerators given away for free, but hardwired to order groceries online when you run out of items. We may see subsidized washing machines that pre-order only P&G products. SnapChat may start to offer ways to buy things from snapping pictures of them.

Context planning.

Media Channels of today are irrelevant in the future, we will instead see media buys for contexts, the act of being near a Mall, watching a movie, or listening to happy music.

What should we do now to get ready for that future?

There will always be a need for advertising that builds brands, tells stories, and creates powerful representations of value for products, so not everything requires change.

But we need to start to understand the changing media environment, changing consumer behaviors, and changing technology. We need to think not in terms of existing ad units and how to make them work, but in terms of what happens when brands, people and technology come together. We need to forget that advertising ever existed and start with great ways to connect. The advertising of the future won’t look like Advertising.

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Comments and Feedback?

  • Alexander Davis

    I’m only just reading this now but am so surprise nobody has commented! This describes a future I could get on board with and one in which we can have so much more fun tailoring our craft to actually provide value. I will be interested specifically to see the impact on branded content and how brands will adapt to the refinement of information when they are all competing for attention. I see value in well matched brands coming to gather to form symbiotic relationships in which they collaborate as media companies to make content that speaks to a common audience.