What’s the future of advertising?

Advertising has been something that we have been surrounded by for so long that we often forget it is there – until it is done badly. With the changes in technology and the way in which we expect things to be delivered to us, when we choose to view them rather than when they are forced upon us, advertising has missed the mark when it comes to staying effective and relevant in our new digital lives.

From ad blocking apps, to cord-cutting consumers, the advertising industry is just not as successful at translating views into sales as it once was. Still, there’s a future for advertising and many creative new avenues that they can explore to return to relevancy and effectiveness. Augmented reality is one of those rare and truly transformative technologies that current generations will struggle to use and adapt until the younger generations find their way with it.

Having lived the balance of our lives without it, typically older generations find it difficult to really appreciate how it fits into the big picture of the media and broadcast industry and confuse it frequently with VR (something we grew up understanding, if not using).

What’s wrong with advertising?

Targeted advertising, at least the way it is being done today, is annoying! Today’s targeted ads have attempted to anticipate what your interests are by watching your past activity, however yesterday’s shoe shopping has little to do with today’s football, and only serves to jar our sense of immersion in our media of today. It turns out that advertising would be better served (and accepted) if it were targeted not to our past activities, but our present. That’s what we’re thinking about, that’s where our minds are, and that’s the best way to connect with us.

While you may consider past activity to a point in deciding which ad to display, it should focus first on the now. This is much how things like the American Super Bowl advertising is done, capitalizing on the audiences’ fervor and current interest to plant lasting memories of the ad.

The opportunity here it would seem is in content producers thinking (analysing, tracking) to a far greater extent exactly who their audience is and what they may want. The lack of this information is the central limiting factor to ad agencies customising their ads in this way.

How does product company X know which theme/show/genre to tailor their ads for if they don’t first know which theme/show/genre their target customers actually watch? This is the perfect application for Big Data – record everything and make sense of the data later, because we don’t know what we’re looking for yet. We also broadly agreed that ads need to return to a more creative format. While not always appropriate for an ad to entertain, we all appreciate ads that are different. This is what makes an ad memorable. Advertisers need to stop being lazy, think about their ad, get creative, and blend it into the media we’re experiencing (targeted of course).

Where are the product placements?

An alternative to traditional methods of advertising could just be product placement – we are so surrounded by it anyway. Many of us recall seeing that new car, new pair of shoes, or new electronic gadget we liked in a program and not being able to find out what it was or where to buy it. As it turns out, product placement seems to really work. We remember both consciously and unconsciously which products we see in our media, and often the watching of them being used inspires us to use them ourselves.

Perhaps there’s a new opportunity here for content producers to sell product placement slots in the way they today sell ad time? If they were to clearly demonstrate how their target audience matches company X’s products, and then estimate the number of exposures possible, and the likely sales resulting from, a formula could be derived at to justify a price to place company X’s product, or indeed their competitors’ product in the programming. This too it turns out maybe an application for AR, allowing us to overlay “marketing and branding” information (opt-in of course) onto media we’re watching.

The application of technology (Big Data, analytics, pattern recognition) together with the ever improving display technology and the ability to stream high-quality audio-visual experiences across the country and the world in real-time is going to revolutionise media and broadcast, perhaps more than many other industries.

In science fiction, the one technology we’ve consistently failed to predict and have underestimated time and again is display technology. Now that we have screens everywhere, and AR around the corner, there’s no time better to advance the fields of advertising or to explore new types of experiences that blend the online and offline worlds together.

Our children already experience the world without the natural/digital divide we expect, the question to be asked is what does this new hybrid world really look like?

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