“What will advertising look like in 2020?”
That was the question posed to me by Jerry Wind, professor of marketing at The Wharton School, and head of Wharton’s Future of Advertising, an academic and industry group formed to understand and improve the future of that industry. I’m on the program’s advisory board, and this advertising 2020 question is the focus of a compilation of essays from more than 100 industry thought leaders.
Here’s an abbreviated version of my response:
11 Big Trends That Will Reshape Advertising In 2020 And Beyond
1. Digital breadcrumbs will become the new research. Traditional market research — particularly representative sampling and self-reported survey techniques — will never go away. However, those methods will eventually become subservient to the gathering and interpretation of large universal data sets that don’t represent populations, but are actual populations. Some call this trend “big data” — as intelligence derived from digital breadcrumbs usually means working with very large data sets. If the wonk word “big data” goes away by 2020, all the better.
2. Social, CRM and advertising will collide. Facebook is demonstrating that it’s possible to integrate techniques of one-to-one CRM marketing with mass-media planning techniques like reach and frequency. And when you add social endorsement to the mix, you begin to achieve something unprecedented. In the future smart marketers will adopt a social-CRM-advertising model that embraces multiple social networks to create a master customer communications grid. In many cases, the social CRM database will become primary, while legacy internal databases become secondary.
3. “Digital marketing” will cease to exist. We’re all doing less “digital marketing.” Instead, we’re simply doing marketing in a digital world. This nuance will dictate your organization’s culture and marketing roadmap for the future.
4. Social-media marketing will cease to exist. Like digital marketing, we’ll soon all be doing less “social-media marketing.” Marketing and media are inherently social — to one degree or another. Social is simply an aspect of all the marketing we do. Social transcends everything.
5. Consolidation in ad tech will grow the ad-tech pie. We’re due for a large wave of consolidation among venture-backed ad-tech companies. That will be a good thing, because that sector is experiencing a tragedy of the commons: lots of noise, too many companies, not enough traction. Fewer companies will mean fewer choices and simpler decision-making for marketers, which will mean lower friction to spend more money in innovative ways on new platforms. Ad-tech consolidation will have the ironic outcome of creating a larger sector altogether.
6. That which can be commoditized will. One of the key lessons I’ve learned in building companies is that anything that could possibly become commoditized, will be commoditized. When a new technology or platform arrives, it’s easy to get carried away with its unique value and promise. Increasingly, fast followers will match you at alarming speed and one-up you. Success is determined not by who is first, but by those who arrive on time to execute and out-commoditize the rest. These become the advertising technologies and platforms that win.
7. Successful advertising will still be about service. The idea of “advertising as service” is nothing new. With unprecedented advertising clutter, there will be a growing premium on, and receptiveness to, marketers and messages that serve and deliver value.
8. Trusted intermediaries will rise to prominence. Until our intensive consumerism retreats, we can bet that a dizzying array of choice and noise will continue to rise. It’s a tax on our attention. Of course, this is why marketers argue for investing in their brands’ equity in the first place. However, to fight attention deficit and fatigue, consumers will increasingly look to trusted intermediaries to make better and faster choices.
9. Legal & privacy issues, as we debate them today, will go away. The speed and adoption of technological advancements prompts an interesting sequence of societal events: First, a life-changing technology arrives. Then, mass adoption comes over the next few years. Social norms gradually mutate. Laws trail new social norms by another few years. This creates a messy transition. We can be sure of one thing: Social norms and our notions of privacy are changing, and laws will eventually evolve to reflect them.
10. Trust will be everything. Social media and our real-time connections have prompted a new age of transparency and consciousness around values, motivations, behaviors and outcomes of institutions. Doing good marketing and advertising means embracing responsibility and accountability throughout your organization’s entire value chain.
11. We will contemplate more purpose & less strategy. What else matters if there’s not a decent world for our children? That’s why we could use less strategy and more purpose. If advertisers approached their business this way, our advertising industry — and our world — would become a far better place.
These big trends will most certainly reshape advertising.
However, one thing won’t change: our competitive spirit and mandate to win.
Check out the full version of this essay and other entries at the Wharton Future of Advertising Program’s Advertising 2020 Portal.