"What it's going to force is advertising models that are actually helpful and respectful to users ... and that's what will make it work, because people don't have the patience for anything else," he said at MediaPost's Future of Media Forum, part of Advertising Week.
Williams joined other thought leaders in offering predictions for the future. Today, that means Dec. 25 rather than 2025. The media world is spinning that fast.
There appeared to be two trends the panelists agreed on: mobile devices could essentially be glued to billions of hands soon, and it's a great time to be a consumer. Of course, how to capitalize on mobile growth is TBD. But short of Rupert Murdoch succeeding with Internet pay walls -- Vanity Fair's Michael Wolff said "no one is paying" -- content is abundant and still largely gratis.
At the same time, the cost of devices is coming down, which could dull Apple's bite. "The iPad and other devices are interesting, but I think they'll be dwarfed by smartphones, which are still growing like crazy," Twitter's Williams said. "And it's not the iPhone that's going to take over the world. The Android phones are going to be selling for $50, and everybody's going to have those."
For consumers, the new devices are fostering connections they could only dream of just five years ago. John Ross, who heads a fledgling agency at Interpublic focused on shopper behavior, said studying the decision-making process is humbling. Partly via social media and Web searches, consumers are exceedingly well-informed, forcing retailers to react, and agencies to break from a creative brief.
"In the absence of the brands and the retailers delivering information to them, they're increasingly seeking out each other," he said.
It's an "incredibly powerful consumer who knows more about the products and services than the associate in the store, the gentleman at the auto dealership or in some cases, the pharmacist," he said. And the trick is to embrace the hunger for information "in order to make those shoppers feel smarter."
Paul Rossi, an executive vice president with The Economist Group, said his company grapples with the consumer embrace of new devices, notably the iPad and the Kindle with its falling price.
Rossi said an Economist iPad app is coming in November. "We have to accept that these devices are taking off," he said. "The change in behavior of consumers in terms of reading magazines is a definite issue for us."
A second reality: billions of people in countries such as Brazil, China and India are still waiting to get online, but have cell phones.
"You're going to see this incredible explosion of online media consumption in various forms," he said. "Text, not just Web ... the geography of the world is very much changing, and you're seeing mobile devices as a leapfrog for people to consume media in a different way."
Rossi said capitalizing on brands is fundamental. "We sit down and talk about taking marketing budget share," he said, offering packages where half of the opportunities include branded events, and social media extensions.
Vanity Fair's Wolff noted: "We're in the midst of something nothing less than industrial transformation in which ... not everything will change, but all the faces will change -- the people in charge now will not be in charge," he said.