Marketing In 2024: Child's Play

Louis CK would have been proud. A few weeks ago, instead of lamenting the fact that I was on a plane with no WiFi, I gave praise to the heavens that I was in a chair flying in the sky -- and that I’d downloaded some extra apps for my kids before taking off.

Of course, that left me unable to check email during the flight -- so what better time to write my next column?

Watching my little ones (ages 5, 2, and 2) maneuver the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch ­--  yes, we brought all those devices (no, these kids don’t know how to share) -- gave me a good sense of what marketing will look like in 10 years.

Here’s what to expect:

1. No more ads!  OK, that was just a sensational headline. There will still be ads in 2024. The thing is, they won’t look like ads -- and they won’t act like ads. 

Even today, my kids don’t know what ads are. They just click on whatever jumps out at them on their little screens. The only thing they know is that sometimes they’re taken away from what they were doing  -- and that annoys them.



In 10 years, ads will be natively woven into the fabric of our digital experience.  There won’t be ads in apps. There won’t be commercials interrupting content. There won’t even be banners framed around content.

Brands will be embedded in the content. Check that, brands will be the content.

In the future, you won’t be able to distinguish between paid and unpaid media. And you’ll be OK with that. You’ll simply reject any content that is irrelevant or uninteresting (by being old enough to know not to click on it) and the publisher and advertiser ecosystem will recalibrate accordingly.

How might this work? Picture an exchange comprised of individual brand assets that get mapped to various content and audience triggers (topic, age, location, etc.) and automatically create what we know today as branded content at the 1:1 level.

In other words, each person on each device will get relevant paid content pushed to him or her, and can choose to interact with it or merely dismiss. For an early look at how this may take shape, check out Yahoo stream ads.

Like the movie “Her,” where the real and digital worlds collide as Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his operating system, future marketing tactics will be a seamless blend of advertising, content, and technology that we will all learn to love.

2. All apps, all the time. Speaking of operating systems, in 2024 all our devices will be organized around apps, not programs. And we’ll use apps, not websites, to consume content, socialize, and transact.

My kids don’t know what a website is. And they sure wouldn’t know how to get to one. But ask them to pick out an “Angry Birds” thumbnail from a block of 20 icons about 10 feet away, and they’ll get it right every time.

These are going to be difficult habits to unlearn. In an appy world, there will be different kinds of apps for different kinds of devices. Photo apps for glass. Photo sharing for phones. Photo editing for tablets. And photo filing for computers.

There will be different kinds of ways to activate your apps. We’ll use voice and gestures more than fingers and keyboards.

What does this mean for marketers? You’ll need apps for people to do business with you. And you’ll need apps to make people aware of your business.

The same way we think about needing ads at every stage of the purchase funnel today, in 2024, marketers will need apps at every stage of the purchase funnel.

3. Search at the core. In a world powered by apps, the role of search as a core utility will take on even more importance.

In my book, “Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned from Google,” I pontificated (three years ago, mind you) about how Google could become a master “app-sisstant” that sucks in data and help you make decisions and/or provide the plumbing for an “API economy” that helps companies feed their data into other apps.

Either way, Google is positioned well, as is Microsoft with Bing at the center of its cross-device Windows play.

But there’s still plenty of room for improvement and innovation. One of my kids’ biggest frustrations with their iDevices -- besides the aforementioned things that we know as ads and they know as “Whoops, I clicked on the wrong button!” -- is how clumsy it is to find an app you’re looking for or discover a cool new one.

With millions of apps developed for Android and iOS and many more millions yet to come, the ability to search quickly and find the ones you want or need at any given moment is imperative.

App search engines like Quixey set out to provide this service, but it will be tough for it to compete with Google, Apple, and Microsoft, since those companies control the operating systems and have deeper insight into app functionality.

As for marketers, with search at the core of the app ecosystem, search marketers are best positioned to lead the 2024 advertising revolution.

Search marketers are well versed in deciphering intent and mapping it to content. We’re masters of pay-per-action bidding, creative testing, and real-time tracking and optimization.

These attributes will be staples of an exchange marketplace where brand assets are matched with audience segments and contextual apertures to deliver the right app to the right person at the right time, in the right location, on the right device.

As I said, child’s play. :)

3 comments about "Marketing In 2024: Child's Play".
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  1. Steve Plunkett from Cool Websites Organization, February 12, 2014 at 11:44 a.m.

    SEO + ORM + GRO = connections

  2. Ruth Barrett from, February 12, 2014 at 12:16 p.m.

    Nice and safe to use the term, brands, in this statement: "Brands will be embedded in the content. Check that, brands will be the content." I guess this assumes that corporations have successfully taken over our government and our networks. Ooops. Kinda looks that way right now doesn't it? This bother anybody else besides the hard working angry birds fighting for network neutrality and other relevant issues?

  3. David Carlick from Carlick, February 12, 2014 at 12:35 p.m.

    By 2024 the consumer will be in total control over what brands mean; Yelp is just a faint harbinger of a future where people shop with total information. So 'branding' will be completely organized around what the customers say about the brand.

    That said, social communications will also increase the virality of 'fads,' 'fashion,' and other trendy happenings.

    I am dubious we will be in an App world; it is just as likely that bandwidth will be so plentiful (even in airplanes) that we will have come full circle, and whatever form the 'browser' takes in ten years it will have full access to all the applications that live in the cloud.

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