They felt free, empowered and looked back on modern architecture with scorn: How could people have been so limited, so unimaginative and so constricted to act that way?
One day, advertising will enter a similar era. The “postdigital age” will herald a time when the concept and word "digital" will move into the background, where agencies and titles remove that moniker, where conversations switch from the pipes to the content.
We no longer talk about computerization or electrification — it’s just how the world is. When a technology is really here, it blends into the background. For me this is the context of the postdigital age. We’re not there yet; we may be five years away. Here are five signs that we may have made it.
Video, Not TV
The differences between video ads and TV ads are remarkable: how they are bought, distributed, measured, who makes them, who approves them, are all of vital importance. We have endless industry debates about TV dying and digital taking over the world. But for the 10-year-olds today, it’s a separation that makes no sense and means nothing. If an ad involves moving images, if it’s a video, get over it. When the world notices that video ads can be sequentially served, have new calls to action, be personalized, or be bought programmatically, things get really interesting.
Retail, Not Ecommerce
For retailers, different channels have very different meanings and implications — but for consumers, it's just buying the stuff they want, when they want. Forget omnichannel — total retail is how journeys and considerations work between "online and offline," with no concept of such lines existing. One day, retailers will use shops more like showrooms, and the Internet as a fulfillment mechanism for most purchases. The notion of ecommerce, mcommerce or brick-and-mortar will seem farfetched.
User-Centric, Not Channel-Centric
Media buyers and planners have become exceptionally proficient at buying against demographics and people, but we still use content as a proxy to reach people who typically watch that content. As an industry, we are aligned around channels and agency types, and we ignore the one thing that matters: people. One day, all ads will be targeted not by show, but at an individual user level. It won’t be buying 25-34, urban — it will be targeting people who have bought an LED TV recently, who own an iPhone and are watching something that is making them happy.
Every form of advertising ever made is based on ad units created over 50 years ago. For all the love of SnapChat ads, Spotify ads, Facebook units, it’s all just old units repurposed for the modern age. Ninety-nine percent of ad innovation is in targeting, not the ad itself. One day, someone will wake up and notice that TV ads don’t need to be 30 seconds long, that calls to action need not be "click here" to find out more — that here are masses of new kinds of advertising units. What does advertising look like on the App Store for the TV? What should an in-car promotion feel like? How can intimate data from our smartwatch create a new ad experience?
No More Social
The notion of social networks as a medium will face the notion of movement marketing and organic reach. Brands will shift from buying units or promoting silly competitions in public forums. Instead, they will get people talking by doing amazing things, making amazing products, getting people very happy and standing for something. Brands have the power to make us talk — but first, give us a reason to do so.
In this era, the Internet is a pervasive connective layer in the background. The TV stops being the thing you watch TV shows and TV channels on, and it becomes the large screen that entertains you. The mobile becomes the screen you take everywhere. The wearable becomes the device that records data, makes payments and shows tiny snippets of key contextual data. Then there is the car screen. We need to stop thinking about mobile ads, TV ads, in-car radio and instead consider these new contexts, constraints and behaviors. These are the new media channels, but they are all just digital.
I can’t wait for the post-digital age: a chance to move the debate on from how, to what — a chance to banish misleading words like social and mobile; a chance to reinvent the future of advertising.