Why Now Is The Most Exciting Time To Work In Advertising

We’ve got odd names for things at the moment. I tried to make a phone call from my mobile phone the other day and it took me a good few swipes to find the one icon I needed to make a phone call. And yet we call it a mobile phone. 

It won’t be long before we look at our TVs the same way. What was once a single-purpose device to watch TV shows from TV companies, arranged by TV channels, with TV ads, will be as badly named as a mobile phone is today.

It’s this world -- where the TV just becomes just another smart surface -- that best provides the incredibly exciting context for new advertising.

In the late 1990s the term “new media” was coined. It was lost in that age, but now feels more relevant than ever.  Our current advertising landscape has never contained more opportunities to advertise. in the near future, these new places will proliferate massively and new techniques and connections will evolve. It’s a wonderful time to work in this business.



Think of the “new media” of our connected cars, or as the notification layer on our smartwatches (another anachronistic name). Think of what happens when the TV contains an app store, or the new screens of the Internet of things, smart mirrors, projecting cooking surfaces, digital art frames.  It’s not just the screen on our wearables, it’s the haptic feedback. It’s the contextual suggestions from Cortana, Google Now or Siri.

It’s not just media -- it’s new creative opportunities too. What new content marketing strategies can develop? What happens when advertising thinking is applied to products? What do ads created by APIs, not art directors, become?

These are thrilling times. Still, we have not begun to scratch the surface of possibilities. We are tainted by learned behavior and boundaries that no longer exist. If you ask a child to draw a picture, he doesn't hesitate. He doesn't have years of creativity  (verbally) beaten out of him. Ask most adults to do the same, and they find it uncomfortable -- it won’t be long before they probably copy something they have seen before. It’s very hard to innovate, because most people can’t think without replication and tight boundaries. 

Our industry is the same. All innovation we see is mindless re-appropriation from the past -- at best another iteration of the same. 

As Marshall McLuhan said, we march backwards into the future.  Our industry still supplies TV ads as pre-rolls. We place the same banner ads we made in newspapers in the 1700s on Facebook and call it “social advertising.” We’ve taken our mobile phones, the most powerful and personal marketing device the world has ever seen, and unleashed this limitless potential by making our known ad units smaller. We've used the true north that all apps evolve toward, from SnapChat to Facebook to News sites, as a way to lazily place video ads. 

We just can’t seem to escape the past. Online ad platforms mimic TV’s upfronts in their Newfronts by talking about the great content they host -- which, when you buy media on impressions, is near to irrelevant.

Someone please lead the way and wake up to the new possibilities that lie ahead. If you are a online video platform, know that the real advantage you hold isn’t that you too can get eyeballs -- but that you can, for the first time ever, make ads that can be entirely new experiences. You can make them sequentially served, target behaviorally, target at a user level, be cross-device. For the first time ever, you can make video advertising appropriate for the most niche of brands.

If we look to the future and not the past, we can redefine what advertising will become. We can see TVs as just large, black, connected mirrors where we can place anything and everything -- and mobile phones as our maps, wallets and social graph, our remote control for everything in life. 

Let’s think of this new canvas in two ways:

Better advertising experiences.  Think about how advertising can tell stories across devices and link to new forms of calls-to-action. What if ads allowed me to make phone calls to see stock levels? What if ads contained money from coupons downloadable to phones, and what if these coupons became more valuable every time a particular user shared them?

Better products. Advertising people are some of the best people on this planet, able to understand people and business, and to think creatively. If we think of ourselves as applying “advertising thinking” instead of "making ads," how could we make better product experiences? If advertising agencies can make Nike Plus or Fiat’s eco:Drive, why can’t we improve the travel experience by making the process of upgrading rental cars instant and easy, or make a hotel stay and the inflight experience better?

We’ve been given the best tools we could possibly imagine to craft an exciting future. Let’s start afresh and not just redraw what we’ve made before. 

3 comments about "Why Now Is The Most Exciting Time To Work In Advertising".
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  1. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, March 12, 2015 at 11:54 a.m.

    You ask for the advertising equivalent of an iPhone when all everyone knew were feature phones. The technology and assets are all in place. When you see it, folks will say why didn't I think of that?

  2. Ruth Barrett from, March 12, 2015 at 12:51 p.m.

    I believe Mr. McLuhan pointed out that initially the content of the old media will be found in the new suggesting, as you point out, that we are slowly evolving digital content that frees us from the linear thinking brought about with the invention of the printing press and is "new." Alleluhia. Let's get on with it. " We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us." McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy was given to me early on in my career and has been a guidebook to me as a producer-writer and high tech marketer.

  3. Tim Kist from TK3 Consulting, March 13, 2015 at 2:19 p.m.

    Tom, I believe that creative messages are more important than ever given the choices in medium. I am interested in your views about "new media - Facebook" and their heavy use of TV and outdoor in their new campaign. A tad ironic that they are leaning on "old media" because TV is still so effective at getting the message out there.

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