Earlier this year, Marc Pritchard got people thinking about what a future without ads would look like. There were also pieces about whether we've really changed advertising, and whether we really need it anymore.
All this got me thinking about what role advertising plays and whether it is indeed necessary now, or not.
I have a degree in advertising. There are lots of people who are in advertising, but very few of them ever actually studied it, while I had four school years to learn how to do it well. If you add that to my 25 years of work experience, I think I’m qualified to say advertising is necessary, but its current formats are not.
Ads are intrusive, but in the future they may not have to be. I can look at the stages of digital advertising over the last 20 years, and ads have shifted from being more intrusive to less intrusive.
Banners and content ads that we see today are more integrated into the experience (for the most part) versus where they were in the early 2000s. Targeting has made it easier to tailor the message to the right audience, and video ads are more effective than the rest of the online ad solutions we use today.
Advertising has supported the growth of media and the fragmentation of different content through different channels that allow consumers to get the information they want when and where they want it.
None of this would be possible without advertising, and digital advertising has absolutely had a profound effect on changing the way ads are delivered.
If you ask consumers whether they like ads or not, they almost unanimously say they do not. But if you ask them what products and services they most recently purchased, you will undoubtedly come up with a bunch of products and services that advertise.
I am 100% certain that advertising works, but I am just as certain that it could be better. Advertising is persuasion. Advertising is messaging that resonates and media that targets. Messaging and media can both evolve.
The landscape of broadcast and digital is shifting to a customizable subscription-oriented model, and advertising will likely evolve in the same way.
As an example, I’ve been writing lately about what cable TV might look like and whether people will continue to cut the cord or not. I believe cable companies will come around to customizable bundles where consumers can select the menu of networks they want to pay for.
Alongside that, I think consumers may start to opt in for certain types of messaging from categories of products they may be interested in, and cable companies will curate the kinds of advertising they deliver.
A portion of the ads will be more random and unselected in order to expose consumers to new ideas, but the majority will be products and services that consumers are more likely to engage with.
This will become more necessary as the parameters around data usage become narrower and more restricted. The future of data is not looking good, so advertisers will need to find other ways to deliver a targeted message. So the reciprocal value of customizable media packages with self-selected ad packages makes sense.
This is but one potential evolution. I think we are likely to see a shift for advertising to become more supportive and less intrusive. I think interruptions of video could be removed in favor of bookends and blockers. Making someone watch an ad at the beginning is better than intruding in the middle, and if those messages are more targeted, then I think consumers will be OK with them.
There are certainly other ways that ads are going to change, but I can’t envision a world without advertising. The future would be bleak with no ads, in my opinion.