Making The Future Of Advertising More Human

  • by , Featured Contributor, September 28, 2023
The digital transformation of advertising and media has brought society enormous benefits -- more information to more people in more places, more personalized, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before. As special as the nostalgic past of tactile newspapers, magazines, Yellow pages and television (when its signal was analog) were, the past 25 years have certainly made advertising and media overall better, more value-added.

But, however efficient software-born automation and cloud-driven centralization have made our industry, it is critical that we also preserve and rebuild its humanity. I don’t just mean overcoming the specter of a future where key tasks that have historically driven media and advertising-- like creativity, story-telling, news gathering, drawing and editing --are done by robots/AI. I mean how media and advertising affect their users and consumers.

I am much less concerned about an advertising and media industry driven by robotic data, science and software than I am by software developers and tech tycoon wannabes that believe winning in a game-able programmatic ecosystem is what’s important, not what the result means for consumer experiences and societal impacts.



Many parts of the digital ad marketplace are broken, doing damage, leaking money, enabling fraud and exposing private consumer data. Many of the people involved can or should know better, but the industry pays well and many find that a little bit of willful ignorance can go a long way. It’s amazing what some can justify, like made-for-advertising sites. MFAs deliver terrible experiences for consumers, wasted value for advertisers, and siphon away revenue from the publishers who can truly add value to both constituencies.

We need to shift our optimization focus away from pipes and platforms and direct it to the humans that these systems should serve. We should be thinking in terms of delivering media and advertising that not only inform and entertain, but that delight, creating lasting value for consumers and the brands that are part of them.

AI and algorithms aren’t the enemies here. They will be the enablers, the tools that make a better, more human, world of advertising and media possible. But they will need to be shepherded. It won’t happen without leadership intent on making the human experience better, not just faster, more responsive and more revenue-generating.

What do you think?

2 comments about "Making The Future Of Advertising More Human".
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  1. Stewart Pearson from Consilient Group, September 28, 2023 at 4:49 p.m.

    Dave Morgan, disappointing. As one of the most perspicacious practitioners in the advertising industry, your statement “the past 25 years have certainly made advertising and media overall better, more value-added” is both laughable, and sinister.

    Laughable, because the value of brands has already been eviscerated or outright destroyed by software and tech tycoons.  As a group the top global advertised brands lost value over a period when the digital platforms, funded largely by advertising, gained dramatically more.

    Sinister, because the veil of silence in the industry continues. I wrote in 2020 “It turns out that spending on digital media (search and display at Google, and social media at Facebook) does not build long-term value. The omertà in the industry prevents open discussion and rigorous analysis of the truth.”

    Dave Morgan, I applaud your recent call for a code of conduct in media planning. I've recently called for two initiatives: legally binding and fiduciary codes for multiple functions, and true standards and certifications in marketing and advertising. I urge you to lend your weight to a third proposal I make here, for a rigorous analysis of the full effects of advertising and brands in our social, environmental, and economic crises.

    Stewart Pearson

    Stewart is on LinkedIn and Twitter, and at

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 28, 2023 at 6:35 p.m.

    Dave it seems to me that we are not too clear about what type of advertising we are talking about. For example, the introduction of online media has probably been a boon for direct marketers and their kin, search advertisers, largely---but not totally---- replacing direct mail, catalogs,etc.

    As for branding campaigns which rely mainly on "TV" in one form or another---typically for 60-70% and often, more of their ad spend----I'm not so sure that we have seen a great gain in efficiency or effectiveness. Indeed, many will argue that the opposite is true, not only because of audience fragmenatation but also due to what it has produced---- the huge rise in ad clutter, the increased reliance on lower cost program content---reality shows, for example---and the continued lack of ad-relevant audience measurements. The result has been a major decline in ad awareness for the average TV brand. Also, while it's painfully obvious that we are using vastly inflated estimates of commercial viewing---aka "impressions"--- including such metrics in future TV rating service designs has been quietly but firmly vetoed by the sellers.

    Sticking with "TV" can we really say that most TV branding advertisers are meaningfully targeting the prime prospects for their brands when in 2023, 90% of national TV time buys are based on adults aged 18-49 or it's close relation, adults aged 25-54---both creatures of the 1960s and neither intended as a targeting metric.? And can we really say that brands are using TV in ways that are best suited to their campaign objectives when 70% of national TV, plus a goodly share of scatter buys are made on a corporate basis---with the primary objective of holding CPMs in check?Do we really see today's CMOs getting involved in challenging this ancient, volume discount, type of buying? Or, for that matter, are they up in arms, advocating the inclusion of attentiveness measurements ---and being willing to partially fund same?

    Sadly, the answer to my questions as well as similar ones that might be asked about other forms of media is "no". Set aside an occasional  pious speech at an industry gathering that pleads for "better ways' of doing things, and , let's face it, most CMOs still don't care.

    So, maybe things have improved for certain kinds of advertising but I doubt that this can be said  for branding ad campaigns or  how we use what is still considered by many as the most effective ad medium---"TV". Will it get better? I hope so---but who is going to lead the charge if the CMOs are not involved? The agencies? I doubt it.The media sellers?Really?

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