Trends Shaping the Future of Advertising

Toru Jhaveri, Senior Director ­ Strategy, DDB Mudra GroupThe ‘future of advertising' is a topic that's been discussed threadbare, as 1,16,00,00,000 search results on Google will attest. Conversations about it burst at the seams with all kinds of buzzwords immersive, experiential, data-driven, personalized, and virtual. It all seems exciting and alien, simultaneously precarious and promising. So, what will advertising look like a few years from now? What will change, and more importantly, what will stay the same? This question is best answered when one takes a combined view of not just changes in the tools and technologies of advertising, but in the changes and consistencies of people, the all-too-easily forgotten consumers whom advertising is actually for. Here are some of my observations, based on over a decade's worth of experience in developing communication that's rooted in cultural, behavioral and media realities.

The landscape of the advertising industry will certainly soon be unrecognizable. Once the preserve of ‘creative' spirits and their long-suffering ‘suits,' the business will be populated by technologists, media platforms, consultants, content specialists and production houses. There seems to be a growing belief that advertising is simply well-made content, produced on the basis of, and/or delivered using insights from Big Data. Have one of these skill-sets? Simply acquire the other, and you're in business.

Given this fluid and hated competitive landscape, the agency of the future will certainly look different than agencies of today. The days of the business management ­ strategy ­ copy/art assembly lines are in the past. More and more agencies are experimenting with newer models, aligning skill-sets around a client-focused core. Teams of the future (and some in the present) consist of analysts, writers, technologists, strategists all working together to `crack' a brief. In fact, entire holding companies are being encouraged to break-down their silos and start thinking of themselves as loose networks, some of which actually include the clients themselves!
In advertising as in all businesses, AI will replace the repetitive and redundant, making collective knowledge easier to access and organize.

Technology will raise the bar for what counts as 'great' work. Is there something surprising and delightful about how content is created and delivered? Is it personalized in ways that run deeper than Vogon banners and programmatic advertising? Is communication delivered immediately in anticipation of our needs rather than just in response to them? More and more products, services and campaigns will not just communicate, but will actively gather data ­ L'Oreal's Makeup Genius app that recommends `looks' or Coke's soda customizing fountains are early examples of how brands will learn from and about us as we engage in what feel like simple, mundane transactions. All this will change, and yet, so much will stay the same.

Contrary to expectations, the ‘digital' and ‘mobile' revolutions have not (yet) swept away all our old instincts and habits. While we consume vast amounts of content online and on our devices, while away hours on social media net-works and streaming platforms, we continue to remain dazzled by big screen extravaganzas; we want to share certain viewing experiences with friends and family; we want to absorb some information deeply, visiting and re-visiting it; we still build early awareness of products, services and brands in the most old-fashioned ways possible ­ through outdoor advertising, and in-store. Understanding this mix of old habits and new inclinations will be the key to unlocking the Holy Grail of the path-to-purchase ­ that seemingly random series of consumer-brand intersections that ultimately lead to trial and loyalty.

And as the path-to-purchase becomes even more complex, zig-zagging between online and offline, habit and impulse, newness and familiarity, it will become crucial to create brands that have a magnetic pull, that feel recognizable and desirable. Insightful, culturally resonant, moving stories, consistently told in a distinctive brand voice, will build what Byron Sharpe has termed `mental availability' ­ the likelihood of consumers noticing you, remembering you and asking for you when the time comes. By this proven logic, the best brands are built at scale, not in tiny, byte sized segments.

All of which means that when it comes to the seductive promise of measurement, marketers and advertisers will hopefully be much wiser about what counts as meaningful measurement. The digital waves sweeping our shores have led us to believe that just because we can count something, the number is of value. But few platforms are able to explain what the value of a click or a like is to marketers, or to ex-plain why one hyper-customized segment is more relevant to business objectives than another is. Which is possibly why high-profile brands, such as P& G, have notably cut-back on digital spends with little impact on sales.

So there you have it, trends shaping the future of advertising, a renewed appreciation of advertising and brand-building essentials, powered by data and technology for maximum effectiveness and impact. Success will remain uncertain, entirely dependent on whether advertisers and marketers can harness digital tools in the service of people who will always care less about our brands than we would like to believe.