Beyond Advertising


This is the first in a three-part series that looks at scenarios in the now, next and the near future for the advertising industry and the entire zeitgeist it aims to (and must) impact

By Suresh Dinakaran

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Published: Mon 27 Jun 2022, 11:38 AM

Vignettes from A Day in Your Not-So-Future Life

As I walked into the bathroom, the body scanning sensors could tell I had a rough night. Sure enough, looking into the mirror, it displayed an ad for Panadol (for pain relief) which was dynamically inserted as sponsor of my morning sports video highlights. In addition, a coupon offer from Nabo coffee was presented along with my daily agenda, which I dropped into my mobile watch.

My automated home system had already connected with my Google self-drive and ordered me a car. Since I had earned over 1000 points last month based on my social sharing activity, I received an offer to try 3 breakfast items from a sponsor, Tim Hortons, with the caveat to ' please share your thoughts on the breakfast with your social network. I devoured the greasy delight while sitting in the backseat of my selfie-car while it drove into the city. The ads that rose from the ether as I looked out of the windows were personalised and behaviorally driven with time and place considered.

When I selected quiet, contemplative music for the drive, I wasn't surprised when the ' brought to you by ' included a yoga studio and a spa; both offering same week specials if booked within an hour and a voice link to testimonials from 'friends' within my social network.

At the office I entered the Google collaboration holodeck with five others; we connected to the global team (another 12 members) and used voice, text, touch screen tech to share, move, grab, iterate on ideas, designs, models (which we 3D printed) for the proposed E Sports stadium for the Brisbane Olympic Games in 2032.

On the way home later, I received several invitations to stop or order dinner for home delivery, all based on known preferences, what I ate yesterday, my bio read for today, with ratings from within my social sphere. I decided on delivery(noodles) and decided, once home, I needed a good laugh, so asked my virtual video concierge for all Academy Award winning comedies of the past decade, along with ratings my friends had given and also asked to see if anyone wanted to co-view and connect this evening.

While watching the comedy film, I was on Twitter and received sponsored Twitter amplified comedy shorts; both were outtakes from the movie I was watching and "best of "clips from the actor's other work.

I ended the day in bed with my e-book reading a few pages to me, along with sharing tomorrow's weather (brought to you by Carrier) and any key meetings on my agenda (a reminder from Timex).

Bruce Neve, Former CEO, StarcomMediavest Group

What we find compelling about this above extract from Bruce (predicted in 2013) is that the vast majority of what he describes is not only possible today, but is being practiced, tested, and evaluated for new levels of effectiveness related to traditional approaches by marketers across categories.

It is said that the future arrives gradually and then all of a sudden.

We’ve been hearing about the pending 'death of advertising' for years, with ever-increasing ads having less and less influence on actual consumer decisions. Today, the up to 10,000 ads we see every day makes each of them less impactful. It turns out that hitting people in the face with a fire hose is a bad way to convince them they should take a drink.

The consumer is hard to impress, and the next decade of advertising relies completely on them buying into our largely tech-driven, utopian vision of making every single advertising message relevant to the receiver. If you consider yourself able to predict the future within any reasonable degree of accuracy, you’ll know that a solid human understanding is absolutely essential.

Over the next few years, advertising will move further away from communicating to predicting, and emoting, based on human needs. According to a study by neuroeconomist Paul Zak, three out of eight people now love brands more than their spouses, because thinking of brands releases more oxytocin – the same reaction generated when being hugged.

Without a doubt, we’re going to witness (or already witnessing) a shift from obsessing over what advertising looks like, to what advertising feels like. As what we practice at ISD Global - Unique Feelings Proposition (UFP), is far more significant than the by now passe Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

And for that to happen, advertisers talking will get replaced by advertisers listening. Hearing what the customer is saying will be more important than trying to devise a break-through creative idea. Answering customers' questions. Right now. Not tomorrow. The individual is the shaper of her own identity and its own online & offline presentation. She is no longer the consumer of the media. She is the medium- the most trusted and personal channel through which content is created, flows, finds shape, and gets presented to the world.

The hyper-personalization of advertising will indeed further empower the consumer, but it may also save advertising from its oft predicted doom.

In order to develop a future for advertising brands, there could come into existence a Need Bar. The Need Bar would be personalised for every consumer, to give her the ability to look for anything she needs at any time. This would result in a brand not only being present in the life of a consumer, but also catering to her every need, from any brand. Inevitably, the future of advertising will incorporate more consumer knowledge derived from the hard sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics, to complement that acquired from the softer sciences of psychology and sociology.

The needle is moving. Most advertisers in the very near future (if not already) would have completed their natural evolution from adjacency (stand next to the stuff people want) to interruption (stand in the way of the stuff people want) to content marketing (be the stuff that people want!). Enter a new era where brands that do business using a Consumer Era " marketing as manipulation " mindset will become irrelevant and superseded by companies that demonstrate a Relationship Era mindset. And, as forces at play lead the Relationship Era to the tipping point of wide acceptance, I believe that marketers will not be known as the scoundrels who spin but rather people with the greatest expertise in crafting authentic relationships- and adding most value to their brands and businesses.

What if?

  • What if marketers and brands saw their marketing and advertising as an investment and a value creation engine rather than as an expense to be squeezed
  • What if the brands were seen as bringing in not only advertising dollars but also valued content to the media properties and channels they use?
  • What if the creative, analytic, and strategic genius that lies within the sum aggregate of the world's media, advertising, digital, creative etc. agencies, research firms, ad tech companies, sponsorship, brand placement, - and all other players who ' feed off advertising '- were given a more inspired brief? Increase sales and leave the world a better place. Come in on budget and be proud to tell your family about what you helped create. Help us, all of us, be in thought, word, and deed, create something truly exceptional!
  • What if the community were to be expanded to all those whose actions imparted the brand and how it came to life for its audience? Not only the traditional stakeholders, but also others who could potentially describe the broader value of the brand and the brand experience in even more creative and impactful ways.
  • What if all the way that brands were brought to life with their potential and current customers were thought of holistically, and resources were allocated accordingly?
  • What if every bit of the US$ 780 billion plus paid, earned, and owned advertising expenditure around the globe not only resulted in sales and profit, but also resulted in net positive impact on society and culture? What if, in addition, it made a positive impact on the lives of those who were involved in it and influenced| inspired by it?

Why Not?

With all this potential for good, why is most advertising stuck in an adversarial, zero-sum game among its key players? We need new mental models to emulate, practice, and recognise the compelling need to change to a new, more desirable future. What is holding us back?

As Albert Einstein famously asserted " Without changing our pattern of thought, we will not be able to solve the problems we created with our current patterns of thought ".

Amid all the changes, “the fundamental things apply as time goes by,” to quote the famous song from the classic movie Casablanca. A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is still a sigh, and human nature doesn’t change over time. Our obsessive drive to survive, to succeed, to belong and to be loved, to take care of our own—those passions have been heightened by the pandemic, and advertisers and their agencies who are sensitive to those basic needs will create brands to meet them, an act that will always require advertising.

Creativity will remain the most powerful force in business, and instead of changing campaigns with every change of a CMO, advertisers will rediscover the importance of consistently projecting a clear sense of purpose and doing so with a distinctive brand voice. Along the way, we’ll learn the difference between an algorithm and a true insight into human nature and the important difference between big data and a big idea.

Advertising has been both cause and consequence of social change. Never was it more obvious than since the start of the twentieth century. That, of course, is both a positive and a negative. It is a powerful tool of change, and like any tool, it can be misused. And at times it has been. I have no doubt that advertising will rise to meet that challenge.

To be continued.

Suresh Dinakaran is the Chief Storyteller at branding agency ISD Global, Managing Editor of BrandKnew and Founder, Weeklileaks.

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