When you append something with “of the future,” it’s hard not to immediately think of space-age technology, flying cars, and everything being simulated by computers. And while our world never seems to advance that quickly, it’s true that technological breakthroughs over the last few decades have led to very different ways of interacting with our environment. This is especially true for the advertising industry, which has needed to constantly adapt in order to keep eyeballs and minds on what it’s selling. Think about twenty years ago; the internet was still in its early days, television and radio ruled in terms of ad space, and companies were shelling out big bucks for print ad campaigns. These days, digital is both the present and the future, radio and print have slipped, and television keeps evolving with the advent of things like TiVo and virtual reality. We might not be seeing any hovercars outside our windows, but the gradual technological shift is changing the way we digest advertising.
Whether you work in the advertising industry or you’re just a keen observer, there’s plenty to learn and guess about the recent tech evolution and its future. Here’s what we think is next:
Digital and Data
There’s no doubt that the rise of digital has had one of the biggest impacts on advertising, ever. At first, it was all about banner ads and pop-ups in your web browser; now, it’s moved on to discreet yet targeted ads that can scan your social media profiles and deliver relevant information that will hopefully entice you to click and buy. Companies like Google are making an entire business out of selling virtual ad space. Even offline, you might notice digital billboards that can flip from one ad to another, or a giant interactive ad inside a bus stop shelter. In a world where there are already so many distractions, and where we’re slowly being tuned to adapt to all these distractions, advertisers need to fight for your focus. And they have to do it by integrating with the world that’s taking up most of your time: the one that exists in your computer or on your smartphone.
An article at Entrepreneur likens this to the futuristic world of the movie Minority Report, in which “the world around you bends to your likes and interests” in order to sell you products. In fact, the article says it’s already happening: “Push notifications, which can be delivered to a variety of wearables as well as mobile, use exact GPS-information to serve consumers relevant content. When done right, they can add value to shoppers’ in-store experiences by highlighting sales, deals or items that would have previously gone unnoticed.” It’s a win-win for both companies and consumers — the latter gets a deal, and the former gets a sale.
Ad agencies could be looking to build upon this in-store experience by using digital devices to augment consumer shopping. The Entrepreneur article suggests that “a department store could access a consumer’s music preferences, favorited styles, purchase history and any number of additional data points culled from his or her wearable and connected devices, in order to create a seamlessly individualized shopping experience.”
Television and Virtual Reality
Even with the popularity of online ads, television is still a major driver for advertising, and it looks to remain this way in the near future. Consider major sporting events, like televised championship finals, where advertisers spend millions of dollars to get prime airtime for their client’s commercials. This won’t change anytime soon, but what will be different is the way that advertisers promote products on TV.
We’ve already seen what a viral ad can do for a product, how it can turn millions of people online into brand advocates, and so ad agencies will continue to look to close the gap between television and the online world. Some ads are already using technology like QR codes and digital prompts to encourage viewers to “see the whole story” with their devices. It’s more about getting the audience to participate rather than putting out commercials that prompt channel-flipping or skipping altogether.
Pretty soon, we won’t just be watching television, we’ll be active participants. A 2015 piece on The Guardian discusses the notion of “immersive creativity,” specifically virtual reality. The VR business is estimated to be worth billions by 2018, and the article predicts a dazzling-sounding future: “Content and advertising will become so interlinked we won’t know which is which. People will ‘step into’ brand experiences and ads will be filmed with 360-degree cameras. Marketers will sponsor rides at theme parks and then bring them into your home via Oculus Rift so you can enjoy them in your living room, at no cost.” So although VR is currently more thought of for video games, it’s only a few short steps away from being another extension of advertising.
Gone are the days of loud pop-up ads online and printed magazine ads that we can just skip over; now, advertisers need to find creative ways to intertwine brand stories (and products) with a consumer’s lifestyle.
An Integrated Future
Although it’s not far-fetched to predict holographic ads or advertisements projected by robots, it’s easier to imagine that ads will become more of a pervasive background story in our day-to-day lives. If you also consider the leaps and strides ads are making with digital integration and data tracking, it’s a good prediction that advertising will continue to become even more target-focused and customized, built around creating a better shopping experience for a consumer. At the end of the day, advertisements may not be fading away, no matter how the landscape of media changes; instead, they’re just getting smarter.
What’s the best use of technology you’ve seen in an ad campaign? Tell us about it in the comments.