It was the worst of times; it was the worst of times… (with apologies to Charles Dickens)
Now, I’m going to bring together all of my thoughts on advertising in one place. Brace yourself.
Once upon a time, “the target” sat at home watching television, namely the big 3 networks- ABC, NBC or CBS. Wives were at home during the day, and husbands would slump into recliners at the end of their work day. You had to get up to change the channel. The audience was captive and predictable. Other media like radio, newspapers and magazines worked in support of a much less cluttered media environment.
Let’s fast-forward to the present. Traditional television is on the way out as advertising’s biggest money-maker. Most channels have no real meaning. The internet is our main line to content of all sorts to suit our desires.
These days, technology can organize content to create personal channels and it can also link that content with personally relevant advertising – or no advertising at all. In this way, the advertising that once funded the networks has become just more content, and technology now plays the organizational role formerly played by networks and advertising agencies.
More and more technological advancements are allowing customers to bypass advertising altogether- beyond pirating sites, customers will soon be able to purchase all of their content for a $1 fee and enjoy content that is ad-free. Content that comes for free increasingly provides users the choice of ads they must view- and guess what they will do? They’ll choose to be entertained or informed on the subjects they already prefer.
So we’ll have to get creative in this future world, where the old advertising market will be officially dead. The new communication agencies are filled with bright young “media” specialists who are armed with a blend of creative, technological and CRM-style skills. They are as comfortable with ROI and algorithms as they are with getting inside the psyche of their customer.
It will be fascinating to watch the Internet develop as the delivery vehicle for content, and see who ends up driving the ship: Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, or a brand new entity.
As always with technology, those in the middle are in for a heap of change and possibly a heap of trouble. They will have to radically redefine their roles if they are to prosper. The countdown has already begun.
Yes, everyone is already betting on the Big Four, but history also suggests that we keep our eyes on a range of companies that none of us have heard of… yet.
Just remember: the future is a very fast jet plane. Once you hear it, it’s already gone past.
Austin McGhie is Sterling’s head of Strategy