The Future of Advertising

21 March 2016

Advertising – the business of convincing people to buy things they don’t really need. Your seldom used gym membership. The guitar you don’t know how play. My Arts degree. It’s a testament to the power of advertising that our lives are so full of compulsively purchased junk. Yet the methods of delivering such finely crafted bullshit are experiencing seismic shifts.

According to researchers at Strategic Analytics, the advertising industry grew by a comparatively low 3.2 per cent in 2015, with most losses coming from traditional mediums such as television and radio. It’s enough to make Frank Walker from National Tiles sound even less enthusiastic than usual. Perhaps even enough to make Rhonda shelve her return to Thailand for a quiet weekend in Rosebud.

The decline in traditional advertising is mostly being caused by ‘digital disruption.’ Digital technologies have disrupted the traditional business models of many industries by providing consumers with more options. For instance, consumers have more agency to seek out a new vacuum cleaner on rather than suffer the balding middle-aged man incessantly screaming about his warehouse sale on television.

Conversely, digital advertising grew by 13 per cent between 2014 and 2015, providing young Don Drapers everywhere a cause for excitement. The main reason for the digital shift, aside from the increasing uptake of digital devices, is that digitisation provides advertisers a greater ability to personalise ads. Through collecting data on an individual (search history, location, previous online purchases, social media likes, friend networks), firms can now pinpoint ads to their target audience. For instance, the banner ads on my Safari currently advertise Joe Hockey’s biography and sexy Russian singles in my area.

The future of advertising seems to lie in this kind of personalisation. Writing for The Guardian, Amy Kean of ad agency, Avas Media, estimates that “over the next 10 years, most marketing will become like the Amazon Recommends feature on steroids”. Research from marketing service, AgilOne, suggests that 75 per cent of UK online shoppers already expect that e-commerce content will be tailored to their preferences and that number is only predicted to rise.

Our personalised future is also likely to reach dizzying heights of accuracy and invasiveness. For instance, Kean suggests that the next frontier is neuro-tracking. This means that brands could track your physical response to ads through the heart-rate measurement on smartwatches.

A 2014 study by neuro-economist Paul Zak suggests that three out of eight people love brands more than their spouses, with the release of oxytocin that occurs with some brand recognition being similar to a warm hug. Forget focus group testing, the success of brands in the future might be measured by bio-chemistry.

Many worry that consumer tracking amounts to an invasion of privacy. At what point do marketers stop being commercial investigators and start being cyber-stalkers? With private firms now having access to such delicate information, the extent to which companies can gather and exploit this information for commercial gain is a vexed legal issue. For instance, can I sue the University of Melbourne Liberal Club for sending me promotional emails? I knew I should never have followed Christopher Pyne on Twitter.

On that note, I should inform you that Farrago has begun data tracking all our readers to more effectively market you content. It appears from your search history that you are most interested in cardigans, Oscar Wilde novels and cheap alcoholic drinks. Our tracking system is in its infancy and
still fairly primitive, so at the moment it consists only of generalising about Arts students. We’ll get

Another technique that is tipped to become increasingly prevalent is native advertising. Native ads are media texts such as news articles, YouTube videos and Facebook pages which are sponsored by corporate partners to deliver messages desirable to the brand. News outlets such as The Guardian and the New York Times have recently expanded their branded content divisions, indicating it will be an increasingly prevalent advertising option. People are more likely to click on native ads because they don’t look like ads. Advocates suggest that if the content is genuinely informative as well as brand-positive then it can be a win-win scenario. However, the issue of where to draw the promotional line is incredibly vague, with news outlets running the risk of descending into pure propaganda.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this foray into the future of advertising. Until next time, do yourself a favour and buy a block of Coon Cheese™. Coon Cheese™ is without doubt the most reliable dairy product on the market. I trust Coon™.

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