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What’s in store for the future of advertising? That’s the million-dollar question. 

Fortunately, we don’t have to look far to get the clues we need. If movies have taught us anything, it’s that if you can imagine it, it can often become a reality.

For years, movies have left breadcrumbs for us to follow, be it You’ve Got Mail paving the way for online dating, Blade Runner showing us the power of digital billboards or WALL-E being the precursor to prolific virtual communication. 

Armed with this inspiration, we took to Advertising Week Europe 2022 with a panel of four industry experts to unveil what advertising will look like 100 years from now.

Ossie Bayram, our UK Country Director, kicked us off with advertising’s status quo. Our recent attention study with Lumen Research shows that consumers are exposed to up to 10,000 ads a day. Be that on mobile, TV, desktop or out-of-home. That’s an awful lot. What’s worse is that now, we’ve learned to filter them out and ignore them. And while some may argue that our subconscious brain is still taking them in, that’s not good enough for marketers who want to build their brand. 

Consumers are also very aware of the value of their data and the protection of their privacy. They are aware of the implications of hyper-targeting and the invasiveness of personalization with unwanted advertising. At the same time, regulations are accelerating, cookies are dying and Ad-IDs are on death row. The ad ecosystem is undergoing a monumental metamorphosis.

Despite the perception of consumers being bombarded with advertising, there are many examples of creatives and formats that successfully manage to break through the noise and even delight consumers. And as we move full speed toward our hyper-digital future, creatives, formats and ad placements will continue to play a crucial role in garnering consumer attention, while being underpinned by sustainability.

Woman on her phone surrounded by advertising
Our digital world is advancing rapidly and advertising will need to keep pace.

Let the creative juices flow

Before skipping 100 years into the future, one thing we can learn about creatives from our most recent past is to not rush how we use them on different screens,” says Jonathan Harrison, Digital Strategy and Transformation Lead at the7stars. An example is the tiny banner ads with illegible text we often see on our phones. 

In the same vein, we need to understand the nuances of culture and community, which are the prevalent driving forces behind audiences such as Gen Z,” adds Oliver Lewis, CEO and Founder of The FIFTH Group. Over the next decade, their spending power will only continue to grow, with their earnings set to reach $33 trillion by 2030. Understanding them is key to knowing how the creative will evolve and impact their attention.

Honing in on the content in the creative itself, Nina Nørgaard Jacobsen, Founder and CEO of Biites, was quick to dispel the idea that consumers have short attention spans. Biites is currently seeing people viewing content for an average of 5 minutes. “In the future, we’ll have consumers engaging with [branded] content for long periods of time simply because they like it.” Connectivity will be such that consumers will spend longer time on branded content, and even be introduced to other brands as a result.

Remove the barrier between the physical and virtual world 

To project the evolution of ad placements, we need to know where consumers will be and how they want to engage with ad content. The digital world is increasingly becoming three- or even four-dimensional where we not only talk about ads in the physical world but also in the virtual world.

As in the physical world, advertising in the virtual world must add value for the consumer. “It can’t be interruptive, it must be immersive. It needs to be an experience and not an activation,” said Oliver.

The blurring of the physical and virtual worlds will accelerate. We see some good examples in the virtual world from luxury fashion brands making branded clothing available to purchase. Oliver suggested that it’s essentially a beta testing environment where brands can see what resonates with people before bringing it to life in the real world. Not only is it an experimentation zone, but also a revenue stream for advertisers.

Back in the real world, brands have dabbled in 3D mobile ads for over a decade, offering greater interactivity and engagement. And with decades-worth of creative minds leaving breadcrumbs about futuristic hardware such as holographic devices, and concepts such as contactless communication, it’s not difficult to imagine what tech will look like in 100 years. As such, our platforms will need to speak to each other effortlessly. Platforms and connected devices will only become more immersive and personal, meaning that advertisers will need to think differently about how they add content into people’s worlds, and only where appropriate.

man using hologram phone
Is this how we will communicate in the future?

Personification over personalization

We don’t have to look far to see what advertising technology might be used to reach and connect with the right people in the future. Jonathan drew on research conducted by the7stars which revealed that 74% of the current UK media landscape is driven by some form of AdTech, opening the door to a plethora of opportunities for our industry. 

However, future success will be determined by the use of the right tech. Cookie and identifiers are being phased out now, not in 100 years. Consumers are more privacy-conscious and regulations are tightening at the same time. Advertisers will therefore need new ways to reach consumers while respecting their privacy. A new class of technology called Personified Advertising does just that. It uses audience interest data to qualify impressions, instead of personal data that qualifies users.

It has emerged as the only future-proof and sustainable solution to keep digital advertising aligned with its mission: enabling brands to understand and address a specific audience, without diluting value and losing sight of their purpose.

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Personified Advertising has emerged as a sustainable solution for brands to reach consumers when the cookie crumbles.

A solid foundation needs sustainability

As advertising as a whole evolves, sustainability must be at the forefront. Younger generations are hyper-aware of brands’ social impact and the advertising industry is not exempt. 

By 2122, consumers would have seen huge shifts in where we get our energy from, the cars (or vehicles) we drive and how we power our homes,” says Harriet Kingaby, Co-Chair of the Conscious Advertising Network. “From a creative perspective, advertisers have a key role to play in helping consumers believe and move toward a sustainable future. Advertising funds the media, so brands should use their platforms to create meaningful conversations around sustainability,” Harriet adds.

Another way to weave sustainability into advertising is to think more long-term,” says Nina. “Campaign thinking isn’t the way forward. Some of the best performing content [on Biites] are those that have been around for three to five years. They have an evergreen quality. Advertisers should therefore reuse and refresh more content. What may be old for one person, will be an entirely new experience for someone else.”

Who are our early adopters?

Now we have the clues for what the future of advertising will look like, we just need the early adopters to step forward.

“The key is to foster a culture of collaborative experimentation internally and externally,” says Jonathan. CMOs should want to test new formats or placements, but sometimes the creative agency can be the last to be included. So, once all the decisions have been made, teams then think about how to make the creative fit into this new channel or format, which isn’t optimal. 

It’s also crucial to set expectations internally. Things may break or fail with any experiment. However, that should be a catalyst to continue testing and trying new approaches rather than letting it slow you down. With a clear structure in place, teams can thrive in this environment.