Prophecies about Technology and Advertising

A couple of days ago I was lucky to participate in the Tech Marketing Show, sitting in a group of 5 spanish prophets together with Aquilino Peña, Rodolfo Carpintier, Cristina del Rey and Monica Deza.

I was asked to be one of the prophets, but to do so I had to understand the art of prophecy first. There I met not only the prophets of the Old testament and the New, but also the modern (which isn’t Google).

Mark Twain said: “The art of prophecy is very difficult especially with respect to the future”.

If we want to see how difficult it is to predict the future we can take the movie “Back to the Future” as an example and have a look at how the future was seen in the late 80's. If you remember, the movie was only talking about evolution for transportation, but at the same time they were still using fax machines. That future is our present, 2015.

Alternatively, 50 years ago Isaac Asimov (at the New York World Fair in 1964) predicted with great precision our present, but not everyone has his prophetic gifts.

What is certain is that the advertising industry has changed dramatically. What I am sure about, though, is that its essence generally remained the same, and it has always been about connecting brands to people.

Advertising industry from 1950 to 2020

I think that in order to speak about the future of the advertising industry we should take a step back and try to understand our recent past and our present, to understand our future.

My approach would be to divide the advertising industry from 1950 to 2020 in 3 parts that don’t need to be the same:

The Age of Creativity

The Age of Creativity began focusing on the product and its attributes and yet at the end of its time the message was the most important part.

Let us remember Don Draper in Mad Men, when in the first chapter he comes in and says: “Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.

Don Draper at Mad Men talking about Happiness

In the Age of Creativity, what we could call the creative revolution appeared, led by Bill Bernbach. Bernbach broke all the rules established by the advertising high priests of the time. In this revolution we learned to respect the intelligence of the consumer, to connect with the audience with humor, emotion and wit, as well as the importance and art of a well-told story.

The Utilitarian Age

At the end of the last century the digital disruption appeared, in which advertisers focused on tools for connecting brands and people. Tons of data help advertisers make their advertising more accurate on a daily basis. The prophets and false prophets appear everywhere though no longer on Madison Avenue but in the current prophecy Mecca: Silicon Valley.

Mobile is no longer future but present. Many of today’s digital products are created and developed according to the Mobile First philosophy, which allows any development to focus on what really matters to the user. Likewise, the Mobile First philosophy allows you to maximize the capabilities that mobile devices give us to tailor our content and message to the user’s context.

The Utilitarian Age realizes that people are practical and willing to be the product to be sold (their data) in order to receive tools and platforms that make their lives easier. Thoreau said, “Men have become the tools of their tools.” But the obsession with technology is diverting attention from the basic essentials: People.

The Age of People

In the coming years we’ll try to predict like Asimov and not like Twain, not only in this article, but also in the advertising we show to users. Through predictive platforms we try to communicate less and predict advertising based on human needs.

The consumer is hard to convince, but in the next 10 years we will achieve the utopia of machines knowing us better than we do ourselves and we will ensure that every message is relevant to the recipient.

This will be a period in which what was learnt during the Age of Creativity about strong and well told stories, and the data of the Utilitarian Age, will mix together.

The advertising formats and the content will be merged into one. We’ll have a trust crisis: we’ll trust brands less and people more, even if not everyone. There will be a discussion about algorithms and their predictions against human knowledge and premonitions. The traditional as we know it today will lose its value while the digital will be considered traditional. They will be mixed in one word as will happen to the physical and the mobile.

Advertising will go through each of these stages from the art of advertising, to the science of advertising until the last stage that will be the psychology of advertising.

The most interesting thing about the future of technology and advertising is re-imagining every behavior and every human experience today through the mobile phone prism and, in the future, through people. Through how people interact with each other, with our products, our channels, or our messages. This will be the moment when we go back to the basics of creating, telling and selling what people need.

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