By: Evan Levent [MDB Art Director]
It’s advertising week again in the Nation’s Capital, and the theme I’m picking up is the ever-bigger growth of digital. While a great creative idea that connects to an audience is still the end zone, the rules of the game are continuing to change.
For some background, here are some advertising trends from PEW’s State of the Media report [http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/digital-as-mobile-grows-rapidly-the-pressures-on-news-intensify/]. In 2011, a huge marker was crossed when digital ad buys outpaced newspaper ads, a trend that will continue. Last year, digital advertising increased by 17% to a total of $37.3 billion. Digital now makes up over 23% of the total U.S. advertising landscape and, in 2012, mobile ad buys grew by 80%. By 2016, eMarketer projects mobile will account for 21% of total digital ads.
What does this mean for advertisers? Firms need to continue to have a greater understanding of the digital landscape and how to use it. On Oct. 1, a great panel on Native Advertising discussed what may be some of the most important developments in digital advertising. Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic; John Walls, vice president, public affairs at CTIA-The Wireless Association; and Patrick Keane, president at Sharethrough talked about the right kind of advertising for the right medium. They told a story of the first advertisement ever broadcast on television. In 1941, during a Yankees game break, Bulova played an 11-second spot of an image of a wobbly U.S. map with a Bulova watch superimposed over top. There are about six seconds of awkward pause before you hear a voice over, “America runs on Bulova time.” It was clumsy, out of place, and better formatted for radio or newsprint.
At the time, television was a medium not well understood, and it took a while to think about 30-second spots to fit in with 30-second scenes and what live pictures and motion could do for storytelling. Similarly, most online advertising to this point has been an effort to “cram” TV ads and print ads into a format that is inherently different. The answer may lie in Native Advertising and the ability to place advertising experiences inline with existing relevant content. Think “sponsored links” on Huffington Post or Washington Post. As Derek Thompson and Patrick Keane explained, “everything is a feed.” Facebook, Twitter, blogs, news sites, they all share a common architecture of stacked boxes filled with content, when we understand that, we can smartly replace some of those boxes with relevant sponsored content to increase engagement and let users interact with advertising on their own terms.
Ben Jones, CTO of AKQA had perhaps the clearest vision of the future of advertising. Their idea of “Native Advertising” reaches far beyond simply pushing ads or articles into a content stream. They are interested in creating a new level of engaging digital experiences between brands and people. Jones talked a lot about “social” not as a platform, like Facebook or Twitter, but as an idea of communication between brands and their “brand champions.” Social is how people now communicate. Brands and their advertising partners need to recognize that a two-way conversation with their audience is becoming essential as the digital age of advertising continues to mature.
Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of Translation offered an amazing insight that helps round out the changes we’re seeing in how advertising is delivered. Demographics are becoming irrelevant. What is more important now is what people share in common, not how they are different. We are moving towards a society that will no longer be persuaded by messages based on typical demographic parameters but, instead, by connecting with a brand, its content and products on a fundamentally cultural level. Culture, however, is now a huge mixed bag of music, style and self-expression that will be limited if marketers message based on race, age, gender or other traditional breakdowns.
Advertising is changing. Through an understanding of how to message to a new cultural landscape, and how to build solutions that engage in communication with an audience, we can do more for our clients and brands in a new digital world.