Curiosity Matters

An Exploration of Branding, Design and Cultural Trends

The Future of Advertising - As Told Through My 2010 Miami Ad School Application

Inspired by Faris Yacob's recent post, I decided to re-read my Miami Ad School Planning Boot Camp application from June 2010. Four years later, my thoughts on how advertising will and should evolve has not changed. This thinking is even reflected in how I answered WARC's 2014 Admap Essay contest on building brands in the digital age, which I can proudly say they added me to the shortlist. Below is my response to one of the application questions - word for word (recently edited for readability and not content). I think many of these predictions will come true ahead of schedule.

How would you evolve the state of advertising to be successful in the year 2020?


1. Sophisticated customer tracking tools will play a critical role in which products and ads we serve to customers. Customers will be in control of their data and willingly share it in exchange for tailored products and marketing.

2. Ad agencies will be fully integrated with less silos between disciplines such as brand building, digital, innovation, mobile or even employee engagement.

3.  The integrity of a product and organization will be paramount as increasing transparency pulls the curtain on what marketing can mask.

4. The role of advertisers will be to entertain, inspire, add value to your life or even serve as a community creator - fostering connections between likeminded individuals.

5. The need for strategic thinking, creativity and brand building won't go away.

In 2010, companies can already track their consumers through browser cookies, smartphones, social networking sites, online shopping, rating sites, and many more devices. By 2020, marketers will have more sophisticated measuring and monitoring tools to predict exactly what brands you relate to, down to the exact style of dress you want, before you even knew you wanted it. Consumers will profit from their private information by selling it to marketers, negating privacy issues. By 2020, I will never receive an ad that wasn’t meant for me.

In order for advertising to be successful in the year 2020, advertisers will need to change their organizational structure. They will need to rely heavily on strategic thinking and continue to develop their client’s brand. Most importantly, advertisers will need to work with clients to offer added value to the consumer, either through the ads themselves or products development. Ads will be engaging, entertaining and social.

Currently, most clients have a long roster of agencies: their digital agency may be based in Boulder while their AOR is in New York. Within an ad agency, coordinating every aspect of the process is challenging – even harder and less efficient when you’re working across multiple agencies. In order for advertisers to be successful in 2020, agencies need to go back to a time when all aspects of advertising were under one roof. The very definition of advertising will change to fall under the umbrella of communications and even innovation, blurring the lines between public relations, product innovation, entertainment and social media. Advertising agencies will become strategic think tanks, understanding their consumer and directing all other branches of the process; digital, print, television, web, media, etc. to interact with the particular consumer - based on their behavioral preferences. Collaborators from all stages of the process will sit in on the initial brain storming session so, for instance, the lead creative understands what the media team can do to execute their vision in the appropriate fashion. While this may resemble an in house agency, I believe it needs to remain separate in order to foster a culture of innovation, allowing strategists to pull inspiration from multiple sources and stay fresh. In keeping with the theme of integration and innovation, advertising agencies will be more horizontal and collaborative with the understanding that good ideas can come from anyone in the organization.

In addition to leading the strategic process, to be successful, advertisers will consult on all aspects of a client’s business that interact with consumers - from the retail floor to customer service, ensuring that the brand’s integrity is held throughout. With the rapid spread of information, there will be no room for disingenuous campaigns that falsely reflect the product or service. The ad agency will not create the retail experience but they will work closely to lead the firm that does.

Based on their strategic insights, advertisers will introduce the right products for the right people, popping up in their daily lives without being intrusive. It will aggregate information from your social networking sites, online persona and previous purchases to determine which brands you affiliate with and which potential new brands interest you. In fact, customers will be rewarded by points they can use to buy products for giving out more of their data – thus ensuring that products will be marketed to them more efficiently. Advertisers will turn into highly trained personal assistants, presenting you with your every need as you go about your daily life. Mobile and geo-location services will be key to alerting you what you need, when you need it and when you’re near it to get you to the purchase. Brands will create stronger communities as they are starting to do now – turning our global economy into a small town feel and giving people the connections that we all seek.

Advertisers will start conversations, entertain, challenge and excite their consumers. They will create social games that engage consumers with the brand. They will NOT be replaced by Google search or Facebook recommendations because consumers need that brand recognition (that comes in the form of advertising) to choose a brand out of the large sea of products. And brands need advertising to differentiate their product. As the tide is shifting now, the customer and advertiser will work together to create better products. This is how I would evolve the state of advertising to be successful in the year 2020.