Seven Predictions About the Future of Advertising

Let's start with what we know about media habits, structural changes in advertising practices, and advertising effectiveness.

Times Square
Credit: Paul Carlon

Media habits
People are NOT watching less TV. Over 95% of video watching hours still occur on TV. However, many multitask and use DVRs. People are moving away from print toward digital. Time spent on social networking sites continues to explode; up 83% vs. last year according to Nielsen Online. Mobile is a main device for connecting to the Internet in many countries and is increasing here; apps and text messages bring brand messages right to the point of purchase.

Advertising practices
While Advertising spending is down because of the recession, TV, digital, and shopper marketing appear to be gaining share at the expense of radio and print (based on latest reports from TNS media). My guess is that spending on creating Web sites, communities, widgets, staff needed to participate in social media, etc., is growing but we don't really know since it isn't reported. Print is challenged, especially by classified advertising moving online. While print media now all have digital versions, they find that their audiences and ad revenues do not automatically transfer.

Structural changes
It's about integration. Media companies are putting their content on multiple platforms, making content rather than medium the organizing principle. Advertisers are creating integrated marketing teams. Advertisers and media companies are directly negotiating cross-platform relationships with deep integration of the advertiser into the program content (so people can't fast forward past the message).

Ad effectiveness
Despite people saying in surveys they don't like advertising, it still works. Perhaps the biggest surprise to some is the evidence that TV advertising works as well as ever. Even display ads and search are proven to translate into business without a click.

At the ARF, our planning scenarios about advertising include:

  1. Both push and pull advertising will continue to work and will show growth once the economy rebounds.
  2. TV will remain an attractive advertising option.
  3. Media companies will create synergy for properties across platforms (e.g. watch the TV show, interact with the show on TV or online) and offer integrated sponsorships to advertisers.
  4. Advertisers will form integrated marketing teams and choose from a broad range of media strategies, sometimes driven by reach, sometimes driven by digitally-enabled targeted engagement approaches.
  5. Marketers will embrace social media as the integration of advertising, PR, customer care, and research.
  6. Retail will become increasingly powerful, encouraging more shopper marketing.
  7. Advertisers will continue to think globally and will become increasingly multi-cultural in the U.S.

The evidence does not support the "advertising is dead" view that some express. Both push and pull advertising brings value to people's lives and continues to help marketers build great brands.

Read more of Joel Rubinson's Brave New Marketing blog

Joel RubinsonJoel Rubinson is Chief Research Officer at The ARF, where he directs the organization's priorities and initiatives on behalf of 400+ advertisers, advertising agencies, associations, research firms, and media companies. Joel is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and an active blogger. He holds an MBA in statistics and economics from the University of Chicago and a BS from NYU and never leaves home without his harmonica. Follow him on Twitter: @joelrubinson

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  • Justin Breitfelder

    Thanks for your thoughtful evidence. Much of which I agree with. But either advertising as we know it is dying or advertising needs a serious repositioning campaign. And we know how challenging the latter is with a concept that is so deeply engrained. You might want to think about repositioning and renaming the ARF as well. Websters defines advertising as: "the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements" -- which is how most people probably think of it, right? Lee Clow is calling it advertising in favor of "Media Arts", a much broader term that points to much of the future you're talking about. The best hope for the future of advertising, IMHO, is to use more interactive, 2-way storytelling and stay integrated with ever-evolving media options.

  • Sheena Medina

    I am excited about the prospect of advertising becoming more multi-cultural in the U.S. It is an area that I feel could use some evolution. Also, it seems like these seven scenarios are extensions of trends that are already occurring in the marketplace and the prospect of seeing these shifts come to fruition is both entertaining and exciting. :)