Essence, a global data and measurement-driven agency which is part of GroupM, today [29 April 2020] released a unique report on the future of advertising based on the predictions of experts across academia, business, marketing, technology, publishing, and advertising trade organisations around the world.
The study evaluates the likelihood of 15 different scenarios occurring over the next decade and assesses the implications of each for the future of advertising. Each scenario tested explores the influence of a key dynamic or catalyst, from the use of biometric data to personalisation, privacy, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, regulation, payment models, and more.
“As an industry we have lots of insight into how technology is likely to evolve over time,” said Kyoko Matsushita (pictured below), Global CEO at Essence. “We conducted this study to provide more clarity about what that evolution will mean for advertising and marketing, to identify issues in need of the most urgent attention, and to help companies prioritise their innovation and marketing transformation investment decisions.”
Of the scenarios tested, experts surveyed were most confident about the likelihood of a future in which environmental considerations play a major role in consumer purchasing decisions, and the emergence of a new form of marketing interaction, in which companies and consumers outsource decision making to automated personal assistants and bots. Experts were least likely to predict futures in which consumers would be able to opt out of advertising entirely, or in which countries establish a unified approach to privacy and identity regulation.
Key findings from the report include:
● Companies will need to become more transparent, sustainable, and purpose-driven to meet the expectations of post-Millennial generations over the next decade. As an example, experts predict this audience will make environmental considerations a primary factor in consumer decision making as the 10-year deadline established by the UN to avert the worst effects of climate change draws nearer.
● While experts are optimistic that AI will eliminate inefficiencies without creating widespread joblessness or eliminating the need for people, individuals and companies will need to create new kinds of jobs and embrace new fields in which to apply human creativity. An example of the dramatic impact experts expect AI to have on marketing is the prediction that consumers will begin to outsource purchasing decisions to machines, which will optimise selections based on our goals and preferences.
● Advertising will continue to enable access to content and services for many people, especially in developing countries, but experts also predict companies will begin to prioritise services over products in their marketing. Experts deemed it unlikely that people will be able to opt out of advertising entirely but expect subtler forms of marketing like product placement and sponsorships – integrated into frictionless services and experiences – to play an increasingly important role.
● Biometric data is likely to be established as a key component in consumer identity information by the end of the decade, making it necessary to focus on the development of corporate strategies and policies capable of securing its use.
● In lieu of global regulation, experts predict that companies will collaborate to establish standards across transactions, identity, and security that will enable new payment and exchange models that will create scalable alternatives to subscription-based commerce.
“Advertising plays such an important role in supporting access to reliable news and information, driving culture, and advancing the global economy – we need to make sure it remains sustainable,” added Matsushita. “We hope this report sparks conversation and creative thinking in our industry about what we can do today to create the best possible future.”
Essence’s analysis identified three differing perspectives among experts which define the fault lines of the debate over the future. While most experts predict the combination of artificial intelligence and greater access to data will transform society over the coming decade, opinion was divided between “Pro-AI Societal Transformers” who believe in the positive impact of artificial intelligence and “Pro-Human Societal Transformers” who believe humans will need to remain at the centre of decision making. A third group of “Pro-Privacy Humanists” are more skeptical about AI and believe a growing prioritisation of individual privacy will restrict the use of personal data by both marketers and AI systems.
The study was conducted from January to late-February 2020, before the scope of the coronavirus pandemic was fully clear. “We looked at the likelihood of these dynamics defining the future over a 10-year horizon, but it seems plausible that many of the predictions and trends identified in this report will have been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic,” said co-author Kate Scott-Dawkins. “In particular, we expect that the pandemic may increase the use of AI and automation to replace human labor, catalyse increased use of 3D printing to create locally resilient economies and supply chains, and increase people’s readiness to embrace virtual experiences.”
The study is based on in-person interviews and online survey responses from a non-random sample of nearly 50 experts, with respondents selected by Essence to uncover perspectives across roles, tenure, and geography.
The report can be downloaded at www.essenceglobal.com. Select quotes from individual participants are also available to download here.