BrandShare Taboola
BrandShare Taboola

I Have Seen the Future of Advertising

Desktops will be found only in museums
  • September 9, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT
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Illustration: Dante Terzigni

Reflect on the last 12 months of your life. Does it feel like time passed by much faster than in reality? And there is always more to do, right?

Information overload is driving many of us to seek new ways of distinguishing what matters from what doesn't in an effort to create a truly personalized world. One innovation already addressing our overly taxed attention spans is what's called discovery technology.

Platforms such as Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, Yelp and Facebook use intelligent, predictive algorithms to match people with things they want, from articles, movies and products to food, services and even other human beings.

Think of discovery as the connective tissue of the future Web. It helps people navigate options by cutting through the clutter. This service is hugely important to humanity, because our biggest asset in life is time, and we will never have enough time to read all the books on our shelves or listen to all the music we want to listen to. So in what order should we engage with things we never knew existed?

Over the next 10 years, discovery technology will begin answering these questions with increasing sophistication and accuracy. In a hyper-connected, localized and brand-focused world, discovery will become as mainstream as search because users will expect engaging, personalized digital experiences. And as discovery platforms explode, advertising budgets will follow suit, similar to what happened in search marketing.

If I had to bet, I would say that in 10 years, desktops will only be found in museums while over 90 percent of Web browsing will take place on mobile devices. Wearables and connected appliances will be everywhere. Consequently, advertising on the Web, a $120 billion dollar market, will look pretty different than today's CPM-based display model. In a mobile world, "above the fold" challenges become meaningless and "right-rails" are non-existent.

I predict that by 2024, tens of billions of dollars will shift into paid discovery, with many of the current players—Amazon, Yahoo, Facebook and Google—participating in a meaningful way. Discovery will be a global phenomenon. People around the world, both online and off, will discover new things that they love and never knew existed. Or, more accurately, what I think will happen is that these things we love will find us.

As a marketer, you can think of discovery like search promotion in reverse. Instead of people looking for products, where your brand is promoted at the top of search results, your product or story can look for the right audience wherever they spend time online. For example, a busy mom reading an article about how to choose a pediatrician might discover a healthy, kid-friendly recipe right under the story. Or a marathon runner reading about the stock market may learn about a new sports wristwatch that can help track his training regimen.

So what can you do to prepare for this mobile, discovery-centric future? First, personalized content will become even more influential, so think about why people would buy from you, and then create content that is compelling enough to make that potential customer educated about your products and share your content with others.

Second, think strategy—not a campaign. Compile a long-term strategy to ensure you reach your target audience at scale working with the right partners, and make sure it's effective where it will actually matter—mobile.

Third, focus on ROI. You will never conquer discovery like you did search if you don't build performance metrics into your workflows. This is the key to understanding the value of users as they discover your content and products in the wild. 

There will soon come a day of mobile domination, and we all better be ready.