Why the ‘Death of Advertising’ Is Overblown (and How Tech Is Reshaping Ads)

Although content marketing and inbound marketing methods have emerged as rivals to traditional advertising routes, they haven’t fully replaced them as a viable option.

For much of the past two decades, industry experts and thought leaders have speculated about the “death” of advertising. Advances in technology have opened new doors for reaching audiences, businesses are looking for new ways to reach their target customers and the old-world principles that dictated advertising strategies have evolved. But is the world of advertising really dead?

Absolutely not. And we’d argue that we may soon see a resurgence in the value and power of “traditional” ads.

Factors for the perceived death of advertising

First, let’s work to understand why so many people have projected the end of traditional advertising.

  • The growth of content marketing: Content marketing is the dominant force in the marketing and advertising world, and for good reason. Content marketing is cost-efficient, easy to start and has unlimited revenue potential if you know what you’re doing. In fact, thanks to guides like Neil Patel’s (co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and Kissmetrics), it’s easier than ever to create a blog and start bringing in more traffic for practically any website. In many ways, it’s more efficient than advertising, so it’s become the top choice for millions of marketers.
  • Distrust in corporations and advertising: Thanks in part to the bombardment of overtly persuasive advertising and in part due to corporate greed and scandals, the average consumer has developed a distrust for corporations and advertising. The Atlantic recently attempted to quantify that distrust, polling that only 36 percent of Americans  believe corporations are an economically positive force.
  • Steady falls in traditional ad mediums: Traditional advertising mediums such as radio, billboards and television are slowly being replaced by newer technologies. Think about this in your own life: Do you subscribe to any physical magazines anymore? Have you cut your cable subscription? How often do you listen to the radio?

Advertising is still here

These surface factors are real and influential, but they seem to be influencing the way we’re spending advertising dollars, rather than how much we’re spending. In 2015, the advertising industry saw $180 billion in spending, and that number is actually projected to grow to $200 billion in 2016. Although depending on what survey you consult, professional opinions on the state of advertising vary, advertising is still here and important in a big way.

Ads are evolving to adapt to new mediums, such as social media and search engines, and they are countering trust issues by finding new ways to engage with customers. These factors will only increase with time, as new technologies make it even easier to dismantle weaknesses.

The power of new technology

Future technology will play a major role in how advertising develops from here, and we see it unfolding in three main theaters of development:

  • Personalization: Much of the reason for the recently acquired distaste for traditional ads is due to their one-size-fits-all nature; these ads are mass-marketed to millions of people with the intention of getting them to buy a product. People don’t want to feel like sheep, and they have strong senses of individuality. Personalizing ads with more relevant information and an almost intimate appeal can help counteract this, and new technology is making it possible .
  • Convenience: If the old mediums are dying, advertising can manifest in new mediums to display more conveniently for the average user. As an older example, if people are bailing on television and radio in favor of social media, you can start advertising on social media. Wherever people go, ads will follow.
  • New forms of engagement: New tech is also allowing ads to be developed and presented in newer, more engaging ways. Rather than simply seeing or hearing an ad as a piece of content, users may be able to interact with ads, or experience them in their natural environments.

Here are two budding technologies that are starting to shape the future of advertising:

  • The Internet of Things: The IoT is helping users integrate technology more fully into their lives, with interactive, internet-connected devices in every room of the home. Ads could now appear anywhere, such as on your oven or in your refrigerator, and help consumers more immediately in their daily lives. When combined with sales technology, like enabling users to buy products with the touch of a button, this can be especially powerful.
  • AR and VR: Augmented reality and virtual reality are still young, but they’re already affecting how we perceive and interact with the world around us. Interactive digital ads are now a possibility, and consumers have the ability to engage with brands in ways that were impossible just 20 years ago.

As industry spending levels indicate, advertising is actually on pace for growth, rather than death. Although content marketing and inbound marketing methods have emerged as rivals to traditional advertising routes, they haven’t fully replaced them as a viable option.

Keep watch for these new technologies as they develop, and be prepared to adjust your strategy to keep pace with the modern era. There will always be room for high-ROI (return on investment) ads if you’re prepared to adapt.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.