What will the future of advertising look like?
Advertising itself may change in terms of how it looks and sounds and where it appears. But its mission will be the same as it has always been—to connect brands to the never-changing drives and obsessions of human nature. These include the drive to survive, to succeed, to belong, to be loved and admired and to take care of our own.
At the forefront: human needs and a creative resurgence
Some work will continue to be done remotely. Still, creativity depends on the combustion that can only happen when people get together in person, bouncing ideas off each other and building on a concept.
The advertising industry of the future will look a lot better than it does now. It will be blacker and browner and gender-equal and finally representative of the society it serves. And the industry’s product will be all the better for it.
The industry’s creative and media functions—which should never have separated in the first place as it was the single worst blow the full-service agencies ever sustained—will come back together again. We’ll rediscover that it’s often a media insight that sparks a breakthrough creative idea.
More and more, brands will be chosen for what they stand for. A company’s position on social and climate issues will become more important to both consumers and to a company’s workforce. But companies whose actions don’t align with their public statements will be called out and boycotted.
Some hopes and wishes too
I wish the industry would modify its obsession with youth and realize that, while it will always need the energy and irreverence of young geniuses, it would also benefit from the knowledge and skills of the more experienced. While those in their twenties might be more tech-savvy, those in their forties and fifties are more life savvy and, therefore, better storytellers. Or they are more business-savvy and therefore better problem solvers.
Why advertising today seems to discriminate against age is puzzling, especially when other creative pursuits—music, literature, art and entertainment—seem populated with creative giants in their fifties and sixties. Screenwriters in Hollywood tend to be in their mid-fifties. Spike Lee was 61 when he received his first Oscar for co-writing BlacKkKlansman. Tom Wolfe wrote Bonfire of the Vanities at age 71. Giuseppe Verdi was 58 when he wrote Otello. Gabriel Garcia Márquez was 58 when he wrote Love in the Time of Cholera. Matisse did some of his most notable work in the last decade of his life. Maybe we can find ways to restore the age balance, especially as the market for consumers over 65 is expected to double in size over the next 25 years.
I hope the industry and its clients will reinvest in brand building—creating compelling brand narratives that are reflected in every one of a brand’s touchpoints. And I sincerely hope someone will find a way for agencies to be better paid.