Advertising traditionally serves a traditional purpose.
Television, radio, print, out-of-home, Internet and mobile devices all have components of advertising that acts, smells and feels the same. It either interrupts your content experience or wraps itself around it. You can look at all of the innovations that digital brought - from the Internet to social media and beyond - and while many media pundits are excited about the opportunities that could happen in places like native advertising or content marketing, the form, function and factor of advertising still does the exact same thing hat it has always done. It's unlikely that this model will change, so businesses might soon be forced to figure out what happens when how consumers engage with these screens becomes a smaller component of their lives. Pushing that even further, many of the newer devices that are coming out (some with screens and some without) are making the traditional form of advertising inoperable.
What does that mean?
The current vogue of technology is not about the Internet as we have known it or a browser-based experiences. The hot topics du jour are about 3D printing, the maker movement, wearable technology, the Internet of things, connected appliances, robotics, telepresence and the ilk. None of these are truly media platforms. They are the digitization of other industries (beyond media) and in this digitalization, these things will be connected and will have screens with them (though some may not). Think about the Nest thermostat (an Internet enabled thermostat for your home that can help you better manage your energy efficiency). Think about the NikeFuelBand or Jawbone's UP bracelet (both sit on your wrist and gather health and wellness information about your day to day activities). Think about Apple TV or Boxee (both connect you to the Web and - if we're going to be raw about it - provide many entertainment services that allow you to avoid traditional commercials with ease). This doesn't mean that advertising - as we have known it to date - goes the way of the dinosaurs. It does mean that marketers, brands and media agencies are going to have to scramble to develop newer and more interesting ways to deliver a brand's information to a consumer.
AirPlay demonstrates the disruption.
In its simplest form, Apple's AirPlay functionality allows you to throw your screen anywhere. If you're using a MacBook and have Apple TV, it's simple to toss your computer screen on to your TV screen and more. Does it seem so far-fetched that you might throw that screen over to a connected appliance like a fridge? It's not. What about tossing your iPhone content to your car stereo? Many consumers already do this all of the time. We currently deliver ads with the sole desire to drive an impression that creates an impact that (hopefully) makes the consumer take some kind of transaction with a brand (anything from talking about it to buying it), but as those moments become fewer and farther between, what is a brand to do
The place to have the space.
What becomes abundantly clear as you start hacking away at the current media models and layer them on top of the emergence of wearable technology (it can be anything from Google's glasses initiative to the UP band to Pebble's watch to the pending iWatch that Apple and Samsung are rumored to be producing) is that the space that we have traditionally used to send a message continues to change, shrink or go away. Google's AdWords still acts as a ray of hope because the company was able to devise an advertising platform that matched the media that consumers wanted to consume (in terms of context, engagement and even performance). Facebook marketing and leveraging the newsfeed is demonstrating some prowess and hope as well, but it still needs time to optimize, mature and capture consumers desire for it. To think that all of these newer and connected devices and technologies will do so as seamlessly is to have more hope for brands than I do.
What this all means.
Brands will need to not only leverage someone else's platform to deliver their message, but they will need to build platforms of their own. Transient media moments does not equal a strong and profound place to deliver an advertising message. In short, the past century may have been about maximizing space and repetition to drive brand awareness, but the next half century could well be about advertising taking on a smaller position in the expanding marketing sphere as brands create loyalty not through impressions but by creating tools, applications, physical devices, true utility, and more robust loyalty extensions that makes them more valuable in a consumer's life. It's something that the vast majority of brands could never do before, but suddenly it has become an amazing white space filled with opportunities and creativity... for those who dare.
It will be interesting to see which brands embrace media beyond the screen.
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post called, Media Hacker. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:Tweet