In the early 2000s, the rapid growth of mobile and the debut of social media set the stage for life as we now know it—a world where multimedia content is searched and served on-demand, where images trump text and where consumers play a central role in marketing.
The decade begins with the bust of the dot-com bubble in early 2000, marking the demise of many high-flying Internet companies and ad icons such as Pets.com and its sock-puppet mascot. In that year's Super Bowl, 17 dot-com advertisers pay $44 million for spots; the following year, only three dot-com companies run ads during the big game. But despite the economic recession, the Sept. 11 attacks and the ensuing war on terrorism, rapid tech advances continue and advertisers roll out notable campaigns such as Budweiser's "Whassup," McDonald's "I'm Lovin' It" and Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty," while Subway's Jared and Geico's Gecko become household names.
Over the first half of the decade, consumers continue to move online—and onto their cell phones. In 2000, 46% of American adults use the Internet; five years later, 66% are online, according to Pew Research Center. Their access to the Internet gets easier and faster, too, with 33% of households having broadband in 2005, up from 3% in 2000. Enabled by more sophisticated Web development and design, consumers increasingly perform everyday tasks online, from browsing products to making travel reservations. E-commerce revenue sees significant growth, from $7.4 billion at the middle of 2000 to $24.1 billion in the third quarter of 2005, according to Census Bureau figures.
Meanwhile, mobile phones play an increasingly important role in the average American's life. U.S. mobile phone ownership grows to 73% in 2005 from 53% in 2000, and devices get smaller, thinner and "smarter." Users aren't just placing calls, they're also beginning to send text messages. Though the U.S. lags other countries in its adoption of text messaging, it begins to catch up. In December 2005, 9.8 billion texts are sent—more than double the year-earlier period.
Brands continue to experiment with digital marketing and spend accordingly. Print advertising begins its decline, while online ad revenues continue to grow, from $8.2 billion in 2000 to more than $12.5 billion in 2005, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau. Looking beyond banners, advertisers explore other forms of digital, from email marketing to search engine marketing. Google, which will come to redefine and dominate search, goes public in 2004; its stock rises 1,294% in the subsequent decade.
More than ever before, technology is giving people power over the content they consume. TiVo allows them to control what they watch and when, while Apple's iPod gives them "1,000 songs in [their] pocket." Social media, meanwhile, begins to empower the masses with new platforms to voice their opinions, generate their own content and communicate with the world. Wikipedia launches in 2001, and social networks Friendster and MySpace debut in 2003, followed by Facebook in 2004. YouTube launches in 2005, giving everyone—from subject matter experts to rising music stars to cute kittens—an audience around the globe.
Overall, the turn of the millennium marks a shift in the advertiser-consumer dynamic. Marketers, in fact, have more access than ever. In the middle of the last century, they gained the ability to reach their buyers through screens in their homes. At the turn of this one, they gain access to consumers through screens in their hands. The technologies, media and methods have changed significantly, but the goal remains the same: to create a meaningful connection.
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