The Future of Advertising is...AI. Wait, Maybe It's Personal Assistants. No. Experiences. No, Hold on, Maybe...
The great thing about Advertising Week is that everyone there is clairvoyant! Here's a rundown of all the things we heard the future of advertising will be (drumroll please...):
Artificial intelligence that knows you, possibly too well. "I don't think it will be too long, probably within the next five to 10 years, that you're going to be able to talk to a voice assistant in the same way you would to somebody on a shop room floor, that knows all the information about the products, but more importantly knows everything about you, knows you as well as your own mom and dad does," said Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart E-commerce for the U.S. during his Wednesday panel alongside Sridhar Ramaswamy, senior VP of ads and commerce at Google.
"The age of assistance," said Allan Thygesen, president of Google Americas, in his panel by the same name, alongside Unilever Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Keith Weed. "I'm not talking about self-driving cars or contact lenses that project the internet. I'm talking about things that are happening today," like Unilever's voice-activated tips for stain removal served up via Google Home. Weed pointed to a Hellmann's app in Brazil that delivers recipe ideas based on photos taken of what's in a refrigerator.
Threatened by the many problems with digital media today, Weed said on the same panel.
"The digital ecosphere is still just too mucky and difficult, whether you're talking about viewability or verification or brand safety or ad fraud. And we seem to lurch from one to the other."
Virtual reality: Lore said one of the projects in the works at Walmart's tech incubator, Store No. 8, are virtual-reality apps that, for example, let you go to a remote lake to try out fishing gear.
Big corporations with hegemonic scale and aspirations aligning with others against others. One panel at Advertising Week seemed to look at Amazon as the industry's savior against the Facebook-Google duopoly. Meanwhile, Fortune Executive Editor Adam Lashinsky kept asking Lore and Ramaswamy, without really getting any answers, whether Amazon has gotten too big and powerful. Combined revenues of Alphabet and Walmart are nearly four times those of Amazon.
"Creating the ultimate experience." At a panel on Tuesday, PSFK delivered the results of a study called, well, "The Future of Advertising," billed as a "playbook for best-in-class experiential activations." The big takeaway: the future of advertising is stuff you go to. "Community is always going to be a huge component of how brands connect with consumers, offering them a safe space for of them to come in and create experiences to share their love and their passions," said Scott Lachut, president of research and strategy at PSFK. Then he talked about Bumble, so maybe the future of advertising will be awkward experiences, too!
Vertical video. Executives at a panel on storytelling Tuesday consulted their crystal balls to find that the future of mobile video is vertical. "We are beginning to experiment with it now," said Tham Khai Meng, worldwide chief creative officer at Ogilvy.
—Jack Neff, Adrianne Pasquarelli and Brian Braiker