in Business & Marketing, Digital & Tech

HvA lecture on Future of Digital, Advertising and Marketing

Here is a lecture I gave at the HvA in Amsterdam on the Future of Digital, Advertising and Marketing. The purpose of this post is to give the students a place to go to online to recall all the material covered in the lecture.

Here is the recording of the lecture:

And below is the written version with some nuances and additional references, key important take home concepts, and some challenge questions. There is also an exercise at the end to formulate your own hypotheses on the future.

I stared talking about Apple and Steve Jobs and his return to Apple in 1997 with the launch of the “Think Different” campaign. A campaign launched by an agency called TBWA\Chiat\Day. When Steve Jobs came back to apple, the company was a few months away from bankruptcy and he launched this campaign, because he new, that nothing remarkable in this world comes from following the status quo.

It was a campaign about thinking different…about us…about the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels. The ones that pushed the human race forward. We wrote books about them. We made movies about them. They inspired us. We even let them lead us. But don’t be fooled. These crazy ones, there all around us, maybe your one of them?

As we move from products to services, we’ll need you to think different.
As we move from ownership to access, we’ll need you to think different.
And as we move from a world of scarcity into a world of abundance, we’ll need you to think different.

Because that’s what technology does. It turns scarcity into abundance. From mobility (cars, plans, trains, uber), to energy (dams, wind mills, solar panels, solar city) to connection (the Internet, Linkedin, facebook, the smartphone).

There are people in this world that see problems and chose to complain …forever. While there are people in this world that see problems and chose to solve, because they see an opportunity… an opportunity to build a better world. The question you need to ask yourself is: who are you? And what choices are you going to make?

Let’s follow in the footsteps of David Bowie who was famous for this quote: The future, belongs to those who hear it coming. Because the future has not been written yet. But you can listen to it as its all around us, just unevenly distributed.

While Elon Musk is re-inventing mobility with Tesla, SpaceX, the Hyperloop and the Boring company. And reinventing energy with solar city and Gigafactories, and even challenging what it means to be human with Neuralink, which is attempting to connect our brains to the Internet via BMIs (Brain Machine Interfaces) and make us smarter…

The best minds of our generation are trying to figure out how to get people to click more ads. – Jeff Hammerbacher, ex-Facebook

We all know who they are…The Google’s, The Facebook’s. But its also us, as a community… and soon maybe you, as an aspiring marketer. And its our responsibility to build a future we can be proud of.

But in a mobile environment, the only ads people want to see are the ads they would miss if they were not there. – Seth Godin, The Purple Cow

You need to understand that in the days of the TV industrial complex, when attention shifted from radio to TV in the 50s and 60s, it was unheard of that people blocked your ads. They couldn’t. But now they can, because technology allows this. The Ad blocker.

The quote above is from Seth Godin, the oracle of direct marketing. He has writen 19 books, one of them the purple cow which you should read if you have ambitions to become a marketer. You can actually download the audio version for free at (first book is free). If you already have an audible account, just let me know and I can share it free with you.

Seth Gave a very popular TED talk on purple cow thinking back in 2007 which you can watch here.

You see, in the end, Marketers ruin everything… if you let them. We exploit wants for profit. And we messed up in a race for people’s attention, we lost track of the user experience. Our experience.

But pushing old ways of work to a mobile environment leads to this… ad blockers. And we are about to experience tracking blockers and browsers are going to be all empowering. Allowing you to block anything you wish. Apple’s Safari. Google Chrome.

Actually this year Google is building their own ad blocker into Chrome as they know you will get hold of an adblocker, it may as well come from Google. At least they will know what ads you block.

KEY TAKE: The user is will become more empowered through technology in the future. They will block and opt out of things they do not want. They will seek the meaningful connections and block the bad one. Its up to us as markets to find new and improved ways of communicating through technology. An interruptive advertising model will only get you so far. Its a noisy world out there now and most are relying on an old system that is working less efficiently by the day.

Its about moving from the old to the new…but the challenge isn’t adopting the new… it’s letting go of the old. And right now it’s about transforming to communicate through the mobile phone. Because that is where we are spending out time and attention. And we all have one in our pocket. Its become our second brain. An appendage we can’t go without anymore and we are becoming increasingly reliant on it for remembering things, getting things done, connecting with each other and generally solving many of the problems we have in our lives.

We are trying to build Relationships through technology…and for this we need the data. Because its data that allows you to understand how someone is feeling, is there love, hate, trust, and are they doing the things they need to be doing, both for themselves and for my business to thrive. But also to inform algorithms like Google in order to increase search engine rankings (just one example). The Google algorithm is primarily tuned to reward positive user behavior. Are people happy and getting done the things they clicked away from Google to do? If so lets reward that website wit higher rankings for similar searches. If not we will demote the rankings and test another answer (website/page).

KEY TAKE: The Google algorithm today rewards positive user behavior. This is measured through data which Google is able to measure via Google Search engine, Chrome browser, Google Analytics, Google Adwords…etc) and if users are happy and doing the things they were intending to do Google will reward you with lower cost bids and higher rankings. 

The customer journey is becoming increasingly complex as we adopt technology and screens and technology invades our lives. Our job as marketers is to influencing people on this journey to buy from the businesses we promote. If we do this well the business will get more customers and prosper.

But an invisible revolution is upon us. And its facilitating the mobility of human experience. The smartification of our world as products become smart with built in chips and Internet connections. They are there to help us live our lives but also to collect data to inform companies on their performance and our behavior.  This can turn into an invasion of privacy and cause big issues with data protection laws and information security concerns as everything starts to connect to the Internet.  It will enrich the data we have to understand people as marketers but also provide a point of entry into peoples lives for hackers and criminals with malicious intent.

But we need to be careful that it does not turn into this.

The Internet of Things is upon us… doubling in devices and people by 2020 as the rest of the world gets connected. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, SpaceX are all trying to connect people. On the Y-axis you have innovation which is a reflection of brands building cool stuff and putting it into our lives through business.

On the X-axis its more about adaptation as consumers and organizations. How do I not become addicted to the wonderful technology I carry in my pocket? The cool gaming console I have in my home? That smart TV I can’t get enough of with Netflix. And soon, that VR headset that takes me anywhere I want to be.

You see, technology grows exponentially… humans are linear. This causes pain for us as human being as technology moves faster than we do. And organisations are also a collection of people trying to get things done.

KEY TAKE: The IoT will produce a lot of data on how people behave. The use of this data in responsible ways and with consent from the user will enrich marketing campaigns and allow marketers to deliver more meaningful advertising. Advertising and marketing that will reach the user on the right device, at the right time and in the right place with the right message. 

We experienced the power of exponential growth. Folding a peace of paper 42x will have the thickness reach the moon. 50x reach the sun. 100x cross the universe. Exponential growth is a very powerful thing and we are in an exponential era now with technology. Technology grows exponentially.

This also applies to data which is a by-product of technology. The amount of digital data on the planet is also growing exponentially. But most of this data is unstructured and needs structuring before it can become useful.  AI and machine learning will help us structure this data more efficiently and ultimately drive our industry to more real-time data analytics and marketing as storage of data will become a limiting factor.

Anything that grows exponentially ultimately faces resource constraints. The importance for AI/ML to extract real time value from data will drive us to real time marketing automation. We often refer to this as ADDFFM (Automated Data-Driven Full-Funnel Marketing).

KEY TAKE: The amount of data generated is growing exponentially and this will require markets to ask the right questions to the data to assimilate the data needed to run better campaigns and do more meaningful advertising and marketing. This data assimilation is becoming more real-time as algorithms start to process and extract value from data in real time through AI and machine learning.

Data is in essence “Behavior”. Either human behavior as we interact with technology or machine behavior as machines interact with each other (Smart-phones, sensors, computers, servers, cars, planes, trains…all these things are technology solving problems for us).

We looked at an example of data. Relationship status updates on Facebook. And you can see that it is highly predictable and we can now for example build algorithms that are able to predict the likelihood of a breakup on Facebook on any given day. This data can be used to craft marketing messages and reach people in these moments.

Data is the past. Its a measure of something which has already happened. We try to collect this data, analyse it and give it structure and use it to try to anticipate something happening in the future. This way we can create relevant advertising.

We call this the global brain. A connected world where data is being used to target ads.

But soon we will have conversations with it. Because this brain will manifest itself in the form of a harmless digital assistant. Digital assistants will become a more important part of our lives as they help us interact with technology and access data we need to solve out problems. From asking a question, to playing our favorite songs, to ordering our favorite products to getting things done on the go. These assistants will manifest themselves in just about any product that could benefit from interacting with the user in a simple conversation. We will start talking more often to our technology as this happens.

KEY TAKE: Smart digital assistants are on the rise. They allow you to communicate with and through technology is more natural way that resemble the way we communicate as humans. It will require a behavioral change for most of us and that takes time. For the new generations they will adopt by default. Assistants will get smarter over time as we use them and they amass data to learn and mature. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Alibaba, Tencent …some of the biggest companies in the world are betting big that these assistants will play a bigger role in our lives in the future. 

And that is how it starts…a conversation.
For us…. It looks like this….we’re in control….or are we?
Or this…?
Or this…?
Or this…?
Or this…?
It helps us re-order our favorite drinks with ease…
It helps us eat our favorite foods on the go…It helps us book our favorite hotels in an instant…
It helps us order an uber when in conversations with friends…
It helps us book, check-in and board our favorite airlines…

We then covered meaningful connections. For a detailed explanations and the history of meaningful connections, you can read a previous post I wrote here and here.

I left you with one last thing…a very important think as technology invades our lives.

Technology starts of as magical. It’s Steve Jobs walking out on stage announcing the magical creations he brought our universe…and we all want one. Then it becomes manic… hyper connecting us and pinging us from every which way, taking our time and attention away from the important things in life. Then it becomes toxic… when we are sitting around the dinner table with family or friends and staring at our screens neglecting to nurture our important relationships….or when we are out of work because a technology has automated us out of a job. Technology is a wonderful thing. But use it wisely.

Thank you for listening and reading this post. Any questions let me know.

And remember…

The future belongs to those who hear it coming … but owned briefly by those who build it. Listen, observe, learn and formulate your own opinions about the world and go and build your vision. Because no one ever said the version of the world we have now is the right version. If they did, their lying.

What lies do you chose to believe? What lies do you chose not to believe? That is the question. Always challenge the status quo, if you dare and have the will, passion and tolerance to risk required to fall flat on your face and get up again. Its not going to be easy. Most chose the blue pill. Ignorance is bliss. The choice is yours to make.

Here are 3 challenge questions for you to think about:

  • In your opinion, what will be the top 3 qualities of the marketer of the future and why?
  • “The Internet is disappearing” – what are your thoughts on this statement?
  • “Data is the new (s)Oil” – what are your thoughts on this statement?

Formulate your own hypothesis on the digital marketing industry, which will be relevant as we approach 2020 and beyond.

Tips: There is a technology that helps you answer your questions and get information. Its called Google 😉

Examples of hypothesis I made:

  • The user will be in control of their own personal data as we adopt more decentralized systems like blockchain technology.
  • Governments and regulators will regulate the pace of “disruptive” innovation to ensure community growth is healthy and sustainable.
  • Information security and data protection will become top political and societal issues as we move into an era of cyber-terrorism.

These are just 3 hypothesis I made up. Doing this exercise makes you think and tests your understanding of what you have learned. Feel free to share any of them with me and I can give you some thoughts and feedback.


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