Warning: These are long form editorials that usually take about 10 minutes to read. This particular article is split into Current Developments, Near Future, Distant Future and Final Thoughts. Feel free to skip to “Distant Future” if you just want the spooky stuff.
Marketing as an industry is undergoing metamorphosis. The big three (TV, Print & Radio) have been the backbone of campaigns for almost a hundred years. Now they’re rapidly dying. “New media” replacements are proving ineffective. Even though companies can get more eyes on their promotions they can’t get anywhere near the conversion. As anyone who runs a website will tell you: online advertising ain’t worth shit.
However, this wild west will not last forever. Already a number of new technologies and tactics are boiling below the surface. Whether these will be good or bad is up for debate however they no doubt will drastically affect the world. So in this editorial I will attempt to use my voodoo to predict the future… and if I’m right I will have this as a testament to my brilliance, which is pretty cool 😉
In the modern world everything is done online and all that touches the web is recorded. People’s entire lives are digital, conversation, consumption, selling, business, entertainment, relaxation, enlightenment… Data is taken from your, well, everything. All turned into 1’s and 0’s and put on a hard drive, somewhere. Understanding this information would allow you a deep understanding of who someone is as a person; better then they know themselves. Despite these companies capturing your soul they don’t have the keys… yet. For that to happen they require an invention called: neural networks.
The simple truth is neural networks are going to kill almost every office job. We mock prostitutes but having destroyed farming and manufacturing and on the verge of killing mental labour they might be the only jobs left. Ironic that the world’s oldest profession might be it’s last. Neural networks are the mapping of human brain like structures onto silicon. You want a computer to be able to see like a human? Do a brain scan and then map the visual cortex onto a chip. How easy… The reality of neural networks is it’s not quite that simple. It’s not a 1:1 translation. However as sci-fi as it sounds you’ve probably already used them and as we know with anything computers: they’re going to get better very, very quickly.
So how does this affect advertising? Well I imagine you’ve already guessed. Currently corporations are having difficulty reaching consumers. Particularly the meme generation. Online pays pennies on the dollar compared to eyes on traditional media. Humans are too biased and emotional; we can’t adapt to change quickly enough now that humanity’s progress is set to ludicrous speed. Today a month is a long time. Look at the newscasters being laughed at for doing the Harlem shake weeks after it was “cool.” The solution? Businesses are going to cram all your personal information into a program and they are going to make so, so, so much fucking money.
The first wave of implementation will be seen almost instantly. Only a few years away. A cosmic sneeze. Marketing targeting software like AdWords or Facebook Promotions will shift to basic profile analysis rather than the broad demographics and search/page/keyword targeting. These services are already offered by most online marketing platforms. They just don’t do much at the moment and aren’t very good.
Example tags: “recently set relationship status to single,” “recently stalking ex-partner’s pages,” “recently searched for bleach, shovels and isolated locations.”
Linking basic descriptors to basic online behaviour will package consumers up into more targetable groups. The linkages and analysis between different data sets will also become more and more advanced. Instead of large scale marketing campaigns targeting everyone resources will shift to small batch advertising. Advertisements relevant to a small subset of people that are only shown to that subset. Ads like “fuck her go go-karting” to men recently broken up, for example.
New forms of online ads will be invented as well that are more effective. While it’s hard to predict exactly what form these might take we can guess some of the themes. The problem with current online advertising is it’s paid by quantity not clarity. If I raped your eyes and did header, footer, sidebar and inline advertising I would make a lot more than if I placed one ad in the sidebar. Yet that one ad in the sidebar would receive far more attention because my minimalistic design draws eyes to any details. It’s like putting a billboard in the middle of a field versus two in times square. What’s going to receive more attention (assuming the same number of people in both situations which would never happen)? The new forms of online advertising are going to take over more of the screen and your focus. They’re going to be fewer and farther between but when you do see them you have to see them.
Also this is more a side note but over the next few years we are going to witness the death of Adblock. Whether it be sites creating work arounds or enough getting together and banning the users. Adblock is a beautiful mistake that’s only been allowed to exist because of the browser wars. Its days are numbered. Companies are well aware losing up to 70% of their audience is unprofitable.
Ad cycles and CRM (customer relationship management) are going to become an increasingly important focus rather than one off campaigns. Currently a firm will develop a theme and then based off that make a video ad, YouTube ad, billboard ad and online ad. They will all be launched at once for a set amount of time. Lifecycles and moving individual customers along their path to purchase will replace this archaic tactic. Instead of big blitzes, ads will focus on the personal. Teaser ads will bait interest; then increasingly detailed ads will inform about the product. Finally, at the optimum time, conversion ads will strike.
By distant future I’m not talking that long away. I’m unsure if my predictions will happen ten years from now or thirty but we are talking within our lifetimes. A cosmic chuckle.
Emotions are the major influencing factor in consumption behaviour. Ladies love to eat chocolate when they’re sad, guys like to get drunk on cheap liquor. If you’re a company that knows when people are sad, happy or hungry you can make big profit. Obviously you know what I’m going to say. Complex data analysis run by neural networks which can interpret peoples writing and behaviour like a perfectly unbiased emotionless super phycologist will allow companies to figure all this out. The keys to your soul. However, no platform solely can create these analyses without mingling data sets with other collectors.
I believe within the next few years some enterprising start-up will have the bright idea to purchase user data from many major online platforms. Being an innocent start-up they won’t be considered competition. They will then begin the process of creating behavioural models and detailed personal descriptors on individuals by tracking their behaviour across the web and analysing emails, conversations etc. At first companies like this will seem like typical Silicon Valley start-ups: 90% buzz 10% results. But before long they will actually start creating sales due to the aforementioned importance of understanding the emotional state.
Instead of creating a campaign off simple descriptors, now it can be done by feelings, personal beliefs and position in life e.g. “Brent: lonely, dad issues, retail manager, introverted, Buddhist, needs new car, just received pay check…”
The benefits extend past targeting the emotionally vulnerable. Monitoring of each user’s reaction to marketing materials will allow campaigns to predict responses to various tactics. Imagine a politician running a simulation on every registered attendee at a public debate, testing his various phrases and zingers to maximise laughs. Maybe then we wouldn’t get such retarded lines like “Trumped up trickle down.”
Not only will artificial intelligence allow companies to target the vulnerable in ways they predict will be successful they will also be used to customise ads to what will work on individuals. Imagine you crash your car. You immediately upload some pics to Facebook with crying emoji’s. As is tradition. Boom. A data analysis program runs on the visuals, checks police and your insurance details as well as ownership records of any nearby accidents. It determines correctly you’ve just been in a crash. Then it figures out the intensity of the accident, cost of repairs, whether your car can be repaired, ability to get to work without car, public transport costs, your expected emotional reaction to such an accident etc. Now on “DataMarket.com” or whatever it makes a listing “You: recent crash, this emotional state, this physical state.” Hundreds of automated bidding programs assess the expected value someone with your personality and situation could generate. Then they work out their maximum bids and go to war.
Suddenly wrecking companies are bidding for your next ad time, competing with lawyers, healthcare providers, car rentals, taxi companies… Within seconds your next few days of ad time have been sliced up by various companies looking to capitalise on your situation. Next time you open Facebook there will be a hoard of companies ready to woo your dollars. Even the billboard nearest to you flicks to a new ad “hi [your name] this looks like it hurt [drone footage of crash] public transport to work will take you an uncomfortably long time as well as cost you $X/wk. Why not head to Dave’s Car Rental down the road and pick yourself up a Mustang for $XX/wk, you can afford it. We know you’ve been working hard recently why not treat yourself to your childhood dream car.” The uses of detailed behavioural models and automated marketing management are endless.
Exact predictions of expected return from a campaign will become possible. Exact amount of each type of branding touch points needed for optimum outcome will become easy to figure out. Your likes and interests all there for the manipulating. Who you admire and who you hate. What types of things you like. What types of promotions you find interesting. All there. Gone will be the days of 90% of advertisements being for things you’d never consider. Say hello to the “difficult to say no’s.”
A lot of people are probably finding all this pretty spooky. But the truth is humans and advertising always seem to reach equilibrium. Advertising improves and consumers grow immune. Fresh tactics see huge success for a little while and then the win’s fade. Personal advertising might be a whole new paradigm that changes the game and proves predatory. Or it might actually change ads from being boring and for stuff you don’t care about. Maybe the suggestions prove helpful and better our lives. Maybe they don’t. The big takeaway is that neural networks and artificial intelligence are coming. They are going to change the world. They are going to destroy a lot of jobs. We really need to begin problem solving now before we wake up one day with a crisis. Things like Universal Basic Income and increased consumer protections should be experimented with. Hopefully these artificial brains will help us think a way out of humanities problems; but like always they’ll probably end up being used to make some guy a lot of fucking money.
Thanks for reading, what do you think the result of all this technological improvement will be, will man be replaced by machine? Tell me down below and if you like my writing make sure to subscribe to /r/ini0n to see when I post more riveting content.