February 27, 2015

Advertisements in Times Square, NYC

The scope of advertising is changing and you might like where it's going. Credit: Pablo Fernandez / Flickr Creative Commons

Hello readers. Look at this video. Now back to this article. Now back to another video. Now back...to this article.

Chances are, the smooth, buttery voice of the Old Spice Man was running through your head as you read that. After all, it’s an extremely popular ad, which ran on television, spawned parodies, built brand awareness, and racked up over 50 million views on YouTube.

But 30-second spots like that one - even those that go viral and use social media - might not be long for this world. “The real future of advertising is probably going to be much less message-based and use less literal storytelling. It’s going to go into the world of utility and data and sensor-based feedback that will help marketers create useful experiences that will actually benefit consumers,” says Edward Boches, a professor of advertising at Boston University, who believes that technology can let brands connect directly with consumers, cutting out standard advertisements entirely.

How? Let’s say you’re a jogger. Your shoes are pretty old, but is it time to replace them? According to the runners in our newsroom, it can be tricky to know. Well, UnderArmour and Zappos want to tell you exactly when to buy a new pair of jogging sneakers, so they’ve partnered to create a Gear Tracker feature in the MapMyFitness app. The app will log the miles you’ve run in a pair of shoes, and then once they’ve told you they’re worn out, you can buy a brand new pair directly in the app itself.

The tech for this ‘beneficial’ advertising has been around a while. “When you choose a movie on Netflix, you’re already being analyzed by a very elaborate algorithm, which will determine what movies they’ll suggest you watch,” says Thinkmodo creator and advertising guru James Percelay. “Everybody’s Amazon screen is not the same, and when you see suggestions at the bottom of your screen, that’s because Amazon’s analyzed you and found out what products you’re likely to buy.” Percelay believes algorithms like this, which determine what a consumer wants before they want it, are only going to get more advanced and more intrusive.

Look no further than Jibo, billed as “the world’s first family robot.”:


Its creators predict that Jibo will takes pictures for you, read your facial expressions, and might even order your take out. All this technology is a potential goldmine for marketers. Boches believes that as robots like Jibo get more advanced, they could recommend the new CBS comedy when you’re feeling down, pitch you cold medicine from CVS when you’re getting sick, and do a whole host of other tasks that would give privacy advocates conniptions.

And personal robots aren’t the only sci-fi development that advertisers are looking at. Percelay thinks the next evolution of storytelling ads will be based in virtual reality. “Using something like the Occulus Rift, or a holo-lens, you are going to experience driving the car, or you will experience going into the store.” VR already makes scary games even more horrifying; think of how effective ads that completely surround you would be.

When you’re able to skip past ads on YouTube, and fast-forward through marketing with your TiVo, it can seem like advertising is going away. But it’s actually evolving, becoming more intrusive and entwined with our daily lives. According to Boches, companies will try to get their message out there, and people won’t necessarily hate them for it. “Consumers still love advertising if it is useful, beautiful, and entertaining.” Though I for one, will be kind of sad if advertising doesn’t include videos like this:

advertising, Edward Boches, Boston University, James Percelay, Culture, Thinkmodo

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