Less than twenty years after the mass advent of the Internet, Google and Facebook together manage more advertising money than all the printed media on the planet.
In 2017, Google's advertising campaign revenue exceeded $ 95 billion, while Facebook exceeded $ 39 billion. That's about 25 percent of advertising costs across the planet. With these premises, what will the future of advertising look like?
Social media marketing will disappear
Powered by open source ecommerce platforms, mobile devices, and advances in online payment methods, social media marketing has replaced virtually the entire traditional advertising industry. It took less than fifteen years.
And the numbers are huge. In 2018, the global advertising industry has surpassed $ 550 billion, bringing the valuation of Google over 700 billion dollars, and that of Facebook over 500 billion dollars.
All this value is fed by us. Yes, sir. From our clicks, from our research, from our tastes and dislikes, from what we want, from who our friends are.
But the advent of new technologies in the sector will make advertising change again. Sure, it's likely to get a little more invasive and a lot more personal. Yet even this phase will not last. Not long after, the entire social media marketing market will vanish. How long will that take? I say 10 to 12 years, and in any case less than the 15 that were necessary in the last phase.
Augmented reality advertising
The convergence of 5G connectivity, augmented reality glasses, micro sensors scattered everywhere and powerful artificial intelligence, will free advertising everywhere. Like other information, promotional information will also be superimposed on physical environments.
In the store…
Imagine entering a future Apple Store. As you approach the counter with the devices, a life-sized avatar of Tim Cook materializes to give you a tour of the latest product features. If you decide to buy it, a voice command will suffice to formalize the purchase.
… He is at home
With yours VR / AR glasses go to lunch with a friend. As you chat in the kitchen, you are struck by the furniture she just bought. The sensors in your glasses track your eye movement, and the device's AI rates your attention as "high".
Through the search history, the AI also knows that you too have thought about changing your kitchen. Since you have enabled smart recommendations in your eyewear preferences, furniture prices, design and color choices will fill your field of vision.
These are two examples of a new form of advertising of the future: an extension of shopping that overlaps with visible reality.
Reality becomes the search engine
The first version of this technology is already available. Known as "visual search", the function is in force at several companies. For example, the partnership between Snapchat and Amazon it allows you to point the camera at an object and get a link showing the product or similar, ready for purchase.
Also Pinterest has visual search tools, such as Shop the Look. Do you like a sofa? Click on it, and Pinterest will find similar products for sale.
Google takes it one step further. Since 2017, Google Lens has been a visual search engine. It does not just identify the products for sale: it “reads” an entire landscape. You can learn anything you want: the botany of plants in a flower bed, the breeds of dogs playing in a park, the history of the buildings you are framing.
And what about Ikea? Its AR app on your smartphone allows you to map your living room, creating a digital version of it with exact dimensions. Do you need a new coffee table? Technology allows you to try out different styles and sizes. Your choice triggers a smart payment, and eventually you find the Ikea coffee table at home. Sure, now you have to mount it, but the AR app gives you instructions for that too.
All this proliferation of visual search tools quickly improved the system. As people use these tools, the artificial intelligence that drives them trains and perfects itself. In the fall of last year, visual searches exceeded one billion requests per month.
I just walked in for a walk in a department store. The facial recognition system scans me and on my VR glasses there is an inscription, which appears in midair in front of me. "Welcome back, Gianluca".
I forgot again to change my preferences to "Do Not Disturb". A microsecond later, the store's TV monitors launch the assault. Is Charlie Chaplin the one calling me by name from the screens? “Hi Gianluca, give me a second. Your skin is as white as mine in black and white movies. Why don't you switch to color with this L'Oréal tanning lotion? Only this month is on offer with a 25% discount ".
This is a low blow. How can I refuse something to my favorite actor? Sometimes they are the characters of the series that I look to try to sell me something (the glasses take the preferences from my Netflix account). Other times they are Napoli players, my favorite team. In short, no peace.
Does it seem like a distant fantasy? We'll talk again.
The era of the virtual factotum and the end of advertising as we know it
Advertisers of all eras, myself included, always have the same goal: to introduce you to a product or service. And let you know it well, to convince you to buy it. This is why advertising has always enhanced the advantages: "buy this®, it will make you beautiful!" or “That®: for exclusive people”. The future of advertising could be very different, however.
But what happens when we are no longer making the purchasing decisions? This is what we will see when we are helped by a virtual factotum that will act as our Shopping Assistant.
Imagine a future in which we will simply say: “Hey GINO (the name is random), buy me a toothpaste”. Does GINO watch TV? Have you seen an ad for toothpaste? Obviously not.
In a nanosecond, GINO considers the molecular formulations of all available toothpastes, their costs, customer feedback and then makes a purchase.
And in the future we won't have to tell him anything. GINO will check the products we routinely consume (coffee, tea, deodorants etc.) and will order things before they run out.
An assistant with bows. Indeed, with filters.
How about buying something new? That drone your daughter wants for her birthday? Just specify the functionality. "Hey GINO, could you buy me a drone for less than 100 euros that is easy to fly and takes great pictures?".
And the clothes? GINO will be better than Enzo Miccio. He has our eye movements available while we look at the windows, listen to our daily conversations to understand what we like. He knows our social posts and therefore our preferences. It brings together our tastes and clothes that are better with our measurements, and that's it. No visible advertising.
Over the next ten years, the advertising of the future will be hyper personalized, collecting our preferences from a huge mass of daily data and digitally overlapping our world, thanks to augmented reality.
Next, we will move towards a future where artificial intelligence will play a (small? Big?) Part of our purchasing choices. If we want it, it will surprise us with products and services we didn't even know we wanted. Or it will just handle everyday life.
In any case, it is a change that promises to change all the patterns known today.