The Rise Of The Invisible Advertisement

Before the personal computer became a thing, the vast majority of digital content was consumed via television screens.

During this period, digital advertising meant creating two to three television campaigns a year and having the video Ads that emerged from such campaigns interrupt scheduled television programs at predetermined intervals. This was sufficient as far as a digital advertising strategy was concerned during this era.

Over the last few decades, the television set has had to compete with other smaller and more modern devices for limited consumer time.

TV vs Mobile Mary Meeker

Many of these new devices are dominated by connected platforms with dynamic community generated content, mostly accessible via applications native to said devices.

Making a handful of television Ad campaigns per year no longer suffices as a digital advertising strategy for brands in the connected multiscreen age.

Brands have quickly realized the need to push their content to other digital platforms in the most effective ways possible.

While the new platforms on the one hand, have created completely new avenues for brands to spread content to larger and more targeted audiences, they come with unique challenges.

Traditional banner Ads and annoying video commercials, which were at the core of the monetization strategy of many consumer platforms in the 1990s and 2000s, are quickly losing traction.

Remember when websites used to look like this?

Banner Ad example

For one, banner Ads are too static in nature to leverage the power of social dissemination of content available via existing connected social graphs on the web, and on another hand, consumers are inundated with so much content on all their connected devices today so much so that many have devised strategies to block out advertisements, both mentally and via available technology like the Adblock plus extension for Google Chrome and many other Ad blocking apps for Apple iOS devices.

Banner advertisements also do not fit as cleanly into smaller mobile and tablet interfaces as they sometimes did in browsers on PCs.

Ads as we know them are quickly disappearing and taking on modern, and more native forms that blend naturally into the target platforms.

For instance, a company’s Twitter advertising strategy could be comprised of a stream of engaging brand-centric tweets generated on the brand’s Twitter page and pushed to both followers and targeted consumers in the form of ‘Promoted Tweets’.

A Facebook advertising strategy might involve a number of viral videos, quizzes, and challenges engineered in such a way that the target consumers feel a strong inclination to share with their 1st-degree connections (Buzzfeed has proven to be very good at leveraging the social graph to create and spread this form of viral content).

Even on traditional scheduled Television, we are beginning to see brands moving towards less disruptive means of surfacing their content to consumers. This tends to be done mostly in the form of brand placement within the content being consumed. For instance, after the Microsoft Surface launched, Microsoft paid millions of dollars to content creators to strategically place the Surface with key characters within shows and movies while they aired.

What is more likely to convince you to purchase the Microsoft Surface, Harvey Specter from the CBS show ‘Suits’ playing around with the device and tactfully dropping positive commentary about it throughout the show or a 30 second commercial that completely removes you from the experience you tuned into?

I suspect that the former might be more successful with most audiences.

These are interesting times for the advertising space, and I am curious to see what Ads will look like by the end of the current decade.

My guess is that that the Ads of 2020 will not feel like Ads, they will most likely be like chameleons, taking on forms that blend into each targeted platform such that they are completely indistinguishable from all other content generated on said platforms.