The Future of Advertising and What It Means for Agencies

By Jarrett McCraw

Traditional advertising lived a good life, but its days are numbered. Once a creative bunch, traditional advertising was the life of the party, full of wit with clever one-liners and visuals that would steal your undivided attention. Yes, it was a great thing, but its time has passed.

As an ad agency professional, I have watched more traditional agencies struggle to evolve with technology, both from an operational and a creative standpoint. In today's marketplace, a digital agency can pop up and surpass a traditional agency, seemingly overnight.

Brands that want to be around in the future and build mass followings must evolve beyond what we know as traditional advertising. Today's consumers are entrenched in their digital devices and are using more technology that fits in the palms of their hands than you could have found in an entire home just decades ago.

The pace of technological advancement, coupled with consumers' insatiable taste for media consumption, makes it more difficult than ever for brands to stand out and make a lasting impact on their audiences. For that reason, advertising as we know it (in the form of ad campaigns, 60-second television spots and full-page ads) is dead. It's time to make a shift in your marketing strategy by incorporating four of the trends below.


Forbes staff writer Parmy Olson predicts the chat bot revolution. You're probably familiar with bots like Siri, Cortana or Amazon's Alexa. These are all forms of bots, but the application is much larger. Imagine having a bot do your online shopping or plan your next trip. This might sound crazy, but companies like Microsoft and Google are already experimenting with this technology. A bot will soon serve not only as a form of advertising within another platform such as WeChat, but also as an AI salesperson for your brand. The brand experience will come in the form of interaction with your bot. E-commerce websites will have personal shopping assistants, and grocery delivery companies will have a meal planner or nutritionist to help you create your shopping list. You may even negotiate the price of your next vehicle with a bot car salesman.

Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality/Mixed Reality

Though revolutionary when it was launched, we have all nearly forgotten about Google Glass. The next wave of technology has already arrived and is growing in popularity and application. Augmented Reality (AR) app Pokemon GO swept the world in popularity. Virtual Reality (VR) is becoming more popular, especially as companies explore ways to utilize your mobile device in the hardware. The evolution of Google Glass is mixed reality (MR), which opens up opportunities for retailers, interior designers and many others, as this Windows holographic video demonstrates.

Inbound Marketing

Armed with search engines, ad blockers, social media and streaming content like Spotify or Netflix, consumers now have more control over ads than marketers do. Even if you do get an impression, odds are you are competing with a mobile device for attention. Brands must shift from an outbound to an inbound marketing strategy, providing value to their audience by solving their problems and helping them make informed decisions. If you are looking to jump start your inbound efforts, it all starts with adopting a buyer-centric marketing strategy: Identify your buyer personas and define their challenges, then help them solve those problems.


With all of the technology out there, everything seems to make its way back to a single device: mobile phones. Consumers take their mobile devices everywhere, even to bed. Web developers now take a mobile-first approach to ensure that the UX is optimized for the mobile user, then they work backward.

Mobile apps are now easier than ever to develop, but with the competition of other apps, brands are challenged once again to offer a point of value. Figure out how to utilize the previously mentioned aspects and wrap them into a mobile experience that your target audience can take with them everywhere. For instance, a footwear retailer could allow users to shop products they take photos of on a competitor's shelf. A furniture company could let users shop in-app by using AR to see what a piece will look like in their space prior to purchase.

The future of advertising is creative intelligence: the marriage of creativity and technology. Traditional ad agencies across the country are scrambling to figure out how to adapt, whether they are acquiring true digital shops or just trying to expand their in-house digital teams. The truth is that it's no longer an "ad agency" brands need. Rather, they need problem solvers, technologists, strategists, UI/UX, animators, videographers and many other skilled talents. So what does the future agency look like? Maybe we should slip on a pair of VR goggles and get to work designing this new model.

A marketer by trade, curious by nature. Partner & CEO at Mighty, a full-service creative agency headquartered in Mobile, AL.