Advertising's traditional techniques have changed dramatically in the digital age. Fading fast are the days of print campaigns, television ad buys and radio commercials with that old call to action: "Stop by today!" Like most other things in our digital world, the advertising process has been manipulated by our online social lives such that campaigns must now be completely immersive or risk being overlooked. Today, a far more common call to action is, "Visit us at Facebook.com/x."
Although the advertising landscape has long since made the transformation to digital, the industry has shifted again. That makes sense: There are 7 billion people in this world and 6 billion have mobile phones. No wonder data collection is one of, if not the, major contributing factors in this.
Although it may seem like consumers cannot possibly be more connected than they already are, in fact we are becoming even more connected every minute -- infinitely exchanging information with no end in sight. This obsession with sharing is a watershed for advertising agencies that can harness it; success is measured by reaching the right people and making them buy.
Clearly, without proper collection and analysis of this information, those not participating are behind the curve: They are unable to appropriately and acutely target those most likely to make a purchase. Indeed, this data provides advertisers the ability to serve up highly customized and super-effective ads. And these ads are often also less expensive since there is rarely a message that goes unheard by the targeted audience.
Overall, these changes in the ad space have shifted focus, from the once-coveted Madison Avenue Mad Men-type creatives, to data scientists and engineers charged with inventing new technologies to perfect digitally driven ads. In the days of traditional advertising, reaching targeted audiences involved far fewer channels (primarily, TV, magazines, newspaper and radio); and campaigns were enormous and overarching.
A costly ad buy on one or more major networks back then would be considered the most successful strategy: reaching the most people but still knowing only the most basic information on the number of viewers and their demographics.
The paradigm has shifted now to an ever-increasing number of channels for reaching people and a massively growing market available for reaching. We now need to know how consumers buy, where they shop, how much they spend, what they need in their lives, where they hang out, what they do for fun, etc. With these nontraditional channels, resources are focused on targeting and reaching the right people, and big data is the strongest tool for advertisers to accomplish this.
So, from advertisers' perspectives, while messaging is still of the utmost importance, knowing and understanding the targeted audience's desires is absolutely invaluable.
From consumers' perspectives, the big change is their willingness to say what it is that they want, what they like and what they need from brands, paired with their constant desire to connect and be heard. And that's the driving force behind big data.
This new data-intensive world has set in place competitors that aren't ad agencies but technology powerhouses. And that's only the first development. It is only the first of many shifts to come in the industry -- where big data will be front and center.