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The End of Advertising: What Will It Mean for You?

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Questions and Answers
A new study from IBM forecasts mind-bending changes for the ad world. "The next 5 years will hold more change for the advertising industry than the previous 50 did," the study proclaims.

The question is, what do you plan to do about it? How will you reach your customers in the future?
The IBM study of more than 2,400 consumers and 80 ad execs, forecast change along four broad lines:

Attention: Consumers are gaining control of, interacting with and filtering out ads as viewing fragments into many channels.

The democratization of creativity: Through user-generated content and peer-sharing sites such as Facebook and YouTube, amateurs and semi-pros are creating their own ads. This can make it more difficult for brands to control their image, but stimulates audience creativity and can build increased brand loyalty from participants.

Results pressure: With the growth of pay-per-click, advertising is becoming highly measurable and results-oriented. The days of touchy-feely branding ads where the impact was hard to assess are ending. Traditional media are under pressure to demonstrate the usefulness of advertising in their format.

Advertising in bulk: The rise of ad networks (I get 193 million Google responses on the phrase "advertising network") means ads will be bought and sold in bulk. More than half the ad pros polled said they expect 30 percent of ads to flow through ad networks within five years.

Where's it all going? The study says two disruptive variables will dictate the outcome: the growth of consumers' control over the marketing they see, and the growth of ad-inventory systems. The faster these two changes progress, the bigger change we'll see.

Their advice? "Plan for multiple consumer futures, craft agile strategies and build new capabilities before advertising as we know it disappears."

Small business translation? Time to be creative.

There are some forward-thinking ad strategies that aren't expensive. Think about crowdsourcing an ad campaign, for instance, maybe by holding a contest, as Doritos famously did with the Superbowl. Think local event sponsorships -- it's hard to block out an ad while you're standing at the local ballgame or parade.

In general, answer this: How are you going to make consumers really look at your ad, when so much else is competing for their attention? Make it fun. And find the place where you can stand out from the crowd.

What's your future ad strategy, and why? Leave us links or mentions of creative ad campaigns you've liked recently.

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