Advertising in an Increasingly Digital Landscape

Contributed by Bryce Ward

When trying to better understand the nature of advertising, it helps to refer to its Latin origin. “Advertise” can be traced back to the Latin verb, advertere, meaning literally “to turn toward.” Simply put, then, the goal of advertising is to “turn heads,” specifically in the direction of your product or service. And it isn’t enough to have people only glance your way either – the goal of advertising is not only to have them turn their heads but to have them walk in your direction, also. In order to accomplish this, you have to understand humans on a fundamental level. What makes them tick? What do they desire? What do they fear? If you can answer these questions, you can turn the heads and feet of anyone.

Recently, due to advancements in digital technology, advertisers have been able to narrow their scope to individuals. No longer do they ask what humans desire. Now they ask what certain demographics desire, what certain communities desire, what Bob and Suzy desire. As technology advances and things like virtual reality increasingly become the norm, the specialization, or individualization, of advertising will only increase. Based on buying patterns, AI will be able to know when person “x” will be most likely to want to buy a pizza, thus prompting company “y” to promote a pizza advertisement at that optimal time. A quick glance through advertising related articles that talk about the future of such technology reveals that many companies are welcoming this specialization and even planning for it. This isn’t exactly a surprise. However, as advertisers narrow their sights on individual desires, they may unavoidably lose sight of universal desires. In other words, the individualization of advertising has its limits. By trying too hard to turn someone’s head, you may unintentionally turn them away.

What, then, should companies do in this avalanche of digital marketing? Simply recognize that humans aren’t digital and act accordingly. There is a plethora of scientific findings which point to the negative effects that too much technology can have on individuals. In a world that is becoming increasingly technological, then, an understanding of human psychology has never been more important for the advertiser. While other companies are yelling at consumers through virtual reality headsets, you can be the company that welcomes them back when they inevitably want to return to reality. It’s important to stay on top of marketing trends, but it’s more important to know the trajectory of these trends and recognize their limitations.