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How will advertising look like in the future ?

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A film producer came to my office the other day and wanted to interview me on the evolution of advertising. At first sight it seemed pretty odd to interview a marketer to get insight about advertising, but drew eventually some interesting parallels with marketing.

70 years ago : terra incognita

Have you ever heard of the term “terra incognita” ? Wikipedia proposes the following definition :

Terra incognita or terra ignota is a term used in cartography for regions that have not been mapped or documented.

The post world war II period was a little bit like a terra incognita for advertisers. Of course advertising had existed for a long time but it really started to be widely used after the war, when the first TV sets appeared, and then of course with the rise of consumerism.

At that time advertising was still rare (by today’s standards) and consumers were less exposed to advertising stimuli. It was therefore much easier to “touch” someone and messages were mainly designed to touch as many people as possible. Some of the greatest brands were born during that period.

Today however advertising and marketing seem to converge as far as their aims and methods are concerned.


The dream of all marketers is actually to have a personal relationship with each customer, yet to keep the scalability of the business. Of course this is a grail and you can’t possibly have the same type of relationships with your consumers if you have a small shop with 20 clients a day or manage a multinational with 1 million clients a day. Despite technological advances that personal relationship will remain a dream.

With the overstimulation of consumers through advertising messages, that grail has also been adopted by advertisers who face fierce competition to get people’s attention. Although the power of advertising is actually linked to its provocative, innovative or emotional character, there is also a technological trend that converges with marketers’ aims. Advertisers now try to get personal and to adapt their message in function of the audience or even to have advertising equipments communicate with people. For that reason advertising messages also propagate in places from where they were absent only 10 years ago : restrooms, escalator, … and advertising equipment become more intelligent (ever heard of Bluetooth-enabled billboards?)


Advertising has changed radically over the last decades. Two main strategies are followed:

On the one hand mass advertising (billboards for instance) needs to go provocative, emotional or innovative to catch people’s attention and get remembered.

On the other hand a strategy is followed that converges with marketing’s dream of one-to-one relationships : rather than pushing one message to the crowd, advertising placement is now more conceived in terms of consumer needs served. If you go to that place, it means that you need to serve this special need. And in that case the advertising message will therefore be adapted to match that very need.

Advertising and marketing : will they eventually melt into MarkAding ?

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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