My mum doesn’t understand what I do for a living. Until recently she thought I wrote all the ad copy for BMW (I worked on the media account years ago.) The subject came up again over the weekend so I tried to explain it one more time.  I could not have done this 5 years ago because she wouldn’t touch a laptop or a PC with a bargepole. She now owns both a tablet and a smartphone so the explanation is easier to give. I had to laugh when the penny finally dropped and she said, “Oh; you put those flashy pop-up things on my tablet? “

If you ask the man on the street what digital advertising is, he will most likely start with the humble banner ad. Like my mum, he will think it an ugly, flashing box jarring with the content it accompanies. Industry people will add poor viewability; content obscuration and page slowdown to their list of crimes. Hardly sophisticated…..

Banners, (although growing in share) are not the dominant form of digital advertising. That honour goes to paid search; the foundation on which Google is built. Paid search is native by definition; helpful and additive to the web experience. It fits the medium and from a consumer point of view, it is simple.

It’s an often forgotten fact that simplicity and sophistication go hand in hand. If you have had anything to do with a digital ad campaign, you will have been exposed to unnecessary complexity but regardless, it’s true that many advancements in tech close the gap between the physical and digital worlds and this in turn makes life simpler and easier.

The smartphone has already become an extension of the human body. No device before it has been so personal or all-purpose.  However, brands need to earn the right to be on the screen through more helpful and relevant advertising – ads that make it easier and faster for people to find, do, buy, choose, entertain, share and promote.

This will be the model for much of tomorrow’s advertising and here are a couple of ways things may play out.

1. Mobile Messaging Platforms Are The Next Frontier For Digital

…….and will make it much easier for people to connect with brands. Soon, a quick message to the bank will return a bank balance or send a payment. A message to Uber as simple as, ‘I need a taxi’ will send a car your way. Smartphones already know your location and your account will be synced for payment. This opens up many possibilities for brands. You can imagine Domino’s taking advantage of this (they’ve already tested ordering a pizza through an Emoji message).

Brands will yield better results by tailoring marketing that is more natural to the environment. However, this doesn’t mean that the only brand engagement space on offer will be a text message.  The prototype for messaging is We Chat in China but Facebook are likely to win over the Western World in this space.

2. Virtual Reality Will Be a Driver For Consumer Growth

Another huge area for consumer growth is in VR and Facebook recognised this too with the purchase of Oculus Rift.

VR was the shiny new thing in the 90’s which never took off because the hardware wasn’t ready. The price of Oculus Rift will soon fall so it becomes as ubiquitous as the games console. Google cardboard and the power of the smartphone means anyone can have a decent VR experience with tech they already own. VR is perhaps the best technology at connecting digital with physical. We can be at the event of a big news story; walk around candidate holiday destinations or play the most immersive computer games ever.

In game advertising was another ‘next big thing’ for a while but never truly gained ground for a variety of reasons.  The next generation of VR will change that. One thing we did learn from the early days of in game advertising was that consumers liked the addition of things that made the games feel more real. Brands exist in the real world and as such, add credibility to games and are welcomed. The key is not to force the brands in and detract from the experience. Please don’t make users clean under the rim of a toilet with Toilet Duck for extra XP; just put the product on the shelf.

So there are many advances in tech and many more to come that it would have been difficult to predict a decade ago.  Of course hardly any of them are designed with advertising specifically in mind but VR, messaging, artificial intelligence, smart devices and sensors will make it simpler for people to understand and interact with the world around them and therefore will be of keen interest for the advertiser. An example of this is eSports (watching people play computer games). This is taking off at a rapid pace and will create many brand opportunities and integrations.

Brands can best capitalise on these developments by creating relevant utilities or experiences. There are many thoughts on what these will and should look like, but it’s clear that focus on simple and non-disruptive communication is a good start.