Future of AdvertisingA recent blog post in the Harvard Business Review suggested that to compete in the future, advertisers will have to move away from the traditional campaign model and act more like newsrooms. To bolster their argument, the writers of the post cited a recent study issued by The Wharton Future of Advertising Program, in which 175 industry leaders were asked to describe their vision of what advertising would be like in the year 2020. Given that both Harvard and Wharton are ranked among the best MBA schools in the US for marketing, it seems a worthy exercise to review their findings.

The general consensus from the Wharton study is that the one-directional mass media ad campaign model is going the way of the Dodo. To get ahead in 2020, agencies and the brands they work for will have to ditch the campaign model in favor of an “on-demand” approach to marketing. This, in turn, will compel ad agencies and marketing departments to operate more like newsrooms, churning out mass quantities of data-driven content that is relevant and useful to their target audience.

Sounds a lot like integrated digital marketing, but I digress…


  • Consumer Oriented  According to the Harvard Business Review, the old ad campaign model was brand-focused, replete with companies telling their stories. The new model is consumer oriented, with brands asking more questions instead of offering unsolicited answers.  
  • Highly-Personalized & Targeted Content – To get ahead in 2020, brands are going to have to become multi-media content mavens, churning out an endless stream of info-tainment tailored for every audience demographic.
  • Inbound over Outbound – Instead of ramming would-be customers down a linear purchase funnel, advertisers and brands will need to take a passive role, objectively nurturing prospects through what Wharton’s 2020 report calls “an iterative purchase decision journey.”
  • Interactive and Accessible – Tomorrow’s social, mobile, local consumer will demand 24/7 accessibility from brands. Advances in data analytics and mobile device technology already enable businesses to interact with prospects and customers wherever, whenever. This will continue to be somewhat of a Pandora’s Box for advertisers and marketers expected to meet the challenge of delivering around-the-clock ROI.
  • Tech Fueled, Data Driven – Big data. Analytics. More big data. More analytics. Technology will continue to act as the great change agent, as advertisers and marketers become ever-more reliant on quantifiable information to measure current initiatives and inform future ones.


  • Become a Super-Publisher – As interactive technologies pervade every aspect of our lives, from the cars we drive to the clothes we wear, there will be a proliferation of “interaction points” in which brands will be able to deliver just the right type of content at the just the right time in just the right place. In this always-on-demand environment, advertisers and marketers will have to shift their attention from buying paid media to creating content over numerous opt-in channels that they must control and manage themselves. The future of marketing is all about managing engagement and experience flow, and then measuring results and refining the process. The overarching goal? Providing genuine value to the consumer.
  • Operate Like a Tech Company – As the Wharton study points out, what we consider big data today will be nothing in 2020. Data aggregation and segmentation technologies will drive advertising and marketing to exponentially greater complexity. Brands will rely on mind numbingly sophisticated CRMs and other smart systems to manage it all. Creatives, or “experience managers,” will have to work closely will mathematicians and IT to deliver content that informs and entertains in a deeply competitive environment.
  • Become Trustees of the Consumer – With personal data all but a thing of the past, the criticality of trust between brands and consumers will rise to the fore. Marketers will need to learn how to fulfill a myriad of consumer wants and needs in an utterly transparent manner.


Here’s my take on what the Harvard Business Review and Wharton 2020 Study are essentially saying about the future of advertising and marketing:

To stay competitive, businesses must form meaningful connections with the people who matter most: those who find value in their brand. They can do this by producing large quantities of original content that is exceptional, personalized, and relevant, optimizing it for any platform or device on which it could potentially be viewed or consumed. They must then engage with their audience in real time over multiple channels. Finally, relying on user feedback and data analytics, companies need to constantly tweak content and messaging to fit the ever-changing demands of each target audience segment.

In other words, the future is integrated digital marketing.