In 500 BC, Confucius inadvertently predicted the future of advertising when he said “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I’ll understand”.

This is the basis of the future of advertising.

Advertising as we know it is changing . The new buzz word on everyone’s lips is “Digital”. Agencies and brands are continuously trying to target digital natives in their conversations and it is becoming more and more obvious that traditional advertising methods alone aren’t effective enough to get their attention.

Digital natives are people of 25 years and below. They are those born into the era of the mobile phone and the internet. For them technology is not just a fad; it’s a way of life. They grew up with technology so they are at home with it. Digital natives move in groups, now being referred to as tribes. People, who are part of tribes are used to collaborating and are not used to being talked to, they don’t like to be sold at; they like to buy. Traditional forms of advertising scream at you and don’t really care what you have to say. People now want to be involved, they want their point of view heard.

Marketers are making the same mistake with digital as they did at the onset of television. Advertisers were using the same communication they had designed for print on TV and thus, the medium wasn’t very effective. That is already happening with digital. When you talk about digital now, the first thing that comes to mind are the web banner, flash videos and pop-up ads, but digital conversation is so much more than that.

Digital advertising is mobile – it’s digital display systems and it’s social media. Digital advertising is about ongoing interactions. Digital is technology.

Traditional advertising by its very nature is intrusive and one-way. Advertisers and brands have relied so much on the push nature of traditional methods, practically forcing information down the throats of their customers. This needs to change. Brands that continue to employ the one-way, push method of advertising risk isolation.

The internet and technology have made it easier for people to find the information they want online and when they can’t find such, they are very okay asking one another. They no longer rely entirely on the brands to tell them what they want as they want to engage with the brands directly to tell the brand what they want so it’s become a conversation. And even a collaboration . Again agencies and brands that believe they can continue to communicate using traditional methods are only working towards their own extinction.

Users want so much more from advertising these days, they want relationships, they want value so brands need to think up increasingly new ways of bringing them value by delivering a minimum of at least one of the following.

Exchanging value

One of the major benefits of a digital conversations is in its very nature, the interactive experience it offers. Also gone are the days when middlemen and research agencies were the only avenue for brands to get feedback from their users. Brands are now able to engage customers directly. No longer do brands have to guess the outcome of their campaigns or accept the saying that half of their advertising spend is lost, digital offers a whole new set of tools that makes monitoring and measuring the success of campaigns a breeze. The provision of insights into what customers want is inherent in these interactions so brand are enabled to innovate along those lines.

At the very core of digital advertising is mobile, but it also spreads out to cover areas like social media and search engine marketing.

Truth be told, Nigerian brands are now really beginning to get onboard the social media train as quite a number of brands are active on Facebook and Twitter, but really are these active brands engaging their audience ? Are they able to link Facebook “likes” to the bottom line ? But are they engaging their customers enough? Is someone monitoring the success of the campaigns or are they just comfortable with the fact that they have a Facebook page which is updated once in two months? Monitoring and reporting accuracy is one of the big advantages of digital marketing.

Mobile, being the next big thing presents immense and exciting opportunities. Let’s look at some statistics:

Nigeria has about 93 million mobile subscribers.
About one in every 20 mobile phones in Nigeria is a smartphone.
There are now about 2.4million active BlackBerry subscribers in the country.
With more than 8 billion advertising impressions for the first quarter, Nigeria is InMobi’s largest mobile advertising network in Africa.

According to InMobi, mobile is the preferred medium for communication, entertainment, getting information and even shopping by mobile users in Nigeria.

Mobile is far ahead of traditional media in influencing purchasing behavior.

So you see, the statistics are there.
Mobile is the new “IT” for advertising. Brands need to become aware of this and take advantage of the platform. The answer to every brand’s problem really doesn’t have to be a TV ad.

Agencies need to embrace digital, while at the same time remain aware that traditional advertising is not dead (nor will it be in several years to come).

A lot of people are quick to say that TV is dead and thus advise clients to concentrate more of their ad spend on digital but there is absolutely no justification for this. No new advertising medium has ever totally replaced the “older” mediums before it. Radio has never replaced print just as television to this day has not replaced radio. So why should digital fully replace traditional.

The secret is being able to strike a balance that fully engages the customer on all forms by developing a campaign that fully utilizes the various platforms is all about strategy.

In the very near future, a number of roles will have to be created and existing ones changed. CMOs and brand custodians need to be increasingly tech savvy. They need to understand and talk tech as it will no longer be okay to just understand your marketing role. Since the world now revolves around technology, companies need to adapt to survive.

Also, within agencies of the future the increasing need for technological capabilities demands a new Creative Director role with specialization in technology.