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The Digerati discussions: Where will we see the next big wave of digital disruption?

By Andrew Blustein, Reporter

November 13, 2019 | 7 min read

The Drum Digerati is our celebration of the world’s top digital marketers. As part of a series of questions, we asked each of those on the list what they believe will be the next wave of digital disruption.

The years of mobile are mercifully over, hopefully, but industry leaders across the globe are split on the next big wave of digital disruption.

Programmatic advertising has buyers and sellers rethinking their supply chains. Television is suddenly online and the voice boom is upon us. There are so many consumer touchpoints and so little time, that creatives are wondering if they’re getting squeezed out six seconds at a time.

One thing that won’t change, however, is the consumer. However fickle they may be, consumers and their habits, affinities and expectations still need to be the core focus for the advertising world.

“We put too much emphasis on the word digital,” said, Mel Edwards, global chief executive officer at Wunderman Thompson. “To me, it is just disruption, and I think the next big wave is already here. It is consumer-led.

“Paying attention to what they want, how they make their choices and what factors go into those choices is disrupting the way brands come to market and the products they innovate, and it will only continue. Consumers will become more connected and their expectations that brands produce seamless experiences for them will continue to grow.”

Procter and Gamble is already prepared to take creativity into the new era of digital disruption as chief brand officer Marc Pritchard says he wants to reinvent advertising, reshaping how and where consumers interact with brands.

“I think the next big wave is going to come through creativity, the merging of the ad world with other creative worlds like film, music, comedy, sports and entertainment technology,” explains Pritchard. “That will spawn a totally new type of creative, where we could imagine a world without ads as we know them today.”

P&G is already in the business of producing long-form content for streaming services, the disruptors to the old guard of TV that are now facing disruption themselves.

Apple has just launched its own streaming service. Disney’s is coming later this month. WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal both have products launching next spring.

However, Apple, Disney and WarnerMedia are all launching ad-free services (WarnerMedia says it will have an ad-supported service in 2021). TV and its mythical $70bn market cap suddenly face uncertainty.

Linda Yaccarino, chairman, advertising sales and client partnerships at NCBU, sees that uncertainty as cyclical.

“We don't see digital disruption as a wave, we see it as our continual reality as it relates to consumer behavior and therefore, the media and advertising business. So, in other words, it’s permanent. It impacts every part of every business and every aspect of people's lives. There’s no turning back,” said Yaccarino.

“That means the next stage of disruption won't feel so ‘disruptive,’ rather it’s somewhat ‘expected.’ And it's going to be led by the companies that can embrace transformation into their core culture to implement the change that is necessary for long term relevance, sustainable growth and success.”

Yaccarino wants NBCU’s streaming service, Peacock, to disrupt legacy TV thinking by essentially turning the clock all the way back to the broadcast days, with one key difference.

NBCU is reportedly making ad-supported Peacock free to all users, according to CNBC, and Yaccarino went on the record with Variety saying, “You can rely on Peacock to have the lightest load of any ad-supported streaming platform that’s out there right now.”

That looks a lot like the traditional over-the-air broadcast model, where consumers accepted ads alongside free content. But digital disruption in TV means connectivity, and for Peacock that means the alluring promise of serving targeted ads at scale.

Jamie West, group director of advanced advertising at Sky, said TV in any form, whether from a traditional network or digital-first platform, will see rapid change.

“They are already disrupting the market massively with an acceleration of capabilities for automation, targeting [and] attribution,” said West. “Some would say it’s about time, however the rate of change over the next two -three years globally will be massive.”

Gary Vaynerchuk, chief executive officer at Vaynermedia, said ad-supported over-the-top (OTT) services will attract brands that can’t afford traditional TV, especially because it can offer both the reach of TV with the data-infused addressability and attribution of other digital media.

“The continuation of OTT consumption is going to be a very big deal,” said Vaynerchuk. “Brands continue to overspend in [TV commercials] and this will be an arena that feels more comfortable for them to spend than even modern-day social platforms.”

In the long-term, Vaynerchuk is eyeing the uptick in smart speakers as the next area of digital disruption.

Naturally, this has audio-first companies hopeful for the future. Lizzie Widhelm, senior vice-president of ad innovation and sales marketing at Pandora, said audio can “cut through the clutter” of other visual media.

“As music streaming, podcasts, audiobooks, smart speakers, connected cars, and voice assistants have exploded in popularity, the floodgates have opened for audio ad-tech and creative innovation,” said Widhelm.

Mastercard is just one brand investing in the space. It recently created a “sonic logo” to help stay relevant in an era when searches are moving away from keyboards and toward voice-enabled devices.

“We need to listen to consumer wants and develop new ways for our brand to show up in mediums where there is no visual real estate…,” said Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing officer at Mastercard. “Having a comprehensive audio identity that’s flexible and adaptable across every consumer touchpoint and suitable for any culture, environment and geography is going to be critical to the future of brand management.”

The emergence of all this digital inventory fragmented across devices spells an uptick in programmatic transactions.

While it does promote the ease of automation, the programmatic supply chain is notoriously riddled with fraud and an abundance of third-parties that eat into buyers’ budgets and sellers’ bottom lines.

Blockchain could be the answer. Though it isn’t yet built to be a cure-all for digital advertising, blockchain technology could clear up the muddied, opaque supply chain.

“From an ambitious viewpoint, blockchain could possibly allow complementary parties to come together to share data in a safe and private manner for mutual benefit,” said Su Lin Tan, vice-president of operations at Carousell. “Standalone publishers could confidentially share their first-party data with each other, forming a formidable force to stand together against the duopoly, which has an unfair advantage due to their unparalleled data sets.”

“Blockchain would be able to attribute which standalone publisher contributed a specific data point, and can then can allocate the revenue spoils disproportionately to the publisher while others, too, benefit from the datapoint.”

The Drum announced the list of Digerati honorees last week. To learn more on all of the Digerati's thoughts on advertising, subscribe to our magazine.

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