Staff Reporters
Apr 30, 2020

AI, biometrics and purpose: how advertising will change over next decade

Top industry experts predict a future in which AI will make crucial purchasing decisions, biometric data will become a common currency, and purpose will become an essential part of a brand's identity.

AI, biometrics and purpose: how advertising will change over next decade

While advancements in technology will lead to seismic shifts in the way brands and agencies operate over the next 10 years, marketing experts are optimistic about the effect this is going to have on the industry.

That's according to a report produced by Essence that has compiled the views of 50 top marketing experts from different regions of the world to understand how advertising will be affected by technological innovations, and what the industry can do now to prepare.

Artificial intelligence will be one of the most prominent drivers of change across many aspects of human life, from the way we communicate to the decisions we make and the work we do.

But the marketing experts were on the whole positive about the advancement of AI, believing it will eliminate inefficiencies, reduce the friction of transactions and take over tedious daily tasks, but will not result in widespread joblessness or underemployment. Some respondents believed that AI would actually create new jobs to replace those it made redundant.

As to how AI would specifically affect the ad industry, two-thirds of respondents expected that most brand interactions will take place bot-to-bot, meaning that personal digital assistants like Google, Siri, and Alexa will interface directly with brand chatbots and virtual customer service agents. They also predicted that consumers will begin to outsource purchasing decisions to machines, which will optimise selections based on a consumer's goals and preferences.

Elsewhere in the study, respondents were most confident about the likelihood of a future in which environmental considerations play a major role in consumer purchasing decisions. Nearly everyone agreed that environmental impact would be of paramount importance by 2030 and that brand purpose, especially as it relates to sustainability, will need to permeate every aspect of a company. But several respondents also noted that increasing economic disparity between developed versus developing nations means many consumers will not be in a position to be able to choose products based on anything else but price.

Another key prediction from the study was the likelihood that biometric data will become a key component in consumer identity information by the end of the decade, making it necessary to focus on the development of corporate strategies and policies capable of securing its use. The use of biometric data and the personalisation of products and services were seen as likely by nearly three-quarters of the respondents. 

The respondents were least likely to predict futures in which consumers would be able to opt out of advertising entirely, or in which countries establish a unified approach to privacy and identity regulation. Experts deemed it unlikely that people will be able to opt out of advertising entirely but expect subtler forms of marketing like product placement and sponsorships that are integrated into services and experiences to play an increasingly important role.

“Advertising plays such an important role in supporting access to reliable news and information, driving culture, and advancing the global economy—we need to make sure it remains sustainable,” said Kyoko Matsushita, global CEO at Essence. “We hope this report sparks conversation and creative thinking in our industry about what we can do today to create the best possible future.”

The study is based on in-person interviews and online survey responses from a sample of nearly 50 experts. The study was conducted from January to late-February 2020, before the scope of the coronavirus pandemic was fully clear.

The co-author of the report, Kate Scott-Dawkins, noted that it is plausible that many of the predictions and trends identified in the report will have been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“In particular, we expect that the pandemic may increase the use of AI and automation to replace human labor, catalyse increased use of 3D printing to create locally resilient economies and supply chains, and increase people’s readiness to embrace virtual experiences," she said.

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