The Future of Digital Advertising: From Surveillance back to Creation

Let’s be honest, digital advertising really really sucks these days.

And I’m not talking about what the ads actually look like. No I’m talking about how if digital advertising were a person it would either be the worst friend ever at best or thrown in jail at worst. To recap, here’s some of the things that digital advertising has done to you as a person over the last five years:

  • Stalked the heck out of you while pretending to “help you” buy stuff
  • Manipulated your reality and gaslighted you into believing certain things
  • Forced you to watch terrible video when you just want to read some news

And why? All in the name of surveillance; to gain more information about you without you knowing, to hopefully sell you more stuff without providing any value in return.

The good news? The tide is changing on this issue. New privacy laws are popping up everyday, consumers are becoming more aware, and Apple is taking a stand with IOS 14 updates (now the actual degree of altruism behind that is a story for another day.) Also, after spending the last ten years of internet usage centralizing around a handful of big platforms, the internet is once again rapidly expanding and decentralizing. People are creating and interacting with more content and platforms than ever, while the rise of cryptocurrency and blockchain is changing the landscape of content and value everyday.

What does this mean for the future of advertising? The winners will be brands and agencies who break their relationship with surveillance and instead treat their digital presence and advertising as a product line. They will offer value to their audience by creating, rather than watching (or some would say stalking), by developing content, partnerships and digital products that earn customers data, rather than steal it. What does this future look like? Hopefully a lot more like 2004 than 1984.