Awesome Thoughts on the Future of Advertising

There have been so many thoughts floating around in my head lately, but the workload and travel schedule has turned those thoughts into a handful of cobbled drafts as opposed to full blog posts. And then there are mornings like this one, where I can’t seem to forge any of the almost-articles into coherent pieces of writing.

And then there are most days, where I find really smart people who write really incredible things – people like Rishad Tobaccowala. Check out his thoughts on the future of advertising. Here’s a taste:

The future of advertising will belong to mongrels and will be about people at the core.


I found this article via the ever-thought-provoking Dave Allen of North (1)

1.Advertising is entering a golden age.

Despite all the hand-wringing about advertising, it is and will continue to be a booming industry. The advertising market is larger than it has ever been and it will continue to explode for a combination of reasons.

First, as the Internet empowers people, companies will truly have to embrace marketing, which according to Philip Kotler is “understanding and meeting people’s requirements.” Second, technology is allowing for not only better ways of targeting and measuring advertising but also new ways of telling stories or allowing people to tell stories. Third, Brands are growing more important in a fast-moving and cluttered world rather than less important. All of us are becoming brands ourselves. Finally globalization is bringing hundreds of millions of people with desires and needs into the marketplace.

Advertising and Marketing are growth industries much more than Finance or Legal or so many other fields where the machines are automating high value work versus in our industry where machines are replacing low level work and allowing for far more opportunities for talented people. We need to stop being pessimistic and embrace the amazing future that is being made available.

2. Think People, Think Mongrel, do not only Think Digital.

Technology and digital platforms will play a critical role in the future of advertising. However successful people and agencies will not be “digital at the core” or “leading with digital” as the current slogans claim. Because so many agencies, clients and content companies were not paying attention to digital as it rose, they are now overcompensating by brandishing the digital lipstick aggressively.

The future will be about people and we should put people at the core. Because people are analog and we have feelings, hopes and desires, successful marketing will combine art and science, media and message, paid, owned and earned and a lot of combinations of the analog and digital world.

We are suing social networks to connect with people. Mobility makes locations and real places more important since we now can go where we want and bring our technology assistants with us.

In addition we are living in a world of networks, where connections and collaboration is increasingly important. The world is too complex and moving too fast for any one company or team to do it all. We need to train people who are cross-bred and hybrid and who are willing to work together.

The future of advertising will belong to mongrels and will be about people at the core.

3. The future of advertising will not fit in the containers of the past.

Most market leaders in the Advertising Agency, Media Company and Marketer fields have been designed for the past. Our systems, incentive plans, organizational structures have been designed for the past.

We all embrace technology, push forth “digital announcements” but do not re-organize our companies in new ways, bring in new talent and actually incentivize the new behaviors that we all know are very important.

This allows new platforms, new companies and start-ups with fresh approaches to run circles around us.

Fortunately, many of us have woken up to see the importance of organizational re-design and approaches and are working to establish new partners, new ways of working across brands and attracting new talent.

Not all the leaders will make it through to the other side but those that do will run schizophrenic or hybrid models that deliver today and lead tomorrow.

Is your company addressing the hard changes or just believing embracing technology and digital talk will do the trick?

4. Change begins with us.

There are only two ways to really change a company to get it ready for the future. Management can change people’s mindsets or they can change the people (though often its management itself that needs to be changed!)

To be successful stop complaining about change, or how other people or your company are not changing and address the real issue. Yourself.

Are you updating yourself? Are you investing in learning new skills and challenging your own legacy mindset?

In the end, the future of advertising and marketing is much less about technology and platforms and much more about the talent and the mindset in the industry.

It is about us.

We will re-invent our industry and truly embrace its amazing potential by re-inventing ourselves!

Rishad Tobaccowala is the Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of VivaKi, which combines the digital and media assets of the Publicis Groupe including Digitas, Razorfish, Starcom Mediavest and Zenith Optimedia. His Reinventing blog is at


  • (1) You can find Dave Allen’s posting of the article on the North blog, here.
  • You can find Rishad’s original article on the Huffington Post, here.
  • Miguel Gomez

    Great piece. As Rishad, I see the future of advertising as embracing individuality, as companies not talking like companies, but like humans who care and feel and thus, make us care and feel about them.

    On a side note, have you guys looked into “We Are All Weird” (the latest from Seth Godin)?
    It embraces the concept of the future of, not only advertising, but business in general, by focusing on the “weird”, the “tribes” of the world instead of the “average”.
    Imagine the possibilities: Businesses embracing and communicating with the people that love them, not with the masses; which, now that I think about it, sounds like what BoF’s been doing for years… Hmm… Interesting.

    • Eric Dodds

      Isn’t it a thought provoking article? I love this quote: 

      First, as the Internet empowers people, companies will truly have to embrace marketing, which according to Philip Kotler is “understanding and meeting people’s requirements.”

      I hope along with you that my work will look more and more like helping companies really solve problems well for their customers. I don’t think flashy advertising is going away anytime soon, either, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Advertising is a tool in the marketer’s toolbox – it can create awareness, communicate ideas that people want to identify with, and keep a brand top of mind in a noisy market. It’s not sustainable, but for certain goals, it’s a good tool.

      My hope, though, is that more companies will invest in not projecting an image, but living it out in the lives of their customers. Like Rishad says, though, it’s hard work. 

      You ask a great question: 

      “What does a brand manager need to experience to “reclaim” his/her brand’s humanity?”

      There’s probably an essay in the answer, but one thing that I do know is that change starts with the people in the company, and not just the brand manager. Unless your employees are robots, your brand is already human. The question is, I believe, are humans people solving your customers problems in remarkable ways, time after time, after time? 

      Great stuff to think about, and thank you for sharing your thoughts. As for “We Are All Weird,” we’re definitely believers in the fact that focusing on a smaller group of passionate people will pay out more in the long run than broadcasting to the masses. How that looks over the next decade, especially with all of the wild changes in the ways we connect, is going to be a really fun ride. 

      • Miguel Gomez

        Love your response. Thank you!

        • Eric Dodds

          You’re welcome – thanks for bringing some great thought-provoking comments to the table yourself. I’ll probably write more on the issue, so keep an eye out and we’ll keep the conversation going.