Each new piece of media technology is a new doorway that marketers can use to walk into the lives of consumers. With the release of the iPad last week, and the subsequent scurry of publishers to capitalize on this new technology, it’s hard to keep from thinking about where the advertising industry is headed.

Twenty five years ago Cable Television was considered an emerging media technology. If you told someone in 1985 that someday people would be walking around with miniature computers in their pockets, I’m sure they would have a hard time believing you. Now thinking about that – where do you think we will be 25 years from now?

Here’s my guess:

Today, a good portion of our advertising/media wizardry is focused on audience segmentation and channel-specific media strategies.

Segmentation is important is because it allows us to create buckets of consumers with similar lifestyles and habits and then manipulate media touch points to influence their collective behavior. Common audience segmentation practice is to have 2-4 very broad buckets of consumers. However, as we find out more about consumers, emerging technology will allow us to have a larger number of very small buckets (more buckets = more accurate segmentation). Eventually, I believe technology will allow advertisers no longer work with “buckets,” but rather target each individual user as an audience of 1.

As consumer targeting becomes more granular, media technology will develop as well – becoming more fragmented with many different ways to reach consumers (rather than just TV, Print, Online). The combination of more granular targeting and more media touch points will transform the way advertisers reach consumers.

In 25 years, the “Media Industry” will become an outdated term – as our focus will no longer be on the media channels themselves (there will be too many of them!) our new focus will be on simply reaching consumers – wherever they may be.

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iPad and the Future of Media
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  • Well, I’m obliged to agree with that. You’re essentially saying that as the amount of information we can collect on consumers increases, the more accurately we can target them. The “bucket size” of each segment decreases, and it really can’t go any lower than one.

    I don’t think we’ll ever read “one” though, because that would be expensive. There’s also the consideration that as advertising evolves, it’s more likely to turn into a social experience.

    e.g. as the information about each product in the marketplace increases, the value of brands as proxies for product quality declines. A brand becomes, instead, a social statement: you purchase the brand because it communicates to other people something about yourself.

    A brand can establish that social “meaning” via advertising. But in order for the meaning to be valuable, it has to be consistent; which is another way of saying that the advertising has to engender the same impressions in people. You can get better at that, sure. But as the brand becomes purely a “social object” – as it’s squeezed out of the “product information” space by actual information – the advertising likewise becomes a social product, because that’s how you establish a brand.

    I also don’t think you’ll ever get rid of channel segmentation, simply because the best way of communicating is bounded by the limitations of the channel itself. So you’ll still need different advertising products for each channel.

    It could be that the channels become more similar; that print and TV fade away as iPad-like electronic readers and IPTV pick up. So there’s less transformation required between each channel type.

    And, as people become more connected, you’re likely to hit them on multiple channels. That’s a challenge in itself, because if you just repeat the same message, you’re boring: people tune it out. The message needs to be cumulative. How do you do that? Well, good question…

    I don’t think the iPad changes the game, though. The iPhone did, because it has GPS, but not the iPad.