Throughout history, technological advances in media have shaped where and how people spend their time, attention, and money, from the invention of the printing press to the release of the iPhone.
This shift happened again in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly accelerated the rate of change, as people leveraged new technologies to adapt to a socially distanced world.
As a result, digital advertisers have a greater share of audience attention than ever before. But they’re increasingly challenged by shorter attention spans and higher expectations.
In this post, which is inspired by our ebook The New Rules of Advertising, we’ll share a brief history of advertising followed by one key takeaway that should inform your 2021 strategy.
A brief history of advertising
Advertisers have always adapted to emerging technologies that capture people’s attention. When radio hit the streets, advertisers bought the airtime between programs to reach local communities with their recordings. When television arrived on the scene, advertisers reached families through audio-visual commercials embedded in the nation’s favorite shows. When the smartphone was finally placed in our palms, it opened up a whole new world: For the first time, advertisers could target niche audiences—anywhere, anytime—with content they could see, hear, and touch.
Players like Google and Facebook were quick to jump at the opportunity. They quickly designed platforms that could segment audiences based on their demographics, location, interests, and behavior. This empowered advertisers to surface the right ad to the right person at the right time to maximize the odds of conversion. And it worked. Today, half of consumers have admitted to purchasing something they hadn’t originally planned to buy after seeing a personalized ad, according to Segment.
These experiences with social media taught audiences to expect personalized experiences online, as social media algorithms prioritize relevant and timely content that keeps users engaged on their platforms. Indeed, a whopping 71% of people now prefer to receive ads that are tailored to their interests and past purchases, finds Adlucent.
While many advertisers already personalize their ads, they rarely carry that personalization through to their post-click landing pages. Instead, they send their paid traffic to generic landing pages or, worse yet, their homepages. This is a big and costly mistake, as the post-click stage is where the conversion actually happens.
This environment creates both a problem and an opportunity for advertisers. In 2021, they must evolve from mere segmentation to 1:1 personalization. Audiences want a seamless advertising experience that’s relevant from start to finish—something that’s nearly impossible to accomplish without the aid of new technologies. Early adopters are thus positioned to thrive, while the rest risk falling behind.
Lesson learned: Experiment with machine learning
So, what have we learned?
To achieve 1:1 personalization, advertisers must leverage emerging technologies.
Without the aid of these technologies, digital advertisers would have to manually create hundreds, or even thousands, of ads and landing pages, tailor them to countless unique audiences, and continuously optimize them for conversions. The cost to do so would be prohibitive. No wonder digital advertisers choose segmentation over 1:1 personalization today.
But the world is changing. Thanks to the advent of new technologies, like machine learning, advertisers can now automate the process of creating and optimizing highly personalized ads and landing pages.
Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that can adapt when presented with new data. This technology processes vast amounts of data to glean valuable insights about customers and prospects. It then uses this data to design an optimal advertising experience by finding the right time, place, and product to present to each potential customer.
AI and machine learning have already made an impact in the advertising world. In a recent Deloitte survey of 1,100 U.S. executives from companies considered to be early AI adopters, 82% reported a positive return on their investment.
Discover the new rules of advertising
Given how much the advertising industry has changed in recent years, we believe advertisers need a new set of rules to follow. Experimenting with machine learning is just one of those rules. In our ebook, The New Rules of Advertising, we offer two more rules to help you achieve higher conversion rates. Download the ebook now for a full history of advertising and access to all three rules.