Looking back, looking forward
Prabhakar Mundkur, Brand Advisor and Mentor
As the current decade approaches a close, it is worth reminiscing how it started on January 1, 2010.

Looking back, looking forward

As the current decade approaches a close, it is worth reminiscing how it started on January 1, 2010.
  • We bring to you a series of columns from industry experts, looking back at the last 10 years.
  • The columns will explore how the media, marketing and advertising industry has transformed in the last decade.
  • Prabhakar Mundkur, Brand Advisor and Mentor, answers if 'creativity has declined in this decade' and pens down some profound trends that transformed the industry.
As the current decade approaches a close, it is worth reminiscing how it started on January 1, 2010.

The new decade brought with it some profound changes. The internet was beginning to change the way people live, read, do business, buy, and connect with other people. In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook. We learnt a new term called ‘social media’ with its advent. LinkedIn was launched earlier in 2003 and Twitter later in 2006.

Looking back, looking forward

Facebook had 350 million users in Dec 2009. Now it has 1.6 billion daily users. That’s probably an indication of how much life has changed globally. Social media has become an intrinsic and inseparable part of our lives. We leave our digital footprints as we trod across the earth.

According to the KPMG Media and Entertainment Report 2018, the Indian OTT market is expected to grow 45%, to reach ₹138 billion by the end of fiscal 2023. According to a report by Ernst & Young, the number of OTT users in the country will reach 500 million by 2020, making India the second-biggest market after the US. That surely is a threat to broadcast TV as we know it in India. In more developed markets like the US, some observers are predicting the death of broadcast TV in the next decade and cable networks as OTT usage completely replaces TV as we know it. Hotstar just crossed 400 million downloads and 63% of its consumption came from non-metro cities, defining the way for the next decade.

At the turn of the last decade in 2009, digital media expenditure was just 5.4% of the total of Rs. 19,400 crores. Ten years later in 2019, digital media expenditure will be 21% of the total ad expenditure. While India is behind the curve in the US where digital media expenditure has overtaken traditional media, we are likely to be less than 10 years behind. So it is easy to see where we might be at the end of the next decade.

Time spent with digital media vs traditional media in the US in minutes
Looking back, looking forward

Source : statista.com
Looking back, looking forward

Has Creativity Declined in this Decade?

Advertising was considered an art form in the 20th Century. It has now been taken over by data scientists and engineers whose province is machines, algorithms, big data and artificial intelligence.

Digital advertising might be the most potent force of our era, but I can’t help feeling that creative standards have taken a beating, and this phenomenon has peaked in the current decade.

For some reason, I think the digital advertising industry assumes that measurement, behaviour and micro-targeting over-rides the need to stimulate consumers.

The Volkswagen 1959 Ad Classic Ogilvy ad for Rolls Royce 1958

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Dan Izbicki, creative excellence director at Unilever, a few years ago during the IPA awards is known to have said, “There’s an assumption [in our industry] at the moment that just because everybody has got a camera and access to a YouTube channel, suddenly everybody is a creative director – that’s clearly not true,” he said. “That’s why most advertising is terrible and most films are not very good. [Creativity] is a precious skill.”

HSBC’s former head of marketing in EMEA Philip Mehl once said, “Marketing used to be a creative challenge but it’s a data challenge now.”

The problem notably is that it is difficult to understand a consumer’s emotions with data. And consumer emotions is something that the advertising men of the last century understood well.

There are two kinds of emotional responses. One is empathy, when a consumer empathises or feels close to the advertising. Here the brand acts like a mirror where you see yourself in the brand. Rational brands like detergents and toothpastes often try to elicit this kind of response. The other emotional response is when you feel that the brand is very imaginative and ahead of its game. The brand then acts like a badge which the consumer would like to wear for others to see. Apple, Nike and many others rely on this kind of emotional response.

For some reason, digital advertising seems to fail on both counts of emotional responses. The emphasis seems to be to provide information rather than stimulation. Providing information masquerades under the all-encompassing word called ‘content’ which is bandied around both in advertising and entertainment. My argument is that almost everything is content; news is also content. But news is information. And advertising of any kind must certainly go beyond providing information.

Life in the next decade

“John Anderton you could use a Guinness right about now.”

Advertising and Media is a function of how life will change in the next decade. Will we all have a super-computer in our pockets by the end of the decade? What about driverless cars? Will they be the norm rather than the exception? Will access to the internet become a basic right? Will we get our first robotic pharmacist? Will 90% of the people on earth have an online presence? Will we have an implantable phone on our arms as they show in the movies? One could go on.

India will have 370 million Generation Z consumers who enter their prime earning years according to Bain report on Future of Consumption in Fast-Growth Markets, India, World Economic Forum in January 2019. According to a UN forecast, India’s population will touch 1.5 billion by 2030, so Generation Z will be a quarter of our population. In a sense, they will replace the millennials.

I can personally see digital media expenditure cross traditional media in the next decade. I also see the near death of broadcast TV as we know it with OTT platforms taking over. Hotstar downloads for example have already crossed 400 million and 40% of their content is already regional, according to the third edition of the India Watch Report.

I see the following 5 trends emerge in the next decade.
  • More automation
  • Extremely personalised
  • Immersive
  • Experiential
  • Highly Measurable
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We will move from demographics to psychographics. From persuasion to unconscious manipulation. From chatbots to adbots that create ads. The Emirates ads are a step in that direction.

And most importantly, technological singularity will be dangerously near – the idea that technological progress particularly in artificial intelligence will reach a tipping point where machines are exponentially smarter than humans.

And I can’t help feeling that we will be closer than ever to personalised advertising as depicted in the Minority Report that has most futurists salivating. When Tom Cruise walks through a mall and gets bombarded with ads that mention him by name.

My personal favourite is the scene when the Lexus ad whispers to Tom Cruise, “The road you’re on, John Anderton, is the one less travelled.”

The future is inevitable. We can only question how quickly it will collide with the present.

- By Prabhakar Mundkur, Brand Advisor and Mentor