10 predictions for advertising in 2010

Thge future of advertising: it's all about the consumer

The consumer used to be the one in the picture. Now he's the one creating the picture.

I know, I know, it’s totally pretentious to even make predictions. And yes, most are either obvious or wrong. But what the hell, everyone else is making them. Even really smart people.

In fact none other than Forrester is in search of the answers. I recently had a conversation with analyst Sean Corcoran to talk about this very subject. Sean has the enviable (or regrettable, depending on your point of view) task of collecting, evaluating and synthesizing answers (and predictions) from a long list of ad agencies, marketers and journalists in an attempt to define where this tumultuous business is headed. (Good luck, Sean.)

He asked six simple questions.

What has changed in the agency landscape in the past six months, two years, five years?

What are the biggest challenges an agency/company faces today?

Is there new competition from tech companies, PR agencies, and consultants?

Has the agency/marketer relationship changed?

What trends are emerging in agency models?

What will (your agency name here) agency look like in two years?

They are good questions and no doubt agencies and marketers will fill hours of tape with their prognostications.

You could answer these questions from any number of perspectives:  the economy, emerging technologies such as mobile, the impact of new social media platforms.

Of course the real answer to all of these questions starts with “the consumer,” a term that in and of itself sounds dated. After all, the elusive customer has become everything from a critic to a content creator. He has the ability to control the conversation. And with new tools and applications that offer mobile access to information and competitive pricing, he wields even more power.

Red Laser give you price comparisons on demand

Red Laser gives shoppers price comparisons on demand

It was as early as 2003, maybe earlier, when the more prescient media thinkers took note of the fact that consumers were leaning in rather than sitting back. But it’s only been in the last couple of years that agencies and marketers have really caught on and started to react to the change. Perhaps a little too late in some cases. The challenge remains unlearning the business of messages and story telling and mastering the art of conversation and community.

No one really knows where everything is going but it appears everyone is willing to wager a guess.  Google “the future of advertising” and you get 153,000,000 results. Knock yourself out.

In the meantime, here are my predictions and indirectly some answers to Sean’s questions.

1.  Consumers will play an even greater role as critics, commentators and content creators

2.  Crowdsourcing will go mainstream

3. Applications, utility and platforms will trump messages as an agency’s most important creative output

4.  Analytics will inform more and more decisions

5. Quality will be defined by instant, accessible, portable (less about polish, finish, and big production)

6. Everything will be social: print, mobile, TV, service

7. Brands will act more like people

8. Curator/choreographer will emerge as the new important role

9. Creativity will matter more than ever (the opt in power of consumers will demand that when they do lean back even sales messages better be entertaining)

10.  Whoever hires the best developers will win (the most important lesson from Googled and why the NY Times, Mel Karmazin, and traditional ad agencies have lost out to CNN, Google/YouTube and digital shops).

What about you?  Got any ideas on where things are going? In the next couple of months I have to give a few talks about the subject. Would love a little help.


what's your opinion about Is there new competition from tech companies, PR agencies, and consultants? and what's your prediction about

Alex Allen
Alex Allen

mobile advertising would be the trend in the next few years because of the growth of mobile users.,~*

Jacob Patel
Jacob Patel

Mobile advertising would continue to grow as more and more mobile phone users get hooked on texting and mobile browsing.";;

Mimi V
Mimi V

Mr. Boches,

I am really interested in writing for TNGG and sent in an email using the contact form. However, I haven't heard back. I even contacted Stuart Foster to no avail. There is a great company in Malaysia, started by a Gen Yer and is a haven for Entrepreneurs and creative techies from all over the world. I wanted to do a piece on them because I think they are the epitome of an ideal place for Gen Yers to work.

What do you think?

.-= Mimi V´s last blog ..Social Media Monster =-.

Mimi V
Mimi V

First comment on the blog...gulp! The amount of talent and experience in this discussion is a little nerve wrecking for a newbie. Here goes...

No one appreciates the power of social media and digital branding more than I do but I do think there is a huge problem which will surface once avid bloggers, tweeters and Facebookers step back; there is too much information and too many people who don't know how to find or use it.

1. There are healthy debates about the right and wrong ways to do social media but the fact remains that all companies from mom-n-pops, B2Bs, and corporations are rushing to catch that social media bandwagon creating a lot of content...most of it BAD. This causes an overflow of information that drowns out relevant, quality content.

2. Finding the right information is a nightmare. Its even more frustrating when you are fairly certain it is out there but a Google Search or Delicious tag is not enough to find it. What is the use of companies creating ground breaking content and messages that will never get heard?

3. If the shift away from traditional marketing to online continues...won't it be absolute chaos? Finding a product or a business was a little easier in the old days because you were limited to local ads, local messages etc. If more and more companies go online, it gets harder to find the right fit for your needs. Ideally consumers should be able to find information and content online like in this frozen pizza ad:


The real value of internet marketing is the ability to give valuable information to customers who are genuinely looking for it. It seems to me that marketers are yelling on one side hoping to be heard, whereas consumers are seeking, hoping to hear what they want among the noise. There is a great need to develop tools that help consumers find the company or product they want. 2009 was filled with software to help companies gain marketing insight from social media/ online users. Shouldn’t agencies invest in tools that work the other way around? Tools more specifically made to improve the marketing process instead of forcing the consumer to rely on search engines or social bookmarking?

What I mean to say through all this is that 2010 will be the year this incredibly relevant problem will come to surface. Thoughts?

Gina Jennings
Gina Jennings

I agree. This falls in line with Seth Godin's concept of permission marketing, allowing the consumers to have more of a say in what they want, rather than being barraged or forced into a sale.

Being tapped into technology allows them to have more leverage. And yes, it will require more creativity to grab their attention.
.-= Gina Jennings´s last blog ..An Internet Marketing Training Program That Beginners Can Understand updated Thu Jan 7 2010 ... =-.

Tom Cunniff
Tom Cunniff

Good stuff. I'd suggest an 11th and 12th prediction. I am too superstitious to suggest a 13th :-)

11. Marketing Needs A New May 13, 1931. Modern brand management started with an internal Proctor and Gamble memo from Neil McElroy. But seismic changes at retail and media will force a new approach to how brand management is structured, what client-side skills will be needed and how work gets done.

12. Agencies Need Two New Revolutions: A Creative Revolution And A Cost Revolution. Looking back, the agency structure I grew up with was pretty straightforward. Its products were lovingly hand-crafted and built to last. And the cost structure was set up accordingly. But seismic changes in media are forcing a new approach to how agencies will be structured, what creative skills will be needed and how work gets done.
.-= Tom Cunniff´s last blog ..The Digital Future of Magazines? =-.

Aaron (Agency Future)
Aaron (Agency Future)

The most insightful predictions I've read yet. I'm on a similar quest to Sean and nailing this down is about as easy as drinking the sea through a straw.

The agency directors and CDs I've talked to here in Denmark (albeit from smaller agencies) are definitely seeing a more collaborative future - but less in terms of crowdsourcing solutions than in forging ever-closer relationships with clients and working at more points along the value chain.

More and more agencies are dipping their toes into own brands here too. One top digital shop opened their own fish restaurant last year and have made it one of Copenhagen's hippest destinations.
.-= Aaron (Agency Future)´s last blog ..Forrester tackling the agency future question =-.


I like your Top 10 Predictions for 2010. We added it to our blog with a link to your site. We know this will be a great year for our platform as it is very different from other mobile advertising. The tough part is getting ad execs to see the difference as they immediately hear mobile advertising vehicle and think those large billboard trucks-which we are not! See our 3D showcase option which is a phenomenal way to create entertainment advertising! Any thoughts on how to differentiate ourselves from them?

David Saxe
David Saxe

11. Emphasis on usability. We've only scratched the surface in two phenomenal mediums: AR and mobile apps. 2009 brought us new platforms but by and large, we've abused and saturated them with tens of thousands of completely "unusable" applications built on the premise of coolness. I predict a decline in the shock and awe and a return to what we realized we needed for web years ago. I don't care if my iPhone can fly - if you can figure out a way to make a flying iPhone usable, then we're onto something.
.-= David Saxe´s last blog ..Enter 2010 – Sustaining Creativity =-.

Adam Wohl
Adam Wohl

Edward / Ben:
Couldn't agree more.
The agencies who surround themselves with giants, (in this case digital and social ninjas that are at the top of their game) will win. And though devs and producers are essential in order for the final product to see the light of day, the idea -- however it works within the particular digital or social channel in question -- that is still king.

Jonathan Trenn
Jonathan Trenn

You wrote:

7. Brands will act more like people

What does this mean?
.-= Jonathan Trenn´s last blog ..Three lost months =-.


1 and 3 will drive 2.

I think that there will be a skeptical backlash against crowdsourcing by people who do not recognize that it is more than a logo competition.

I suspect we will see some issues with the recent Facebook privacy changes.

Real time search will be taken off the search engines - right now it is a spammer's heaven.
.-= @crowdmanage´s last blog ..What do we think? =-.

Ben Malbon (BBH Labs)
Ben Malbon (BBH Labs)

These are great; I find them extremely exciting, reading them on January 1st. We have a disruptive year ahead, there's no doubt about it. I think a lot of people have been looking forward to 2010 when the chaos might calm down and things would settle back into a groove, a pattern. But it's not going to calm down.

For me all of these predictions you have made somewhat revolve around people and talent. It is (as it's always been) all about talent.

So I think your last point is the most important. Whoever hires, retains and organizes the best people will win. Developers. Creatives. Planners. Relationship makers. Producers. Technologists.

To even begin to understand what you've written here Edward, requires a certain level of talent, an openness of approach, a restless appetite for new and better, a level of confidence (I should stress, I can barely grasp what you've outlined; my head hurts as I write . . . or is that just a NYE hangover?).

To bring these (& other) elements of change *together* requires talent, vision, an expansive view of what might be, and how it might become that. Because these aren't really separate points in practice. You've done us a service by pulling them apart, so we can understand them, but they're all connected.

To persuade other people in an organization to radically change how they work, and in some cases, even what they believe, requires talent.

I think if we learn anything from the oft-quoted usual suspects - Nike, Apple, Google - it's that without question they have the pick of the talent. They hire the very best and then let them loose. They manage their talent, but to a great degree it's self-managing.

The role of management in these cases is to find, retain, organize, and incentivize talent. Nothing else matters.

If I was a CEO of a creative business I'd start week one of 2010 by getting my talent strategy right: Who are my stars of the future? How can I get them doing more of what they love best? Where will I find my next 20 stars of the future? Which skillsets are going to be the most important? How can I radically shake up current models around finding talent, how can I try some different things to get new thinking not just into my organization, but driving change within it? Which other centers of excellence can I partner with (even if they are 'competitors')? How can I loosen our internal structures to empower our talent to show what they can do with less interference? How can I make myself more useful to the organization?

Best talent wins.
2010 will be no different.
.-= Ben Malbon (BBH Labs)´s last blog ..A Quick Glance Back - 10 of Our Favourite Posts From 2009 =-.

Jeff Shatuck
Jeff Shatuck

Great list. Can you expand on?

8. Curator/choreographer will emerge as the new important role

How is this different from today's creative director?

.-= Jeff Shatuck´s last blog ..My new status: stroke victim. =-.

Tyler Sanborn
Tyler Sanborn

Regarding Prediction number two:

As creatives, we always thought our jobs would be safe from being outsourced like those in financial and customer service sectors. Now, we are seeing our jobs outsourced to our peers. How will creative roles adapt to this apparent shift?

Mark Harmel
Mark Harmel

I think about the next big product for 2010 - the iSlate, or whatever the new Apple tablet will be called. My guess is that they will use every method. The prediction buzz has started already, followed by the big announcement. There will then be ads on TV, web and print and lots of media attention.

Is Apple different because they concentrate on making great products that naturally engage customers? Their conversation is still controlled, yet I still engage in their ads. We have Lee Clow and a great client to thank for this.
.-= Mark Harmel´s last blog ..be social by adding commentluv to your blog =-.

Domenick Cilea
Domenick Cilea

Nice job anticipating what we can expect in the year ahead.

Expanding on numbers 1 and 7, I believe ordinary people (consumers) will become increasingly part of a brand and help define and communicate it.

Brands are no longer just entities or creative icons; they are experiences.


  1. […] 10.  Whoever hires the best developers will win (the most important lesson from Googled and why the NY Times, Mel Karmazin, and traditional ad agencies have lost out to CNN, Google/YouTube and digital shops). I agree with Edward Boche’s predictions, however I am not completely thrilled by them. #6 “Everything will be social”. This makes me apprehensive, because I believe our society is now relying too much on social media. Although it is definitely beneficial in many ways, I feel that social media may be taking over, which provokes some nostalgia. #9 “Creativity will matter more than ever”. This is extremely exciting! In relation to the “Rise of the Creative Class”, this means us designers will benefit more than ever during our years ahead. This prediction is exciting and reassuring. Read more: http://edwardboches.com/10-predictions-advertising-in-2010#ixzz0g7Pam14I […]