Kristof Tüzes from Warwick Business School was a runner-up in our Future of Digital Marketing competition, asking students from across the country what the future of the industry looked like to them in 500-1,000 words. Kristof’s article stood out for its carefully considered ideas that resonate with those in the industry. Read his entry below:

The Future of Advertising: Less is More

We live in a digital age. That shouldn’t be news for anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past two decades. We’re constantly connected with our phones, laptops, tablets, smartwatches always in our bags, pockets, wrists. Marketing has long understood the opportunity this presents, developing tools to harness the Big Data generated from our online lives. Granted, the appeal of microtargeting at the individual level is hard to resist.

What the marketing profession has so far largely ignored, though, are the consequences of this abundant digital content on consumers.

The fact is, people have a limited dose of attention they can give. Out of the millions of companies in the world selling a particular product, only a dozen – even less, in some instances – will get to reach the consumer and ever fewer be considered for purchase. That makes attention perhaps the most valuable of all resources in the marketing world.

To get people’s attention, the current paradigm is that more is better. The only limit is the budget one has to spend on their campaign. This sounds logical enough: the more people are aware of your product, the more people will buy it. Simple, right?

In an ideal world, maybe. The fact is, this is an overly simplistic view of consumer behaviour that ignores many facets of reality. For one, consumers don’t always want to buy everything they search for. Amazon is notoriously aggressive in this field (I’m still getting emails urging me to buy that airbed I looked up 2 months ago).

Second, this focus on the size of the audience completely misses any considerations about its quality. Sure, you can reach 100,000 people and have 1,000 one-time purchases, or you could just aim to reach 10,000, and nurture the 100 of those that will buy. Your wallet will thank you.

Speaking of nurturing, remarketing does not mean harassing. Many companies seem to have forgotten this. It’s all nice and well sending a gentle nudge to buy again; fostering longer-term relationships has great merit. But let me emphasise the word relationship here: by definition, it means a connection with involvement from two parties. An endless bombardment of the consumer with promotions and newsletters is not a relationship. Imagine grabbing coffee with your friend only to have them shout at you through a megaphone for an hour. What kind of relationship is that?

Ultimately, too much of one thing can – and often does – backfire. Combine the often-excessive push of content with people’s limited attention span, and you get a loss of interest in your product and company. People become so accustomed to seeing your ad that they become oblivious to it. Forget about increased sales, you become “that one annoying ad that keeps coming up”. Not only have you wasted your money on ineffective advertising, but you’ve also alienated consumers who could have been prospects, had it not been for your aggressive communication.

The future of advertising is not about more – it’s about less, and better quality. The advent of AI will no doubt help in this. Recent research shows its potential to personalise copies of ads at the individual level, thereby eliminating the need to “bombard” prospects with the hopes that they will engage. Because of its continuous feedback loop, AI would enable to gauge a consumer’s interest towards an ad and use that information to either make it more relevant or abandon the lead altogether. The new era of advertising is one of collaboration and engagement – of relationships, instead of “relationships”.

By Kristof Tüzes, Warwick Business School