Here’s a vision for the future of digital advertising that I presented yesterday at IAB Engage in London with SYZYGY Group’s media unit, Unique Digital.

With 1000+ delegates, the theme of IAB’s signature event was how to move digital advertising to ‘higher ground’ (and out of the cheap seats of commoditised products). The downloadable deck makes the case that no amount of introspective navel-gazing or technology will mend either of the two fundamentally broken relationships in advertising today – the brand-audience relationship and the agency-client relationship. Instead of self-absorbed introspection or blind faith in technology and algorithms, we as an industry need to look outside of ourselves for a new role model. Uber, valued at over $50bn, may be the disruptive role model the advertising industry needs:

  1. The Future of Advertising is Convenience Tech – helping making it quicker and easier for people to find, choose, buy, enjoy and advocate.  Uber is not always cheaper, but it reduces the other two of the three costs involved in any transaction – time and effort. Advertising needs a new value proposition – we need to make things quicker and easier for people. In this new world of advertising – Content is not King. Convenience is King
  2. The Future of Advertising is owning Relationships not Costs – Uber doesn’t own cars (just as AirBnB doesn’t own properties, Apple own music, or Priceline own hotels), but it owns the relationship with the customer (mostly because the taxi industry had been so bad at doing so). Owning stuff is expensive, owning relationships is profitable.  Uber teaches is that digital disruption is not about disintermediation, it’s about intermediation. It’s about the rise of new digital intermediaries that own relationships, not costs. We need to partner with these new digital intermediaries whilst reinventing ourselves as value-enhancing intermediaries too – owning the relationship between manufacturers and their markets
  3. The Future of Advertising is Business Model Innovation – Uber teaches us that technology is not disruptive, business models are.  We will only mend the broken relationships in advertising (brand-audience, client-agency) through business model innovation, not technology, algorithms or ad formats.  We can start in good faith by acting on our core insight and advertising truth that advertising only works when you have something worth advertising. Instead of cynically taking budgets for doomed campaigns, we should be helping brands build products and services that are worth advertising.  If we innovate our business model in this way, we become business partners, not suppliers of commoditised ad space and creative.

That’s why the future of advertising is a cab company.