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The future of online advertising

Richard Conway goes beyond traditional forms of advertising to explore new ad formats and their influence on how businesses advertise and create content.

The term traditional advertising is very rarely correlated with online advertising, especially as some businesses have still not discovered the benefits of getting their brand out online. 

Over the past few years, with the development of technology, advertising has gone through a number of changes. Yes, we still have static media formats, but even billboards are now going digital. Online advertising was something many people would never have thought possible, and started off as what we would now simply call organic search – key words that impacted on a brand’s rank in search results. As time goes along, this is starting to become what I would call the ‘traditional’ form of online advertising. 

Now, with cut-through becoming harder to achieve, media formats (old and new) and businesses are looking for new ways to capture users’ attention. 

So, how are these new advertising formats going to influence how businesses advertise and create content?


Location promotion

Google Maps introduced a feature in 2015 where, when you go to, or are in the vicinity of, a restaurant or bar it pops up a notification asking for a recent photo and review. It is believed this was developed to gain more insight and data about various places. Last year, they introduced local search ads and promoted pins. This came after they started to encourage advertisers to promote themselves based on location, due to the nature of users’ search activity. With more users wanting real-time information about the places they are going to, this is the prime way to engage with them and get more data.


Paid voice search

Driven by the increasing emphasis on local advertising, voice has become more integral to local search. This is especially true when Google Maps is used as a GPS navigation tool while driving from A to B and where drivers need to be hands free. The way this will manifest itself is yet to be seen as users are very unlikely to want to listen to a list of search results in order to decide which website to visit. However, research has shown that 60 percent of those who use voice search want more answers and fewer search results, which may mean that it is less about searching for companies and more about searching for the answer to a question. This may mean that businesses will have to start becoming thought leaders in their industries, answering the questions their customers are likely to be asking. 


Augmented reality

This is one of the buzz phrases of the ‘future’ of technology. And, as it is expected that connected devices will hit 20 billion by the end of the decade, it is also expected that users will start wanting to interact with their devices without a screen – thus the rise of voice search. Having the ability to project the screen in augmented reality (AR) is the way forward for large companies, such as Google, that presently rely on screen interaction. We’ve already seen AR enter the market with Google Glass; it’s just around the corner and will no doubt introduce a new way for companies to advertise.

In retail we have also seen Net-A-Porter use augmented reality to bring brick and mortar outlets to life. While their store fronts look relatively simple from the onset, by using Net-A-Porter, shoppers can see videos, product information, and pricing. They even have the opportunity to purchase the products there and then – blurring the lines between online shopping and physical shopping. After all, who doesn’t like a bit of window shopping?



It doesn’t look like mobiles are going anywhere; they seem to be more ingrained than ever in our everyday lives. And because the ways we use mobile and desktop are very different, it’s vital that businesses make sure they’re approaching them differently. Optimising advertising and search for mobile is important for all companies wanting to make sure they can reach customers wherever they are. 

Additionally, with customers utilising their mobiles to interact with brands even while in their physical stores, integrated campaigns are likely to become even more important. 

Retail stores will need to become more innovative around how they interact with their customers, and look towards marrying the best of both the physical and digital worlds. 

It is likely that specialised mobile campaigns will be required for businesses to encourage foot traffic to physical stores as more and more people become comfortable ordering online without trying things on. 


Visual marketing

Video advertising – Visual content becomes more prevalent every day. YouTube and Vimeo are among the most popular hosting programmes, and are being used by all sorts of organisations, from business websites through to news sites. Mobile video is on the rise, with around a quarter of digital advertising budgets allocated to it in 2016 according to IAB1

And with Google, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media and online platforms increasing their video advertising offerings, this is only going to open up more opportunities.

Again, if we look at the retail environment, we are starting to see more retailers develop their online stores to integrate videos. For example, ASOS has incorporated video into their offering, showing what outfits look like on a virtual catwalk. This gives buyers the opportunity to see how the materials hang and move. It is likely we will start seeing these videos used in other ways to drive traffic to the website, whether through social media or otherwise. 

Infographics – Infographics are another format of visual marketing becoming more widely consumed as they provide a lot of information but present it in a clear and generally aesthetically appealing manner. They also allow businesses to position themselves as thought leaders if they provide information that their audience are looking for. 

With more and more targeting available online compared to other advertising formats, it is naturally an area that most businesses should look to spend their marketing dollar. While all these new formats of advertising are becoming available, it is important for businesses to look at what will be the best return on investment. Having a focus on organic search will be key for excelling at any of these formats and should thus be a focus for all businesses looking at expanding their current media touch-points   



Publishing Information
Magazine Issue: NZBusiness April 2017 Page Number: 40