Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

The future of media

Media predictions for 2018.
Illustration by Creative Unit.
Illustration by Creative Unit.

We are living through an exciting age, never witnessed before in the history of this planet. This is an age of exploration and discovery where innovation is the name of the game. The famous proverb ‘the only thing constant today is change’ could hardly be more true when it comes to the media. Since information is the key to everything today, media, the carrier of information is no less important in influencing the life of almost everyone. This change, or to put it more aptly, this revolution in media, is driven by the much-talked-about forces of conversion and diversion.

The conversion of digital technologies with traditional media formats is leading to the emergence of several macro trends, including the rise of interactive media, the creation and dissemination of personalised content, precise targeting of exact audience niches, real-time messaging and real-time media buying and selling. The force of diversion, on the other hand, is leading to the creation of diverse communication platforms, such as mobile, display, social, website, videos, content and virtual reality.

The above macro trends contain within them various micro-level ones that will shape tomorrow’s media scene. Locally, the short-to-medium-term future of media in Pakistan will manifest several innovations that have already made their way into markets elsewhere and are in a growth phase. Sooner or later, they will arrive here. The long-term scenario, however, encompasses analysing current changes with a stretch of imagination to project where these are leading.


A major trend is the prevalence of connected devices. This is going to add billions of new connected data sources. The widespread use of these devices will result in an astronomical growth in data volumes. We will quickly push through gigabytes and enter the world of zettabytes.


First, a look at the short-to-medium-term scenario; signs of this are already visible, and more will unfold as time passes.

A major trend is the prevalence of connected devices. This is going to add billions of new connected data sources. The widespread use of these devices will result in an astronomical growth in data volumes. We will quickly push through gigabytes and enter the world of zettabytes. The depth of data available will make personalised content a possibility. People will be able to access the content they want, when they want it and from the people and brands they want, on the device of their choice.

Mobile operators are turning into personal digital partners for their customers and providing access to content. VEON and Telenor’s WowBox are recent examples of the change that operators in Pakistan are embracing in creating digital content and promotional platforms. The behavioural and location-based data from these platforms allow mobile operators to personalise content and promotional offers, leading to a potentially lucrative revenue stream from advertising, promotional marketing and content subscriptions. The new streams of income will help operators subsidise the cost of services and even make it free, further fuelling adoption. This should be a compelling offer for markets like Pakistan (which is what the mobile operators are banking on) where, for most people, the cost of mobile services is significant. If the adoption and use of these services scale up, advertising and promotional marketing budgets will see a shift from traditional media and more significantly, from current digital media platforms (Facebook and Google) to mobile operator-led platforms. It would be a significant revenue stream for mobile operators, similar to revenue generated from mobile financial services.

However, people’s current use of services (such as Facebook and WhatsApp) and the ubiquity of such social media platforms may be a roadblock to the adoption of services offered by mobile operators. The power of social media is growing exponentially and the numbers are staggering. There are eight million, or 35%, more social media users today than last year. There are 33 million active Facebook users in Pakistan. Twitter boasts more than four million active users and there are 4.8 plus million Instagram users. And every month, over 20 million videos are viewed on YouTube. Advertising spends on digital (most of which go to social media and now increasingly to video) are still six percent of the total ad spend in Pakistan. While Pakistan’s digital share of total ad spend is significantly below the global average (one-third of the total ad spend), the growth is a healthy 22%.

In 2018, TV is expected to lead the share of ad spend, fuelled by coverage of the expected general elections and major sporting events like the FIFA World Cup. Higher socioeconomic areas will see an uptick of digital TV as part of bundled services, powered by internet service providers (ISPs) such as PTCL, Stormfibre and Optix. The digitisation of TV will change viewing patterns, nature of content and its delivery. The interruptive ads of today will give way to more engaging content, as new technologies enable audiences to skip content that they don’t want to engage with. TV schedules are likely to become a thing of the past, thanks to catch-up TV features and the availability of content online the day after they are aired. Certain programmes, however, will remain in linear form – these include news, live sports and big events. Other than those, everything else will shift to video-on-demand (VOD).

Antiquated TV ratings systems, that offer limited information about audiences, will be upgraded by digital technology, making it possible to track audience profiles and viewing habits. This will make advertising more targeted. It will also lead to more specialised content and higher quality audio-visual output. Smart TVs are likely to become even smarter. Android TV, dubbed as a smart entertainment platform, has been integrated by TV manufacturers such as Sony, as a built-in operating system (OS) with Google Assistant for voice-activated services.


Input and output methods will change dramatically. Keyboards will be increasingly irrelevant as interaction on social media will largely be voice-controlled. Holographic displays will come into the mainstream. Wearables, such as Oculus Virtual Reality (VR) glasses will replace tablets. VR helps people disconnect by putting them in a new, fully immersive world and will transform every industry – concerts, sporting events, education, tourism, travel, business meetings, doctor appointments and more.


Another medium which is impacted by digital is out of home (OOH). The future will see more and more advertisers use DOOH (digital out of home) as the natural partner of mobile. Digital screens have been installed outdoors and indoors in malls, airports and in-store, with remote content control. Interactive digital solutions are increasingly used in activations.

Forward-thinking brands will take advantage of developments in internet-connected screens, facial/object recognition and external data feeds. A convergence of art and science will lead to OOH creative that self-optimise, based on how people react. Dynamic content, triggered by data feeds, will allow advertisers to change creative in real-time based on external conditions including CRM data, weather, sports scores, traffic and social media sentiment. This will make it possible for advertisers to target consumers in real-time.

As for the long-term media scenario (10 to 15 years down the road), here are some predictions even for the most advanced markets. Input and output methods will change dramatically. Keyboards will be increasingly irrelevant as interaction on social media will largely be voice-controlled. Holographic displays will come into the mainstream. Wearables, such as Oculus Virtual Reality (VR) glasses will replace tablets. VR helps people disconnect by putting them in a new, fully immersive world and will transform every industry – concerts, sporting events, education, tourism, travel, business meetings, doctor appointments and more.

Communication in the future will be built on the foundations laid down by what is called social media today, but will look quite different. Data will lie at the centre of brands’ personalised engagement through an amalgamation of experiences omnipresent across channels. This reality will disrupt the ad world and force agencies to rethink their operating models in the face of new competition from frenemies, like Facebook and Google, and more importantly, from consulting firms who have strong roots in data and technology. Four consultancies – Accenture, Deloitte, IBM and PWC – are in AdAge’s ranking of the 10 largest agency companies in the world. Accenture Interactive is ranked the largest digital network, both worldwide and in the US, in its Agency Report 2017.

AI driven solutions such as chatbots and smart assistants are already transforming customer service experiences. Cognitive advertising driven by the conversion of data, media and technology will usher in a new era of advertising that may succeed in finally delivering the promise of the ‘right message to the right customer, at the right time’.

Amin Rammal is Director, Firebolt63, The Brand Crew and APR. amin.rammal@firebolt63.com; Khalid Naseem is Head of Strategy, Firebolt63. khalid.naseem@firebolt63.com