Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

The Rebirth of Advertising?

Twenty-five years after the digital revolution, could AI see the rebirth of advertising? Azam Jalal Khan poses the question.
Updated 17 Jan, 2024 03:52pm

Let’s start by congratulating Aurora on their silver jubilee. Twenty-five years of hard work and contribution to the marketing and advertising industry of Pakistan. Bravo! On this occasion, I have been asked to present my viewpoint on how advertising and marketing have evolved in Pakistan and what will happen in the next couple of decades. A quick disclaimer, I do not consider myself an authority on the advertising and marketing industry in Pakistan. However, I do feel that we are the Original Gangster (OG) disruptors of this ad world.

1. The ‘Golden Age’ of Tradition: In this ‘Golden Age’, creative agencies thrived like chai stalls on a cold morning. They were the kings and queens of communication, dictating the narratives. Media agencies, on the other hand, played matchmaker – “Mr Brand, meet Ms Prime Time TV Slot.” The late nineties and early 2000s saw a nascent (almost non-existent) digital ecosystem in Pakistan. Campaigns were predominantly traditional, focusing on TV, radio and print. Digital agencies were few, mainly offering web development and basic online marketing services. Digital communication was not a priority for most brands.

2. Enter the Digital Revolution: When Facebook launched in 2006 and the social media digital wave flooded global shores, Pakistan hopped on the bandwagon – and thus began the transformation from traditional agencies to those cool new kids on the block: digital and integrated agencies. These agencies did not just offer flashy graphics; they brought to the table something fresh, something… ‘byte-sized’? (pun absolutely intended!) With the rise of adtech and martech, ad campaigns became less of a ‘let’s-throw-it-and-see-if-it-sticks’ and more of a ‘let’s-target-this-so-precisely-it-makes-a-surgeon-look-clumsy’ exercise.

As social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram began to gain traction, they provided fertile grounds for brands to connect with consumers. Recognising this potential, digital agencies started offering social media marketing services. Campaigns became interactive, influencers came into prominence and brands started to understand the importance of having an online presence.

As the industry matured, there was a shift towards data-driven marketing. With tools like Google Analytics, agencies began to better understand consumer behaviour online. SEO, SEM and PPC campaigns became standard offerings. Personalised marketing, driven by AI and machine learning, allowed for more targeted campaigns, enhancing the user experience and increasing ROI for brands. While traditional advertising was similar to shooting arrows in the dark, adtech and martech turned on the lights. Suddenly, brands could see where their arrows were landing, adjust their aim and score bullseye. Campaigns went from ‘make sure our CEO sees it’ to ‘make sure our target audience is seeing it.’

With the surge in smartphone users and improved internet connectivity, mobile marketing took centre stage. Brands began focusing on mobile-responsive websites, app development and SMS marketing. QR codes, mobile payment solutions and AR-based marketing strategies became common. The emphasis shifted from a mere online presence to providing an omni-channel experience.

Despite the progress, there are challenges. Ad fraud, data privacy concerns and ad-blocker usage are rising. Moreover, with the ever-changing algorithms of social platforms, organic reach has declined, making it harder for brands to connect with their audience without significant ad spend. As I mentioned at the start, I am no good at predicting the future. However, existing as I do in the world of digital analytics and mining insights and patterns from data, I think there are a few obvious areas that as an industry we need to start working on, not least the fact that our industry is renowned for its ability to adapt and transform according to shifts in society, technology, and consumer behaviour. Today, with the rise of AI, the industry is on the brink of its most revolutionary metamorphosis yet and could herald the rebirth of advertising. Let’s have a look.

Personalisation on Steroids: Gone are the days of mass advertising campaigns aimed at the average consumer. AI enables hyper-personalisation, tailoring messages to individual users based on their behaviour, preferences and past interactions. Imagine advertisements that evolve and shift in real-time based on your most recent web search or social media activity.

Chuck the Crystal Ball: Forget intuition; AI-backed predictive analytics tools are the seers of the marketing world. They can assess vast sets of data to forecast which marketing strategies are likely to succeed. These tools can predict consumer behaviour, foresee market trends and offer insights that were once the domain of the oracles.

Dynamic Pricing: AI can assess demand, competitor prices and other external factors in real-time, allowing businesses to adjust their pricing strategies on the fly. So, if you ever wonder why the price of that plane ticket changed between your breakfast and lunch, you know who to blame (or thank).

See and Be Seen: From identifying brand logos to analysing audiences’ reactions to ads, AI-powered visual recognition tools are setting the stage for innovative advertising strategies. Brands can gauge the popularity and placement of their products in real-time, opening doors to more dynamic engagement strategies.

The New Customer Service Reps: The next time you are chatting online with customer services, there is a good chance you will be conversing with a bot. AI-driven chatbots can handle multiple customer inquiries simultaneously, providing swift and accurate responses. They are the ever-patient, ever-smiling face of modern customer service.

Machines with a Creative Touch: While human creativity is irreplaceable, AI tools like GPT-4 and Midjourney can generate content ranging from social media posts to blog articles and they can also produce consistent, SEO-optimised content at lightning speeds.

How can we prepare for this future that is here? Here is a quick checklist that Digitz Digitas is following:

• Invest in Training: Ensure your team is well-versed in AI capabilities and applications.

• Collaborate: AI should augment, not replace, human skills. Strike a balance between machine efficiency and human creativity.

• Stay Updated: AI is evolving rapidly. Constantly update your tools and strategies to stay at the cutting edge.

• Holistic Approach: Integrate AI across all facets of your operations – from content creation and customer service to analytics and forecasting .

As AI continues its relentless march, reshaping the landscape of advertising and marketing, it is not enough for agencies to jump on the bandwagon; they have to steer and drive it. By embracing AI’s potential and marrying it with human creativity, the advertising industry is poised to usher in a golden age of innovation and engagement. Cheers to the future!

Azam Jalal Khan is CEO & Co-Founder, Digitz Digitas.