Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on digital advertising each year with marketers permeating new technologies any way possible – which is a trend no where close to finishing. Some people have even put outer space as a possible location for new ads. In general, we’re leaning towards more transparent, faster, interactive ad content that is immersive without feeling invasive.

Today, startups ad companies are looking into advertising on VR / AR platforms following the immersive advertising trend. Interactivity is a powerful tool in ads and VR / AR can lend itself to that.

Admix is a VR ad company that creates non-invasive ads for virtual environments. Instead of popups, VR ads can display like they would in a normal environment as a virtual billboard or even as a product placement within the virtual world (like a Coca-Cola bottle sitting on a virtual table). Video-games have done this for decades with in-game advertising (IGA).

3D printing could allow users can try out or advertise products on social media, and have download features to bring those objects into the physical realm. Today, engagement measurements are only surface-deep, with likes or clicks. Biometric measurements such as emotional response measurement with facial recognition technologies or more advanced interactivity measurements will grow over time. As this increases, so will privacy concerns. Privacy became a focused concern in 2018. The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal was a major political scandal when it was discovered that Cambridge Analytica had collected the personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political advertising purposes.

Ads will have to be more transparent and better verified before going out to the masses. Fake news became a buzz term in 2016 with many fake campaign ads and claims shooting across Facebook and other social media platforms without careful vetting.

The Fyre Festival serves as a prime example of false online advertising. The Fyre Festival was an unsuccessful “luxury music festival” in 2017 run by Billy McFarland, CEO of Fyre Media Inc, and rapper Ja Rule. It was advertised on Instagram as an immersive music festival featuring big name musicians and gourmet food, where you’re surrounded by social media supermodels and concerts on a beautiful beach adjacent to luscious scenery. 

The attendees flew to the island and were instead greeted to a scene that looked like a refugee camp with rain-soaked pitiful tents in the middle of a grey backdrop. The food turned out to be cold cheese sandwiches and bits of lettuce and tomato for salad.

Even if privacy and transparency regulations increase, ads will still be increasingly automated to market to greater populations of people. AI is still fairly primitive in 2019 with various marketing fails stemming directly from AI.

The New England Patriots Twitter page revealed how problematic AI can be in advertising and why researchers are developing it to be better at understanding emotion and context. In 2014, in celebration of becoming the first NFL team to reach 1 million Twitter followers, the Patriots were thanking fans with an auto-generated response to anyone who retweeted the Patriots’ “we hit 1 million” message.

The retweeting fan was sent an image and message featuring a jersey personalized with the fan’s Twitter handle. Unfortunately, an account with an extremely racist handle was sent a message from the Patriot’s bot with the racist handle attached to the shirt image and message. The tweet was up for longer than an hour before the Patriot’s Twitter page took it down. They sent another Twitter message which said “We apologize for the regrettable tweet that went out from our account. Our filtering system failed & we will be more vigilant in the future.”

While ads should be more transparent with their data, community-driven stories will still be the front facing aspect. Platforms, in their move to gain advertisers, have slowly lost the faith of their user base. Tumblr with its adult content ban and YouTube’s Rewind video in 2018 highlighted a growing disconnect from the community and a lean towards potential advertisers. Advertising will always need to be personable and relevant to an individual’s daily story.

For example, there was a huge backlash when Mark Zuckerberg used the Puerto Rico hurricane tragedy in 2017 to advertise Oculus by virtually touring the hurricane damage with a smiling virtual avatar. This tone-deaf approach was very apparent to most.

His explanation after the backlash was: “When you’re in VR yourself, the surroundings feel quite real. But that sense of empathy doesn’t extend well to people watching you as a virtual character on a 2D screen. That’s something we’ll need to work on over time.” Basically, keep the humanity in business. The question for advertisers moving forward is how to create hyper-personalized ads while respecting customer privacy and valuing product transparency?

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