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The following post by Isabelle Quevilly was initially published as a contribution to The Wharton Future of Advertising Program's Advertising 2020 Project.

Welcome to the 7.6 billion target market

It's 2020. Today, there are 7.6 billion humans on the planet, nearly all can access a 4G networks wherever they are. The 'Audience' question on the briefing template got deleted when the answer became 'Everyone'.

It's a whole new playground for brands.

Since 2015, it's like advertising has been on steroids. Even national borders have disappeared. Not everyone in India might be able to use the internet, but it doesn't really matter now that every billboard is connected. Today, a brand's reach isn't about the big media outlets established in one country or another. Now it's all about giving the people what they want regardless of nationality, age, even sex!

The original advertising model was built on Western ideals and ambitions from decades ago. Last year, Africa became the fastest growing market for toothpaste; shampoo and house hold cleaning products. It's no surprise. Our economies are growing at 0.00 something, some African countries are showing 10% + growth rates. Brands had to adapt quickly to stay relevant, exciting and alive. Brand leadership doesn't come from Europe or North America anymore. It comes from the people of planet Earth.

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What are the big changes that we've been through?

1. The shops are the ads. The ads are the shops

Once the Internet of Things became a reality, the point of sales almost vanished as a concept. Most sales have started to happen through connected screens. The energy traditionally spent on building retail networks for products to be seen and bought shifted to something much more efficient. These new connected systems don't require any physical infrastructure so they deliver much higher margins.

Every year, we see brands looking for the most entertaining and efficient ways to help people buy. Look at The Royal Audi Park in London. Or Tesco Virtual Subway Store in South Korea choose at the bottom of the escalator and pay when you tap out at the top.

Connected Advertising has changed the role of the media. The shops are the ads. The ads are the shops.

2. Ads are made for your eyes only

The progress of Big Data since 2013 has made a huge difference. Brands look at data globally and share their knowledge to pounce on precious insights. Customer needs, documented in digits have trumped ad agency intuition. The big business opportunities come straight from the numbers.

When was the last time you saw an ad that was totally irrelevant to you? Who would waste money trying to reach out to everyone with the same message?

With access to people's social graph data, brands can now anticipate behaviours. Last Sunday, Jennifer Lawrence was wearing Dior to collect her prestigious sixth Oscar. The night before, the brand had sent 500 dresses to their Champs Eylsees store and contacted 514 women in Paris. The dresses sold by closing on Monday.

Now that advertising is made in real-time, people realise that brands actually care. It's good to know that brands we love won't let us down anymore. Advertising used to be pollution. Today, it's conversation. Thanks to data, it actually feels good to come across an ad.

3. Advertising from the war room

With an audience of 7.6 billion people, there's no time to waste. The agency now talks directly to the investors to get a new budget. Agencies pitch ideas based on the impact it's expected to have on the bottom line. Shareholders are now connected to the whole marketing process; it makes it much easier to response real-time.

The brand teams have also opened their owned creative and editorial capacities so they can react instantly to any news or market opportunities, just like Oreo reacted real-time at the Super Bowl. Back in 2012, it seemed a novelty. Now it's all part of the game. Whether a brand needs to talk to a 45 year-old man in Brazil or a teenage girl in China good advertising engages with people, live.

Quarterly planning died long ago. Now advertising can breathe!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing

Here would be my top ten tips for a brand team back in 2013 to get ready for the future.

  1. Turn the top management into advocates for digital topics.
  2. Make digital change across the entire value chain.
  3. Build an in-house editorial team and start reacting real-time in social media.
  4. Recruit a team of analysts to profile and understand how people behave
  5. Start responding to people's needs on product and service level.
  6. Convert the brand idea into 5 UX principles that can work across all platforms.
  7. Collaborate with media partners to invent new forms of connected advertising.
  8. Make your online commerce as efficient as possible, especially in mobile.
  9. Test a digital experience in your flagship store and learn from it.
  10. Try new things, build prototypes with tech partners, think big, fail and try again.

The future is a goldmine of opportunities for brands to reach out to people in more participative, connected and unexpected ways. Advertising is no longer about what a marketing team has envisioned a person to do. Instead it's all about what that person actually do. Ads don't scream out at loud anymore, they are an amazing way to start a relationship with people.

With a 7.6 billion target market to talk to and much more efficient ways to do it, brands must choose what they say and do with care, creativity and intelligence. For those who do, the reward will be limitless.

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