Insights Into The Evolving Advertising Landscape

“You’re born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.” – Don Draper

If you’re in marketing and advertising surely you’ve heard of Mad Men. If you haven’t, where have you been hiding? That quote from Don Draper was from the pilot episode of the series, and it portrays the ever-changing advertising landscape in a lifelike way: the need to stay relevant on a daily basis and continue to evolve with changing trends.

People have been consumed by media and advertising for years and continue to be drawn towards the endless opportunities they present. I remember one experience so vividly from the 90’s; a family trip into Toronto for a Blue Jays game. We were sitting behind home plate, hands full with a hot dog and soda (ready to drop them at a moments notice to have my chance at a foul ball), when my dad’s name flashed across the jumbotron in front of 50,000 people announcing he was the winner of a brand new, state-of-the-art, N’Sync branded Nokia cell phone.

Yes, you read that right. N’Sync branded.

It was the coolest thing any of us had ever laid eyes on, like it was a piece of alien technology dropped from outer space. A cell phone, for Pete’s sake. Who’s got one of those? Needless to say, at the time my dad couldn’t quite wrap his head around the practicality and usefulness of a cell phone, so it spent the majority of its life turned off and tucked away in the glove box.

Fast-forward over 20 years.

Now, when someone calls my dad it rings on his iPhone, iPad, desktop computer and Apple watch. How times have changed.

A retro boombox like the Nokia N'Sync cell phone

Technology has evolved so much since that time at the Blue Jay’s game.

There are a number of trends to keep an eye on moving forward, but one of the most important might be mobile advertising. Zenith, a media buying agency, predicts that mobile ad expenditure in 2018 will reach almost $134 billion, which is more than what will be spent on newspaper, magazine, cinema, and outdoor advertising… combined.

There are a number of challenges marketers and advertisers face in the future, but within those challenges lie substantial opportunities.

“People don’t read ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”           – Howard Gossage

I recently had the privilege of discussing the state of the advertising industry with Elizabeth Asselin, Business Director at KBS, a global marketing and advertising agency headquartered in New York City. We chatted about how the industry has changed since she first began her career over 10 years ago, where she sees it going in the future, and some of the bigger challenges advertisers may face moving forward.

GA // The biggest and broadest question first: how has the advertising industry changed since you first began your career 10 years ago?

EA // I think the most obvious is the role of social media. When I first started it wasn’t a thing – sure Facebook was beginning to gain traction, but they hadn’t really started to implement any advertising (they did a little, but nowhere close to the level they do today). Now, the majority of consumers are seeing and retaining information through social media, so brands are clamouring to assemble impactful strategies that also deliver impactful creative that will cut through the noise to address consumer’s needs while delivering on their business objectives. We live in a social-obsessed world, and as a result need to leverage the power of social media – in ways that traditional advertising like newspaper, national TV and OOH just can’t match.

GA // Conversely, where do you see the industry going in the next 10 years?

EA // That’s an interesting question because the industry has evolved so quickly in such a short period of time – I can only imagine what’s next and how fast it will happen. There’s been so much focus on artificial intelligence (AI) lately, with the likes of Google, Microsoft and Amazon, because it’s just the latest technology to shape the industry.  It’s allowed us to do so much more, but with less – learning, exploring, navigating, purchasing, you name it. It’s made some of the most mundane tasks easier. And cooler. Consumers just can’t say no to that. I’m sure that even greater strides will be made with how brands can best utilize it to deliver what consumers are craving. Brands don’t just need to understand the importance these tools play, but they need to embrace the opportunities they’ll continue to bring and the purpose they serve.

A desktop, laptop, tablet and phone on a desk

GA // Some brands are beginning to build their own creative teams in-house instead of outsourcing to an agency. Are the days of larger agencies coming to an end?

EA // It’s become a lot more common, and many brands see the benefit of in-house teams but there are also challenges. One being that their bubble never expands, leaving little-to-no opportunity for external points-of-view, suggestions, comments, or thought leadership. Pepsi is a perfect example, and they learned this the hard way with their “Live for Now Moments” spot starring Kendall Jenner. How did that spot make it all the way through production with no one raising a red-flag?

On the flip side, traditional creative agencies are very quickly re-defining their purpose and the roles they will play moving forward. In order to stay relevant, they need to offer more, because gone are the days of your standard Mad Men and Don Draper. The world is evolving, and as a result agencies are evolving with it – they can’t afford not to.

GA // Consumers want authentic and honest content now more than ever. Do you see more clients changing their perception towards creative content strategies such as storytelling?

EA // There has been a major shift and a deeper understanding of what the consumer wants – because what they don’t want is inauthentic, dishonest advertising. Many consumers want to feel connected with the brand, that their values and mission stand for something, and that they have purpose. Take Dove’s Real Beauty, Keds’ Ladies First, and Shinola’s Roll Up Your Sleeves campaigns as clear examples of brands that have stood for something – leaning into purpose driven work because it resonates with today’s audiences. They’re leveraging their purpose through a meaningful and connected approach. Their story is real and relatable for so many, which these days only helps to cut through the clutter.

Elizabeth Asselin at a work function

Elizabeth Asselin at an advertising function

GA // What are the biggest factors brands are facing when creating an ad campaign in this crazy digital world we live in?

EA // There are so many things to take into consideration. Consumer’s attention spans have become increasingly shorter and shorter over the years. No one just sits in front of a TV watching without interruptions or distractions (unless you’re watching GOT). If you want them to pay attention you need to grab a consumer’s attention within the first few seconds – so those ads need to be quick, they need to be visually appealing, succinct and most of all impactful.

GA // What is the biggest challenge you face when developing a new strategy for a new client?

EA // Their openness and willingness to fully commit from start to finish. Sometimes it all makes sense at the beginning, and there’s a level of excitement, but as you progress and things start moving that’s when it becomes real, and changing strategy means selling to many more people within the organization. It’s a big undertaking, and they want to make sure it’s done right. It’s nerve-racking and it’s not necessarily because what you’re working on is wrong, but the client has to deal with their own internal pressures daily. Developing a solid strategy and creating meaningful work against it that will also drive business results takes time. The thinking, development and temperature checking doesn’t happen overnight.

Jonas Svidras

GA // Traditional advertising is quickly becoming a thing of the past. How do you see the emergence of mobile advertising affecting the industry?

EA // Mobile is hugely important. Just take a look around the next time you’re outside or walking down the street – people can’t look up from their phones. Ever. Even daily, mundane activities like sitting down for dinner or watching TV never involve phones being out of arms reach. As much as this actually saddens me, because many people are letting real-time life events pass them by so that they can be instantly up to speed on what happened on their phones, it’s clearly an opportunity for brands. But it’s up to those brands to decide how to use that opportunity for good. Not all advertising has to be negative. And as I said above, consumers are craving purpose driven work that means something.

GA // Okay, final question. In one word, how would you describe the current state of the advertising industry?

EA // Changing.

An old telephone - the evolution of mobile marketing

In Conclusion

There you have it, industry insights into the evolving advertising landscape Elizabeth Asselin, Business Director at KBS.

As you can see, the opportunities marketers and advertisers have in the future are as wide-open as ever. But still, these evolving capabilities and dynamics will affect how marketers connect with and engage their customers. With the amount of people on social media worldwide, as well as the significant increase in mobile use, the need to stay relevant while connecting with your audience is crucial. If you don’t retain them immediately they could, and probably will, be gone forever.

Mobile advertising presents untapped potential for those who execute it properly but will present significant challenges for everyone else. Experimentation will be one of the most important elements for advertisers, creating new and unique ways to deliver content to users. How do you know what works until you try?

With smaller boutique agencies and in-house creative teams on the rise, the next few years are going to be an interesting story to watch unfold: will some agencies shift towards a more well-balanced team approach in order to retain more clients, and ultimately more business? Or will in-house creative teams prove to be more practical, leaving less to outsource?

What’s next for advertising? Only the future holds those answers, and we’re all eager to find out.

What are some other industry trends you have seen evolve significantly over the years? Let me know in the comments!

About Elizabeth Asselin

Elizabeth Asselin Head Shot KBSElizabeth has spent the majority of her career in marketing and advertising. After graduating from The University of Guelph, she spent the first 5-years of her career in Toronto working at agencies that included McCann, TAXI, and KBS. She’s been living and working in New York City for the last 3-years.


About The Author

Greg AsselinGreg is a freelance copywriter and founder of GrassWrite, a copywriting service that creates authentic and compelling content for brands to boost their presence online, generate more leads and grow revenue.


Gander on over to GrassWrite to read Why A Copywriter Is Your Greatest Asset as well as Storytelling Techniques To Increase Brand Loyalty.



6 thoughts on “Insights Into The Evolving Advertising Landscape

  1. Hey Greg,

    I work in the “digital space” and have been working with a large Charity (Canadian Cancer Society) as it transitions into the evolving world of the “connected consumer”. There has been some big changes in this world from the social media and mobile points (as mentioned in your article) so thanks for interviewing Elizabeth and getting her thoughts.

    Increasingly we are looking for products that connect with our ethical and social desires and I see “social marketing” continuing to take on a bigger presence in advertising moving forward.

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