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Miles Young's 13 Ad Predictions

Making predictions can be a fool’s errand. David Ogilvy knew that, which is perhaps why, at the end of his famous book Ogilvy on Advertising, his list of 13 predictions for changes to come to the advertising world was preceded by a note stating that doing the list was not his idea, but his publisher’s.

Regardless, David gave it his best shot. As expected, parts of David’s crystal ball were a bit dusty. “There will be a renaissance in print advertising” and “Billboards will be abolished” haven’t exactly come to pass (though, who knows, give it a few more decades!), while “Candidates for political office will stop using dishonest advertising” we can safely say was not just off-base, but completely opposite of what came true. Yet David did get some things right; namely “There will be a vast increase in the use of advertising by governments for purpose of education”, and “Several foreign agencies will open offices in the United States, and will prosper.” In addition, “Direct-response advertising will cease to be a separate specialty, and will be folded into the ‘general’ agencies” not only nailed it, but foretold the current moment that agencies find themselves navigating.

So if you set out on the unenvious journey of writing a coda to Ogilvy on Advertising, surely you’d have to take after David and put your own prognosticating skills up for scrutiny. That’s what Miles Young, former Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy and author of Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age, has done. While celebrating the launch of the book on Tuesday in Ogilvy’s New York office, Young went through his predictions one by one, adding a bit of extra context and background to his thinking.

TV will continue to be the linchpin medium, albeit transformed.

“Its share has held up constantly in the whole period of the digital revolution,” Young said. “It’s a testament to the fact that it’s the only medium that can deliver emotional impact at scale. One of its fastest growing category is online. The transformation comes now that it works best if its linked to some social or digital medium.” So why have we heard so much over the years about the death of TV? Young reminds us that the tech giants of the world have a vested interest in TV’s demise.

The Indian ad market will be the most attractive in the world.

“It (advertising) is underrepresented within the Indian economy,” Young said, noting that the current distribution system is antiquated, meaning the ability of advertising to pull demand through a modern retail sector is inhibited. “As that changes you’re going to see an explosion in Indian advertising,” he said.

The mobile handset will become as important to the whole of humanity as the bedtime pillow.

If tonight you had to choose to go without your mobile or your pillow, which would you choose?

“Content” will cease to be a dirty word and will increasingly distinguish brands that offer a service to customers from those which don’t.

When done well, branded content is an extremely valuable piece of marketing for advertisers and revenue stream for publishers. “I think in the digital world we have an enormous ability to turn brands into something more akin to publishers,” Young said. “[Media companies] take material and turn it into fascinating and engaging content, I think there’s a role for brands to do that. I’ve always believed there’s opportunity for some convergence between journalistic skills and brand marketing.”

WeChat will surpass Facebook.

Perhaps not in U.S., Young says. But Tencent is making massive inroads across the world—in Southeast Asia, Africa, and India. “I think tnhis is alla bout Penoy MA dn TEncent, they certainly want to become a global player,” Young said.

Virtual Reality will find a niche, but will not take over the world.

I think it’s interesting, but like many digital fads I’ve yet to believe that it’s going to be the only thing we’re concerned about in 10 years’ time,” he said.

Top-notch writing skills will carry a huge premium as they decrease in supply.

Perhaps this is more what David Ogilvy was getting at in his prediction about a renaissance in print advertising. In our visual and AI-powered future, the written word—and the quality of it, is becoming scarce. And thus, extremely valuable.

“This has got to be a worry,” Young said. “We still depend on that old-fashioned animal, a copywriter. I actually see students everyday who can’t write, and yet they get into one of the best universities in the world. So where are the copywriters going to come form in the future? I think this is a real issue. If you do decide to go into the world of copywriting you will be well off, in my view.”

“Pure play” agencies will wither, or become main plays

A spiritual cousin of David’s prediction about direct marketing, Young says, “We were always very worried about pure plays. I think we needn’t be worried by them.” According to Young, pure plays have either migrated or been disappointing to clients. “This is a soft confident message for agencies, I think, that we can be not big dumb agencies, but big singing agencies.”

Candidates for political office will continue to use dishonest advertising.

You don’t say?!

New Asian multinationals will create the world’s most dynamic brands.

Young qualified this prediction by saying this will happen in time. But with a brand like Huawei making waves in Europe and being loud in its insistence on entering the U.S. market, Young seems on the right track. “I think there’s always been a sense of imagining that this is going to happen sooner than it actually will happen,” he said. “But it certainly is going to come and it will mean a rebalancing of the world, to some degree. At the moment our world is western brands going out, and we must understand in the next 20-25 years it will be Asian brands coming in.”

The debate as to whether our business is an art or a science will carry on forever, without resolution.

For Young, an argument that has been around since the days of Ogilvy vs. Reeves will not cease, even though most are missing the point. “It’s both an art and a science, it’s not either or,” he said. “I think one of David’s great skills as a person is that he was able to synthesize the two. He was a market researcher who became a brilliant copywriter. There shouldn’t’ be a distinction between the two that is artificial. It’s a sterile debate.”

A breakaway from Cannes will form, which is more purely creative.

“This was a year-old prediction, and I think it’s rapidly assuming some sense of being proven correct,” Young said.

The word “digital” will ultimately disappear.

Though it serves as a final prediction, Young said that it’s really more of a desire. “At the end of the day, in 10 years’ time we shouldn’t’ be talking about ‘digital’. It’s our world.”

Miles’s entire discussion with Quartz Editor-in-Chief Kevin Delaney can be seen below:

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