Friends can be fickle. Sports teams shuffle. And entertainment has reinvented the wheel so often that it looks like a circus without a ringmaster.

Take heart. There’s at least one secular aspect of life you can depend on: Advertising will follow you wherever you go, on whatever communication platform you choose to use, digital or analog. And will lay in wait until you flip, click or like something that gives the ad cheetahs the perfect excuse to pounce.

Need the proof? Look no further than your own mobile devices, or various pundits’ predictions. If all of that fails to convince, maybe a startup that sends coupons over radio waves will.

“I’ll get you my pretty – and your little smartphone, too!”

When Google speaks – whether about changes to search algorithms or how to make money on the Web – people pay attention. Information, which the search giant has plenty of, is still power. And Susan Wojcicki, SVP of advertising at Google, had plenty of that to share during a recent Ad:Tech conference. According to a report in Direct Marketing News, Wojcicki sees five trends that are “shaping the future of digital advertising”. Take note:

  1. While ad views currently are not voluntary, they will be sometime down the road. And why would advertisers to that? They wouldn’t pay for the ad unless you really want to look. Which sounds a little like a creep asking first before throwing open his overcoat. Apparently, though, it’s quite the opposite: Advertisers would need to cater to consumers in terms of timing and content. If you aren’t interested, their coats stay shut. Bravo.
  2. Consumers will opt in for ads if they’re shown enough value and given enough control. As Wojcicki says, “There are a lot of places where we go tell people we’re interested in buying something—like sales associates and travel agents. But how do we get that online to users so they can have control?” As quickly as possible, probably.
  3. Ads will look nicer and feature greater interactive options — when they run at scale. Meaning, not just on your homepage, but when they proliferate across the Internet. Digital advertisers, therefore, need to think slick and big at the same time. Like a Hollywood agent. Or a giant oil spill.
  4. Contextual advertising – ads that affect you where and how you live – will quickly rise in number as developers figure out how to direct them to just the right people. (See WaveSnap reference, below.) Which could be one case where Too Much Information could actually pay off – for consumer and seller alike.
  5. Digital ad clicks will be much more specifically measured than ever before – and not just for how many times they’ve been clicked. All of that data will come from multiple sources, creating more complete consumer profiles, and needing to be managed for better use. Thank you, Big Brother.

The new oracles of ether

On the mobile front, there’s at least one product – among many in the works – that seeks to capitalize on contextual forms of advertising (#4, above). WaveSnap, the brainchild of a Kansas-based startup called Bear Clan Studios, places digital barcodes on radio waves. As stations broadcast your favorite songs, the technology lets you earn points through a smartphone app. You can redeem those for certain offers, and in the whole process, essentially tell the app – and, more importantly, the radio advertisers – your personal preferences.

Fast forward a few days, as you’re standing in line at the supermarket, checking your phone, when an offer instantly comes in for, say, that store’s brand of soda. Asking a kindly person to save your place in line, you quickly snag the soda and ultimately enjoy special savings that your line-mates would never have the chance to see…without using WaveSnap themselves.

Wait. It gets better. Once firmly established on radio, WaveSnap plans to move to television.

UFOs, yes; Internet access, maybe

Of course, digital advertising can only go where digital signals can send them. Which suggests that coastal and urban areas will experience digital incursions first, with rural areas to follow as those regions get progressively wired.

The pace at which that happens isn’t a matter of exact science. A recent article in the Albuquerque Journal focused on what’s being called New Mexico’s “daunting digital divide”. The sparse nature of the state’s rural population – an average of just over 2 phone customers per square mile, in one 77,000 square mile region (which likely trails the rate of UFO sightings there) – causes digital infrastructure to be prohibitively expensive to install. Which means higher-speed technologies look to be years if not decades, in the future for some parts of rural America.

Sadly, some digital flicks, even those of the six- or seven-minute variety, will just have to wait for their regional debut.

The good news? There’s still a place to hide from digital ads. Until those down on the farm get in on the action, too.

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