We are now facing the biggest turn in history. What we are confronting is a fundamental change, in which everything we thought was true over the past 100 years is on the verge of collapse. The advertising industry can be no exception. It is now more likely than ever that the basic principles of advertising -- those set forth in marketing textbooks for decades -- will undergo changes.
Rise of millennials, evolution of personal media
Advertising is a means of communication that delivers creative content via mass media in order to convey specific messages to the public. This digital era, however, has stripped off the tag “mass media.” Leading the change are personal advertising media, such as one-person broadcasting, which shows that the millennial generation is gaining power as a key consumer base.
The millennial generation refers to those born from the early 1980s to 2000, people currently in their 20s to their mid-30s. Also dubbed the “echo generation,” these offspring of the baby boomer generation are the new consumers who matter, accounting for one-fourth of the world population.
As digital natives -- having been exposed to digital technology from birth -- they are familiar with the mobile environment, think and act practically, and prioritize convenience and simplicity. In line with the trend toward nuclear families, they are used to investing all their economic wealth and energy in themselves, but also suffer from unlimited competition.
These generational characteristics exert extensive influence on young people’s choice of advertising media. The trademark feature is their preference for personal media such as one-person broadcasting. Broadcasting viewer ratings have been declining drastically due to the rise of YouTube, the key platform for personal media. Amid changing trends, it may now be pointless to survey conventional viewer ratings to assess the effectiveness of advertising.
Personal media owe their success to unprecedented content that centers on two-way communication and real-life experience. Unlike traditional media, it does not distribute information in a unilateral, high-handed way but explains products or services in a flexible, customized manner.
Anonymity and freedom of expression are additional advantages of this new form of media. In fact, when asked about the images people associated with personal media, an overwhelming majority of consumers cited “the joy of unbounded communication” rather than “sensational images.”
The autonomy of these media has led to the appearance of “influencers” who possess more “influence” than mass advertising media. These people no longer settle for intermediary roles. Their names have started to carry brand value and their media are perceived as the new key communication channel. It is highly likely that they will soon become the top mass advertisers. It is, after all, only reasonable that advertising power should be bestowed on those who know best how to deliver information to the public.
As consumers like it
The impact of the digital revolution and the “fourth industrial revolution” is not limited to system evolution, such as digital signage, virtual reality and augmented reality. The essence is, in fact, to understand the behavior of the new generation and to apply it to the new system.
To embrace the media demands of these new consumers and to turn the new perception into practical use -- this is what conventional advertising media must do in order to survive and remain in touch with consumers.
By Park Heung-soo
Honorary professor at Yonsei University