From billboards to... sound waves?

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When was the last time anyone actually read an advertising billboard? The answer to that question would put a frown on the face of Don Draper, the fictional advertising maven from famed ABC series Mad Men. That’s because we’re all distracted by our smartphones. Not many people look out the window during a road trip for longer than it takes for them to get a DM or a “like” on their most recent upload. The world has a way of adjusting itself, and advertising has shifted into the digital realm over the years in order to adapt. Most of the ads we consume today appear as pop-ups and banners on websites we visit online, but that’s about to change, too.

Gone are the years when the smartphone, mobile web browsing, and Wi-Fi were considered novel concepts. Those technologies brought with them a brand new advertising niche — digital marketing — to which entire industries raced to adapt. Companies everywhere established digital marketing departments and social media presence. Today, those spheres are still growing — especially in the developing world.

Just in 2017, for instance, video was the fastest growing ad format available to marketers in India, according to a report from Indian marketing-platform provider InMobi titled “The Shifting Terrain.” Ad spends rose 119 percent, and consumption 124 percent, between 2016 and 2017, according to the report.

As smartphone usage becomes increasingly widespread throughout the world, that trend is expected to continue elsewhere, too. Almost three quarters of internet users will access the internet solely through their smartphones by 2025, the World Advertising Research Center predicted in a 2019 report.

With its arrival, digital marketing offered businesses not only an additional advertising channel, but a glimpse into the consumer’s mind through tracking cookies and data mining. Smartphones expanded on those advantages by lengthening the time consumers spend on the internet and thus exposing them to a greater number of ads.

Even in the physical ad space, we are witnessing the decline of traditional marketing tools that were once seen as iconic. Rather than traditional billboards — which, as anyone who has watched Mad Men knows were once the standard of advertising prestige — companies today are choosing to experiment with digital billboards. So, while they’re not tossing out the old way entirely, a digital spin on old advertising concepts are seen as necessary.

The shift in behavior from traditional to mobile over the years has spanned various sectors, including payments, GPS, translations, accessing information, and more. Since so many people rely on their phones for nearly everything, it’s imperative that marketers understand the trends and can change their tactics accordingly. What is the point of paying thousands of dollars for a television campaign if everyone is just watching commercial-free Netflix? Why set up a billboard when people driving by it are too busy looking at their phone?

And, per tradition, older technologies make way for newer ones. That means other major technological advancements are brewing. It was a move away from the iconic advertising billboard that has defined the last century, followed by digital banner ads and Google ads. Now we’re onto the next phase of the revolution: Ultrasonic waves.

This groundbreaking technology positioned to be at the forefront of the revolution harnesses the power of soundwaves. Indeed, acoustic technology has the potential to give advertisers a window into consumers’ attention when and where it matters most. And that’s the key: Advertising is moving from generic ad campaigns (or, as some might say, spam) toward the targeted advertising that provides the right offer to the right person at the right time — and in the right location. That’s what the data-over-sound revolution brings to the table.

The ultrasonic waves carrying data to consumers allow marketers to personalize and, more importantly, demonstrate return on investment away from the internet, which until now has served as the marketing playground of all digital marketing and advertising.

When most of us enter shopping malls these days, we’re too into our screens to really notice the physical advertisements in stores. But what if those ads were to pop up on our screens as we were walking around the store? Ultrasonic waves could be utilized in such situations. The technology behind data-over-sound connectivity software embeds high-frequency tones that are inaudible to humans in ads, apps, and even physical locations like retail stores.

Such stores could leverage data-over-sound connectivity software quite simply, since it works with any device with a speaker and a mic. The advantage here is that consumers can be notified on their phone based on their interests and geographic location, in real time. Sales associates will be badgered with fewer questions and shopping efficiency will be maximized.

Television ads will now include silent messages embedded onto sound-tracks of any video that acts as sonic cues that. These silent messages will turn any television program or ad into real time interactive medium. It can be during a live broadcast or a recorded binge-worthy series. With sonic-cue technology, advertisers will be able to attain true insight into who watched their expensive commercials, and ads will have a path into the no-ad world of streaming and cable media services.  

As digital marketing begins to lose its status as the cool kid in advertising, the new player, data-over-sound tech, is positioned to take up the mantle. Soon, companies will be rushing to fill sound marketing positions just as they searched for digital marketers this past decade.

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