Evolving Digital Media in Communications

We're living in the digital age-- is it so surprising that advertising has adapted to become as ingrained in our lives as the technology we use? On the cusp of a new year, I think that it would be wise to reflect on this question and to think toward the future.

Nowadays we're working hard to avoid the ads, but it's also true that we're utilizing them more than ever before. We count on them to connect us to the products, places, and brands that we use every day. This is probably due in part to the fact that we're shopping online so much! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been playing a game and an ad came on, and I clicked the ad to then go on and download the game from the ad. It’s also embarrassing to say that sometimes I appreciate Facebook ads, especially since they help me score awesome deals and find new brands.

However, cookies track your activity, so you're followed around the Internet like there's a private investigator on your tail. Interestingly enough, some of the stuff that you've seen on other Websites can come back around to you on others due to your online activity. For example, how many of us have left stuff in our online shopping cart that we don't ever intend to buy? Then, how often are we tempted further by seeing some of the exact same things on Facebook's sidebar that we'd abandoned in our carts? This is why I’ve been got by those darn ads I love so much. Seeing the same products over and over makes me think about them, even when I've left the page, and it makes me think that maybe I do need them. It's similar to the way that I also sometimes feel like I see "signs" in my everyday life that totally don’t exist.

Of course, advertisers have come up with more subtle ways to catch our attention. Native advertising is tricky, because some people can't even tell that they are being advertised to. The content provided looks like it is simply another form of the medium being used. The example given to my class this week was this New York Times article. At the top, you can see that it is sponsored content. There is also a plug for the show Orange is the New Black--all the way at the bottom. However, if someone just clicked on this article and read it through without examining it, it would be difficult to tell that one was being advertised to. You may not even realize that the ad at the bottom was purposeful-- you could assume that it was just relevant to the topic and was placed there by forces beyond the control of the New York Times. Now, I bet you're wondering how often this is happening to you.

This is happening all the time, which I am sure is not overwhelming at all. From your Google search results to your social media accounts, there are posts masquerading as advertisements. Some of them come from recognizable brands and are easier to spot, but celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing make it impossible to steer clear from being advertised to.

The thing about native advertising though-- is it harmful? Personally, I prefer this form of advertising in the way that it feels more organic, less manufactured, and more honest. However, as someone that works in this field, I have to remember that while it appears that way, it is not so. Those are still ads, even if we're being made to feel like they are not. That "unbiased opinion" cost some brand a lot of money, you know, so I warn my friends to be wary of the waist trainer that their favorite Kardashian is wearing on Instagram.

I think that the nature of native advertising is the future of advertising in general, simply because it is less intrusive. Since we're living in a time where people hate ads, and they are going to some pretty strong lengths to get away from them,  it is becoming more difficult to create effective ads for segmented audiences. One advantage with this approach is that partnerships will be easier to form and, in some niches, consumers can get a “try before you buy” experience or an ad that actually gives the consumer insight into its use. In my opinion, the constant evolution of the media landscape is definitely a challenge that is more easily met with this form of advertising, especially since all you have to do is effectively take part.

Speaking of, I would also like to touch upon the public relations aspect of ever-changing media. Public relations is in a really interesting place right now; there are so many approaches to everyday problems. For example, I have many different forms of media that I could utilize in creating a press release, giving my brand a stronger identity to the press. There are more ways to respond to messages than ever before, which leaves organizations with fewer excuses for not responding to crises and social media trolls. (In my opinion, choosing not to respond in this day and age is irresponsible.) There are also so many resources for keeping up with projects, managing teams, and building effective reports. It’s made the entire process transparent, which added onto the responsibilities of the PR professional to demystify the services being rendered to clients. This can easily exhaust the mind of any Communications professional.

Where will public relations go with the up-and-coming technology? Will we work towards bringing virtual reality experiences into our press kits? How are we going to optimize communications to work effectively with wearable technology, especially as it gains more traction? How can we make our press releases and outward-facing communications more interactive, and what will happen to players that don’t integrate these new approaches?

While the use of digital media in the Communications industry is certainly difficult to navigate at times, it's also exciting enough to make my mind race with these kinds of questions. I think it's a spectacular challenge to keep up with the world around me and to stay informed on new tech and trends. It's part of my job to know, not only how your iPhone X works, but also how to more effectively reach out to you with it. Unfortunately, history supports the notion that those who don’t keep up with this tech will fall to the wayside, because practitioners’ methods must evolve to catch the eyes of the generations who are developing their spending power.

So embrace the digital age for all it has, because it isn't going to stop. Cheers to new tech and learning the ropes together!