Will the influence of technology on advertising make mass marketing obsolete?

WSJ article mass marketing

A recent Wall Street Journal piece entitled, The Future of Advertising: Farewell, Mass Marketing suggests that mass marketing, as we know it, is destined to meet its demise as marketers increasingly turn to the use of technology and real-time, consumer interaction.  While the argument for mass marketing’s impending doom is, perhaps, a bit over-stated, the author makes a valid point that connected, interactive technology offers a Holy Grail of opportunity for marketers who can seize upon this vast opportunity.

TV and radio commercials are great at reaching millions of viewers, but they don’t offer the best engagement. Instead, advertisers in the future will pinpoint the exact moments and needs that users have—entertainment, retail searches, even sports scores—and supply consumers with the solutions they are looking for in real time. In the next couple of decades, as new wearables and connected devices are introduced, advertising will progress more than it has in the past 50 years.

Clearly, mass advertising isn’t what it used to be.  Once upon a time, there were just a handful of television networks that consumers could choose to watch.  Marketers were just about guaranteed a large, captive audience.  Today, however, with the existence of hundreds of different television channels and network genres, with the exploding popularity of alternative content options (Netflix, Hulu and many others), and with the ability of consumers to bypass TV ads altogether via their DVRs, it’s readily apparent that brand advertising presents significant challenges that didn’t exist a generation ago.  Back then, targeting meant placing your ad in a vehicle that would deliver a specific demographic profile.  If you were selling soap, then you were advertising in the afternoon during a daytime drama (aka “soap opera”).  While that level of targeting still exists, a truly successful marketer understands that the game has changed.  And it will change even more radically as technology affords marketers the ability to target specific consumers when, where and how they want to purchase a product or service that satisfies an immediate need.

Everything will be instantaneous, from how advertisers discover needs to how consumers purchase featured products and services. When you see an ad for an item you like, you won’t have to search for the product online. You’ll be able to immediately purchase it on your device, through a one-touch payment system or a voice-activated command.

Technology is forever altering the marketing landscape in ways that couldn’t have been foreseen not that long ago.  Companies that both recognize this rapidly changing landscape and invest in the technology to make it happen will be the ones to blaze a trail of profitability.  That being said, how quickly this new approach buries ALL of the old, mass marketing methods remains to be seen.