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“The Digital Future Is the End of Advertising as We Know It” – An interview with Thomas Zant and Michael Jiresch

adverserve and Austrian Post kicked off a joint research program on the future of advertising at the beginning of the year. All the threads come together in the recently launched Business Unit Enterprise – from trend scouting to completely new advertising concepts. (We already introduced Enterprise in our latest blog post.)

 

However, it’s about more than simply the next evolution stage of advertising. We want to know how Thomas Zant, Managing Director of adverserve Holding, and Michael Jiresch, Head of Digital Services at Austrian Post, see the digital future as a whole.

 

You are dealing with the digital future – what have you set out to do?

 

Thomas Zant: We have reached a tipping point where digital innovations and new technologies are becoming mainstream. I recently read that the Japanese mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo is developing a flying advertising drone equipped with a network of LED lights and which rotates in the air with alternating ads. In my view, these are not the crucial questions of the digital future, but rather electronic gimmicks. What will be much more decisive is how we intelligently integrate advertising into people’s everyday lives and align advertising with their digital usage behavior. I would like to reactivate the term ambient advertising: advertising should be subtle, not disturbing. It must provide added value and should not be a distraction for the user. For this reason, we have to work massively on the quality of advertising to maximize the user experience. And from the advertisers’ perspective, there is still a lot of work to do in terms of transparency: How advertising functions and how it generates measurable added value for the business.

 

Market researchers from GlobalWebIndex are observing an increasing demand for ad-blocking tools. Almost one in four online users in the USA now use ad-blocking. What does this reveal about the state of advertising?

 

Thomas Zant: Ad-blocking is a symptom that we should take very seriously. It concerns me a great deal that advertising seems to frustrate a significant percentage of internet users so much that they would rather hide the ads altogether. We have to admit that advertisers and publishers, as well as the major platforms such as Google and Facebook, have simply not done enough in recent years to make advertising better. We’ve probably fallen in love with what’s technically possible – and paid too little attention to what’s actually relevant to users.

 

What could a better form of advertising look like?

 

Thomas Zant: My friend and business partner George Nimeh once said in a TEDx Talk that the likelihood of a user clicking on an online banner is only marginally greater than the risk of being struck by lightning. This is obviously a provocative statement, but it points us in the right direction: We should say goodbye to the idea that advertising can only work through user interaction such as by clicking on something. We simply cannot expect this from people in a world where we will soon manage much of our everyday lives with the help of Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. On the one hand, advertising will become more subtle, on the other hand, it will become more integrated – and perhaps the term advertising will disappear altogether sooner or later. The digital future signals the end of advertising as we know it.

 

What role will Austrian Post play in this digital future?

 

Michael Jiresch: We have always been an important business partner for companies of all sizes and industries. It may be that not everyone spontaneously combines digital with our brand. However, it is true to say that our customers have been turning to us for many, many years when it comes to developing new strategies and solutions for growth through innovation. With our 500-year history, I believe we stand for sustainability in business innovation – and thus we are a solid springboard for the dawn of the digital future.

 

The digital future with Austrian Post – is the Post not known for being more offline than digital?

 

Michael Jiresch: Of course, traditionally our brand stands for logistics services that deliver letters and parcels which is to a large extent offline business. However, we’ve also been very successful in the online business for many years and help our business customers reach their customers with hybrid advertising solutions that intelligently link both offline and online. It is part of our mission statement to set ambitious goals, think long-term and use new technologies to create added value for our customers. If you like, technology is a means to an end for us. If digital innovations help us to increase the added value for our customers and their customers, then we’ll implement them consistently. In adverserve, we now have a partner on board which helps us further accelerate this journey.

 

What can we expect from the partnership between adverserve and Austrian Post in the coming years?

 

Thomas Zant: In the medium term, I think the point that Michael just mentioned will be one of the most exciting challenges. How do we combine offline and online worlds resulting in a universal customer experience? If we find a smart solution to this problem in the next five years, that will be a big step forward – both from the perspective of our advertising customers, but particularly for end customers, who rightly expect a higher quality of advertising.

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