So many of our innovations rely on advertising, a $700 billion industry, to gain fans, followers, and consumers. After four years of writing this column on innovation and more than 25 years of personal experience designing retail product innovation and selling $2 billion worth of consumer goods, I know: If you build it, they don't necessarily come. In business over the past decade, we've grown into storytellers, social good peddlers, influencers, and brand geniuses, but one thing still remains true: Advertising is required. It certainly isn't the same game, as digital media has shifted advertising tremendously, and the challenges that go along with this shift definitely need some clarity. 

Being the product person that I am, I think it's also important to note how much our product sales depend on this industry shift. And to clearly understand the shift, we have to look at the current challenges in media and advertising, to gain foresight on the pivots inevitably coming our way. Luckily for me, my expertise and time in the product world has bought me plenty of seats at plenty of tables where the discussions are interesting, at the very least.

Open Innovation

I recently moderated a panel at an event put on by Plug and Play, recognized as the most active venture capital firm in the United States. With its more than 270 global investments every year, the firm's mission, "To make innovation open to anyone, anywhere," seems viable if it keeps up with that kind of numbers. This particular event was focused on the media and advertising challenges we are currently facing, which is truly only the beginning of the conversation. This idea of open innovation has driven much of the low-barrier, high-failure marketing, advertising, branding, and business we see taking place now. It can all seem so unsteady, until we peel back the layers and really look at what's happening below the volatile and rapidly shifting surface. 

3 Top Challenges in Media and Advertising From a Plug and Play Panel

Here are the top 3 challenges the media and advertising industry is facing, according to Plug and Play's expert panelists, also industry veterans, innovators, and experts. 

1) Mindshare. Amber Jin, the head of partnerships and customer experience for Amazon Moments, pointed out that one of the biggest challenges in media and advertising right now is getting mindshare. Jin brings this perspective from her prior work in mobile advertising and digital marketing for Microsoft and more. She focuses on going beyond user acquisition, and beyond engagement, into conversions.

The ability to get someone to actually notice your ad service is very difficult. We are bombarded with so much information and so many areas of different stimuli that I am guilty of this as well, where I've downloaded an app when I'm on the phone or scrolling through Twitter or watching television. And once I install, I'm kind of giving it a five- to 10-second glance, and maybe I'm the 23 percent who will use it once and never touch it again. So I think just the ability to get someone to really dig in and check out all of the core features of your app or service and truly understand if what you're about to gauge is a right fit, I think that's a huge challenge, but I think that's where we lean into opportunity.

2) Starving creativity. Jeffrey Tan, managing director for product innovation at Dentsu Aegis, shifted our conversation into creativity. Tan's 15 years of global marketing experience have put him at an intersection of innovation, creativity, and diversity.

A macro challenge we are facing as an industry is the starvation of creativity. I believe we are facing a crisis in innovation and creativity. On the ad agency side, often we focus so much on the data, but often we're stripping the humanity from the data. As a result, we have very one-dimensional advertising, where we're not necessarily thinking about the consumer. We need to bring back that curiosity and creativity, making sure we are consumer-centric.

3) The human element. Alireza Ghaemian, CEO of Levity Live, talked about the links between innovative revenue opportunities while holding onto that human element.

To establish deeper connections with comedy fans and consumers, we are looking at the depth of the stories being told, because every area is so saturated. The crisis on creativity is very real, and creating layers of stories behind every piece of content we create should be for experiential campaigns that are heavily data driven but not void of the human element, not just a digital experience, but to directly connect with customers in a meaningful way. The goal is to leave people talking about this experience long term. 

Bonus expert tip: Alex Mojtahedi, the founder and head of the media and advertising program at Plug and Play, left us with this, "If we look into the past, I'm talking 35 years ago, where less than 8 percent of households had access to personal computers, we can see how far technology has evolved. And as technology evolves in our lives, we are facing new challenges. The future of media advertising will have to be personalized, immersive, automated, and globalized."

Published on: Sep 10, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.