We are in a “perfect storm” fueled by big data, technological change, media transformation (especially mobile), and global competition.  The conventional model of linear digestion of media followed by the linear transaction process is disappearing.  With digital media, consumers have multiple sites and screens open at the same time.  This year the number of Internet users in the U.S. will grow to 239 million, nearly 76% of the total population.  We’re not moving to a digital world, we’re there.

Rapid technological change in mobile devices and wireless service (4G and 4G LTE) fundamentally change how advertisers and consumers interact.  Material information is increasingly delivered to consumers not only at the most relevant touch points, but also – through geo-location – at the most relevant places and times.  Think of it as “just-in-time” marketing.

This means real opportunities, with real questions for advertisers, regulators, and lawmakers – just as the hitchhikers are arguing about in this clip.  Marketers are charged with balancing evolving technological capabilities with consumer protection, including privacy and data regulation, and with adhering to regulatory standards and disclosures.     

Take Facebook “likes” for instance.  Brands are using “like-gated” promotions that require consumers to “like” a company’s Facebook page to gain a promotional benefit, a coupon, or a sweepstakes entry. The goal is to increase a brand’s overall number of “fans.”  In September, the research firm Gartner estimated that by 2014, 10-15% of all online reviews and social media ratings will have been paid-for endorsements. The question is:  does a brand that acquires “likes” in this way need to disclose the “material connection?”  We’ll be hearing more from the FTC and NAD on this issue.

In this “perfect storm” that is the constantly evolving digital world, the possibilities for advertisers and consumers are endless.  The real challenge is regulation.  As it has in the past, as platforms continue to evolve, the advertising industry will adapt to regulations and assist in setting new standards and developing best practices – all while driving creativity ahead.