Advertising is the print industry five years ago. The future is software

Sir Tim Berners-Lee had advice the advertising industry should listen to when he spoke in Sydney last week. Jon Holloway was there.

I had the pleasure of listening to Sir Tim Berners-Lee  – the man who made sense of the internet and ‘invented’ the web. He’s a man with a thousand ideas that all want to come out at once. A couple of theories that he talked about are so relevant to the advertising world that he might have been talking just about us.


And this is not gamifying stuff, this is about creative minds and technologists having the time to just play. TBL made the point that without the opportunity to play, the web wouldn’t have been invented. The start-up world has cracked this idea, that play and prototype are two things that drive change.

They are at the route of innovation.

Short fuse, big bang:

He talked about the Deloitte research on digital disruption which shows nearly a third of all Australian business will be disrupted by ‘web’ based innovation in the next few years. This is not only relevant to our clients, but to us as an industry. We are an industry that is massively focused on the past, we measure things based on the past, and we invent things based on the past. We are the print industry five years ago.

Advertising needs to quickly discover that there is no such thing as ‘the good old days’, our lunch is being eaten and those who innovate through technology are having a massive bite. Those who accept the status quo will get burned.


The big sit-up and take notice piece was about the dumbing down of the PC. TBL talked about the PC becoming like white goods, more people now use computing technology to listen to music, browse the web and watch films than anything else. He theorized that people have forgotten the power of the program, the power of making stuff with a simple PC. He said that the future of the world sits in the hands of the developers, the people who can code things that make things easier. It’s hard to disagree with. In the advertising world we are seeing the real world to digital merge, in fact the line is no longer visible. A lot of what we should be doing is based on software that connects beyond a campaign.

It’s hard for anyone to deny that the future core of advertising will be based on something beyond digital. For an industry that is struggling to get digital right, moving beyond it to technology and platforms is a tricky task.

Not out of the realms of possibility though, I am betting a large slice of the future will be software and as such in the hands of the people who code, we need more of them and we need to find a way of building our agencies around them.

I will leave the close of this to the great man himself. When asked what is the future of the web? He said: ‘Anything you can imagine…’

  • Jon Holloway is head of strategy at Sydney creative agency The Works

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