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#DISummit: The evolution of advertising in the digital era

Digital, digital, digital – the omnipresent buzzword in today’s corporate world, also affecting the advertising industry. It is all about how advertising can be made valuable and relevant for consumers. However, not everyone is optimistic about the digital future. The areas of marketing and advertising are currently facing challenging times, as traditional advertising methods no longer proof useful. They not only fail in reaching the audience, but also in engaging with them.

“People don’t want to be sold, they want to be inspired.”

As a consequence to the increasing attention currently given to social media, more and more digital content and displays are fighting for the user’s online time and attention. New social media channels emerge every day, trying to win as much followers and customers as possible. But where are we heading, if everybody continues on the same path and throws promotions and sales material at potential customers? It will definitely not lead to the ultimate goal: create advocates for your brand and not only win customers.

If you want to have your customers’ attention you need to stand out from the crowd. Beth Comstock, Lead for Marketing and Innovation at GE, offers an easy solution: “People don’t want to be sold, they want to be inspired.” So what every company should ask themselves is: Who do you want to inspire, Why should they be inspired and How can you inspire them? The right answer seems simple: storytelling.

Storytelling - the one and only solution?

During this year’s Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin, Sam Olstein, Director for Global Innovation at GE, talked about their journey in becoming a leader in storytelling and content marketing. His presentation about “Content & Innovation“ showed how important it is to start reinventing advertising to avoid being swamped by the digital transformation wave. For GE it has always been important to connect with their customers and people around them. They wanted to inspire them and generate a passion and love for science and engineering. Every company should start telling their own story, show people who they are and what they stand for. Their advertising should reflect exactly that.


In the 1950s, GE created the comic series “Adventures in Science” to engage with the young and interested generation of tomorrow. Due to the great success the company is now re-creating the comic series through a partnership with Wattpad, the world's largest social community of readers and writers with the goal to develop a whole new community of science and engineering lovers. In total the comics received 60,121 reads in 9 different countries and brought GE 30,625 new fans*. This way of storytelling obviously works.


After the old-school comics from the 50s, GE developed new ways and technologies to win their customer’s attention. The company launched a new image campaign in October last year: Droneweek. A drone flew over the various scientific machinery and campuses to show people outside the organization what they could only imagine so far. The event was live streamed via Periscope to attract, educate and of course also entertain the millennial generation. This is a completely new path for the discipline of successful storytelling as it does not only include the story behind the company GE but also gives people the feeling to be part of it. Sam Olstein mentioned in his presentation that they had 20,000 views on Periscope, won 2,000+ followers and received over 500 questions about GE machines*. Currently, the GE Droneweek is nominated for the Weeby Award, an award for the best online live streamed film.

Riding the digital wave

True content marketing and storytelling are essential to reach and engage with your audience. Only by direct interaction you can finally win advocates for your brand. Simple marketing promotion campaigns are no longer enough. To keep up with the challenges of the digital era, companies need to explore and implement new advertising methods and techniques.

Digital agencies should be prepared to develop more complex and creative advertising campaigns. They’ll need to collaborate with their clients directly to create exciting and interesting stories to be shared in the World Wide Web.

Only if you continuously adapt to change you will succeed. If not you will drown in the digital transformation wave.



About the author

Working student for content marketing and social media

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