Adland's Digital Revolution: Introduction

The digital wind of change is blowing across the media industry, Adstream's managing director Andy Hopkinson writes.

Having started my career in advertising at a time when the electronic typewriter was seen as a major breakthrough, the impact of digital technology on working practices today and the potential for change are, to me, quite simply breathtaking.

But this change has gone largely unnoticed other than by those directly involved in the process. The focus of the digital debate among agencies and their clients has largely been on the new communication channels that have opened up, not how digital might affect and, in fact, transform the way the industry operates.

However, there has been a "quiet revolution", with some agencies and clients exploiting the power of production-management technology to work together more closely and streamline the production, management and distribution of campaign materials - print, broadcast and narrowcast - around the world.

Global Media Exchange is an emerging discipline that converges workflow, management and distribution into a seamless media landscape. In its simplest form, GME gives organisations the ability to manage their creative assets - in any format - across any geography from any office workstation.

First we had multimedia, now we have converging media, and GME enables clients, agencies and production companies to collaborate in real-time on creation of assets, and share the efficiencies that this creates. As a result, local organisations can act globally, and global organisations can act locally.

Print ads can be dispatched to the far corners of the world in seconds, and TV and radio commercials in minutes. As more of the creative development process is managed online (much of it automatically) everything happens faster and at less cost and is of better quality. Faster, cheaper and better. What was considered impossible is now possible. It will have a radical impact on the industry.

The digital revolution enables businesses to examine their working practices and challenge current thinking about what can be achieved, how long it takes and how many people it takes to do it. Over the next few years, digital technologies will change the way the communications business operates.

It has already had a major effect on us. It is the inspiration behind the imminent merger of the Quickcut and Adstream businesses that unites our experience in the print and broadcast worlds. As media opportunities have multiplied, so has the need to converge the process for developing content.

The merger of Quickcut and Adstream will unite two companies that have pioneered print and broadcast digital management tools. For the past nine months, our technology functions have been operating together to integrate our print and broadcast tools on to a single platform. United, it will be a $30 million enterprise operating across 42 countries, supported by more than 250 people in ten regional offices. We will enable clients, agencies and production companies to collaborate on the creation of their marketing assets, to realise their full value and share the efficiencies that digital technology delivers.

This supplement looks at the digital wind of change blowing across the industry and analyses the profound effect it is having on media businesses.

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