The advertising industry has been sluggish in comparison with other
businesses and communications sectors in its steps forward to recognise
and realise the range of opportunities that the digital revolution
Some agencies have made limited investments in interactive companies or
dabbled with interactive television. Few have made significant steps to
ensure that their clients continue to lead in the rapidly establishing
digital consumer market. The agencies that will thrive are the ones that
are able to build the new skill-sets required to embrace the changing
landscape and breadth of the consumer brand relationship.
The survivors of the digital revolution will significantly change the
way they work as well as the type and range of work they do. Bill Gates’
new book argues that the mantra of the next decade will be speed.
Velocity in the advertising world will require a fundamental rethink of
the creative development process linked to better-designed computer
networks and systems.
For example, new technology needs to be employed to handle ads that
feature ever-changing price and value offers. Such systems that
currently exist in a scattered fashion around the advertising industry
will become even more important as campaigns require more
personalisation and dynamism.
Agency computer networks will also have to be much more advanced.
Effective global campaign management depends on reliable systems, and a
new technology-focused client group demands them. If your agency’s
systems are inferior to your client’s, it’s a clear signal that you’re
not leading the way into the future of brand communication.
Attracting talent with technology
Using technology effectively will also ensure that agencies retain the
best people. Telecommuting is a concept that has a mixed history of
success in advertising, primarily because the cultures of agencies still
rely on the old adage ’first in - last out’ as proof of a committed
Leo Burnett’s media company, Starcom USA, recently introduced a policy
that allows individuals to telecommute two days a week. This added level
of working flexibility represents the way forward in the industry and
forces us to redefine our beliefs about ’hard workers’.
Another way to attract and retain top employees is the ability to
leverage the virtual networks of talent. Network technology needs to be
employed to ensure that this extended staff is pulled from the best and
brightest talent pool around the globe.
Broadening beyond advertising
Not only will this digital revolution change the way agencies work - it
will also broaden the type of work we take on. We have already seen this
extension as advertising agencies embrace development of websites,
online sponsorships and online media campaigns. Now this work is
extending into the interactive television arena as clients gear up for
the launch of interactive services on British Interactive Broadcasting’s
Open as well as from cable players such as NTL and Cable & Wireless.
The biggest mistake agencies could make is to adapt print and TV
executions to digital media. It’s just not that simple. Embracing
digital requires the development of new skill-sets combining traditional
marketing with a deeper understanding of consumers and the new medium,
as well as visionary creative teams who can make ideas come alive.
The consumer data chain is becoming more important and dynamic in
Direct marketing provides the initial framework to start thinking about
an interactive brand/consumer connection. But the interactive
relationship via digital technology is much more complex. The continual
rise of internet penetration and now digital television has placed the
consumer in control, highlighting a shift in strategy from product
focused to consumer focused marketing.
Threat or opportunity?
I believe that the most daunting challenge to our industry will come
from interactive television. While still in its infancy, interactive
television seems to be knocking down the walls that hold the 30-second
television advertising model together.
If we as advertisers and agencies do not make the most of the changes
that digital technology presents, others will. Challengers will emerge
and redefine the constructs of marketing and communications. Others will
become the masters of the consumer brand dialogue. Some agencies will
commit to and lead this charge, others will simply wait and see. In so
doing, they will fail to recognise that the definitions of creativity
and ideas in marketing terms have been redefined by the zeroes and ones
Opportunity or threat - you decide.
This article is based on a speech made to the Online Consumer Conference
at Earls Court, 26 May.