Opinion: Perspective - We Brits need to emulate the US hunger for change

Have you heard about the new party craze that is sweeping the US?

Neither as sedate as the traditional Tupperware party, nor as racy as key-swapping gatherings, the latest thing Stateside is the Wii party, and it is proving to be especially popular in old people's homes. Residents gather together to compete against each other's golf drive, tennis stroke or baseball swings.

Nintendo, the maker of Wii, has been quick to notice the potential and is now penning deals with chains of retirement homes, as well as cruise ships.

The anecdote highlights two important features of the gigantic commercial landscape in the US. First is that an advertiser has spotted a non-advertising means to bolster sales; Nintendo has identified a growing trend and is doing deals with customers to harness its potential.

Second, the commercial value of these Wii parties owes much to the scale of the country; there are 35 million Americans aged over 65. The retirement community may be a niche market, but its scale still renders it a hugely lucrative target.

Scale is only one of the key differentiators between the American communications market and its British counterpart, but the US still offers several clues as to what we should expect over the next couple of years as our communications market evolves. In our feature on page 22, four high-profile Brits working in New York attempt to convey some of the latest thinking over there. And most of it is pretty scary stuff.

Clients don't want traditional advertising solutions any more - they are clamouring for new ways of communicating, often with niche groups. The demand is for highly targeted strategies, like the Wii parties. They might be targeted, but there's still enough scale to make the attention worthwhile.

This shift is very much the result of the rise of digital; it is yielding a multitude of online communities, each with its own commercial potential. Facebook is planning to sell its members' profile details to advertisers, something that will enable pet-food brands to target members of dog-loving groups, for instance.

This time last year, the UK advertising market was feeling threatened by the rise of digital agencies. Over the past 12 months, however, the advertising agencies' usual confidence appears to have returned. However, the fight is far from over, if what is happening in the US is anything to go by. The mass media will always satisfy certain brands, but for many marketers, a highly targeted approach is both desirable and possible.

The UK needs to maintain a hunger for change; an enthusiasm for the potential that the new media channels are opening up. Media, digital or direct agencies could take the lead in this space, which is why advertising agencies are going to have their lunch stolen unless they begin meeting their clients' needs with non-advertising solutions.

Obituaries in the national newspapers over the past week have tended to identify the elevation of beer to its status as one of the world's great alcoholic beverages as Michael Jackson's lasting legacy. But for a few of us, it's not the beer, but his time as the editor of Campaign that counts.

As the launch editor in 1968, Jackson not only helped to set the tone of the magazine, he also named it. He was a crucial part of the team that shunned the traditional trade magazine design norms of the day and instead launched a newspaper/magazine hybrid. There was news on the front, like a newspaper, but big glossy pictures, as with magazines.

His other great departure was that the magazine dared to criticise the industry it covered; a principal held true today. But, given the man's passion for beer and apparent sense of humour, perhaps his greatest footprint is the personality of the magazine.

- Claire Beale is away.

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