The irony of starting my new job in the US on 1 April has not been
lost on my UK colleagues although I guess George W Bush feels the same
way as his economic flu spreads across the globe. The US advertising
Goliath has been officially knocked out and while no-one seems to be
looking for the culprit, there is ongoing speculation as to the timing
and nature of the industry's revival. On this particular issue, there is
little consensus and executives have departed for their summer vacations
having effectively written off 2001.
So, what's the next big thing? I don't think it will be one thing, one
idea, one technology or one approach. Instead, I believe it will be the
re-dedication to what branding is all about. Emerging technologies forge
ahead as specialists scramble to discover ways to use and measure these
new channels. There is lots of talk about data and customer-centricity
but, in the end, it all boils down to smart marketing strategy.
From this side of the Atlantic, I see an exciting future for our
industry if we commit to the reinvention of our brand-building
It is time to walk the talk as they say over here. We cannot hold on to
advertising as the art form when technology has shifted control to
consumers, enabling them to conveniently avoid our intrusive commercial
messages. We need to move from the general to the very specific, from
directional to measurable, from theory to practice, from intangible to
Branding must become the sum total of all of our creative energies -
ranging from data aggregation to customer segmentation to personalised
messaging. Leading global brands, such as Amazon, Harley-Davidson and
Swatch, increasingly leverage the power of community to create new
business models and, in this world, branding demands that our industry
more effectively integrates its skills, accepting that further
diversification within functional silos isn't the answer.
Our opportunity as an industry is to seize this initiative and avoid
being seen as either myopic or lazy. Privately, senior industry
executives admit that we failed to fundamentally revise our approach to
branding when the internet splashed into all of our lives like a
tsunami. We dipped our toes in the shallow end and refused to embrace
it, strategically or creatively. The e-commerce industry is currently on
its knees economically, not technologically, and their knowledge and
expertise of consumers' use of the internet and digital media is the key
to our future.
So how is the industry reacting over here? On the agency side, with
further consolidation. The big holding companies are focusing on the
continuing game of media consolidation. The big get bigger, but is big
better? Or smarter? Or more creative? I wonder whether the clients are
asking if creativity and innovation are central to these latest industry
On the media owner side, they're digesting after the recent feeding
frenzy of consolidation while proactively packaging their varied assets
in cross-media deals, which are the hot new thing to have. Time will
tell whether these deals translate into innovative marketing solutions
or simply secure the majors such as News Corp, AOL Time Warner, Viacom
and Disney a greater share of total media spending at a time of drastic
rating and budget reductions.
Through my new American sunglasses, I can see tremendous opportunity for
our industry to dramatically raise the bar at a time when our clients
need it most.
Have a nice day.
- Stuart Elliott is on holiday.