Hurray! It’s my first week editing the bible for a living and,
handily enough, the media world order looks set to transform itself in
the wake of the gigantic planned merger between the strongest branded
portal on the internet and the biggest media-entertainment conglomerate
in the world - America Online and Time Warner.
Acres of newsprint have already been devoted to this dollars 330 billion
marriage and we are told that the future will belong to such ’clicks and
mortar’ behemoths with fingers in internet access and content
We don’t know the advertising gameplan - whether the new company will
combine its advertising salesforce into one. However, assuming the
merger gets the nod from the regulators, there is one seismic change for
advertising implicit in the deal.
It’s hard to picture big, thriving ad agencies as pathetic creatures,
prey to business forces beyond their control.
Yet AOL Time Warner provides the ultimate proof that the mass market is
colliding with the one-to-one, that the old model of advertising agency
is irredeemably broken. The old, albeit disappearing, model - an
industry built around cost per thousand as the ultimate measure of
cost-effectiveness - now faces a future in which AOL Time Warner and its
successors can offer the one-stop shopping of ad space in everything
from the internet to Mad magazine. This marriage of entertainment and
behaviour means quality and value, not cost per thousand, will be the
only measure of cost-effectiveness in the future.
Take this thought to its logical conclusion and you might assume that
agencies risk losing their once divine and so far deserved right to
advise clients. After all, the AOL Time Warner marriage means that
clients can talk directly to consumers. Media owners are already
blurring the boundaries between advertising and programming by brokering
sponsorship deals direct with clients. BSkyB has made its first equity
stake in e-commerce with a stake in the online toy retailer,
Meanwhile, ads are still mostly made in the same way by the same
Payment by commission, adherence to cost per thousand, traditional
briefing processes, laborious creative development with clients still
denied access to creatives and the mysterious worlds of production and
post-production - all still serve as a comfort blanket for the industry.
But they are combining to damage the spontaneity of the work, the
prospects for growth and the respect of the wider business community for
what advertising does. The leading agencies of the future will be those
that marry craft skills with ever more imaginative ways to replace mass
with impact - you’ll see. Um, Happy New Year.