I know, I know, it’s totally pretentious to even make predictions. And yes, most are either obvious or wrong. But what the hell, everyone else is making them. Even really smart people.
In fact none other than Forrester is in search of the answers. I recently had a conversation with analyst Sean Corcoran to talk about this very subject. Sean has the enviable (or regrettable, depending on your point of view) task of collecting, evaluating and synthesizing answers (and predictions) from a long list of ad agencies, marketers and journalists in an attempt to define where this tumultuous business is headed. (Good luck, Sean.)
He asked six simple questions.
What has changed in the agency landscape in the past six months, two years, five years?
What are the biggest challenges an agency/company faces today?
Is there new competition from tech companies, PR agencies, and consultants?
Has the agency/marketer relationship changed?
What trends are emerging in agency models?
What will (your agency name here) agency look like in two years?
They are good questions and no doubt agencies and marketers will fill hours of tape with their prognostications.
You could answer these questions from any number of perspectives: the economy, emerging technologies such as mobile, the impact of new social media platforms.
Of course the real answer to all of these questions starts with “the consumer,” a term that in and of itself sounds dated. After all, the elusive customer has become everything from a critic to a content creator. He has the ability to control the conversation. And with new tools and applications that offer mobile access to information and competitive pricing, he wields even more power.
It was as early as 2003, maybe earlier, when the more prescient media thinkers took note of the fact that consumers were leaning in rather than sitting back. But it’s only been in the last couple of years that agencies and marketers have really caught on and started to react to the change. Perhaps a little too late in some cases. The challenge remains unlearning the business of messages and story telling and mastering the art of conversation and community.
No one really knows where everything is going but it appears everyone is willing to wager a guess. Google “the future of advertising” and you get 153,000,000 results. Knock yourself out.
In the meantime, here are my predictions and indirectly some answers to Sean’s questions.
1. Consumers will play an even greater role as critics, commentators and content creators
2. Crowdsourcing will go mainstream
3. Applications, utility and platforms will trump messages as an agency’s most important creative output
4. Analytics will inform more and more decisions
5. Quality will be defined by instant, accessible, portable (less about polish, finish, and big production)
6. Everything will be social: print, mobile, TV, service
7. Brands will act more like people
8. Curator/choreographer will emerge as the new important role
9. Creativity will matter more than ever (the opt in power of consumers will demand that when they do lean back even sales messages better be entertaining)
10. Whoever hires the best developers will win (the most important lesson from Googled and why the NY Times, Mel Karmazin, and traditional ad agencies have lost out to CNN, Google/YouTube and digital shops).
What about you? Got any ideas on where things are going? In the next couple of months I have to give a few talks about the subject. Would love a little help.