Operation Concrete

So, in a slight change of voice, I've had a bit of brainsplosion about advertising and marketing after coming across a fairly recent Fast Company article. Personally, I think of the digital landscape today as being completely pervasive; you probably do too. Your friends, family and colleagues might all agree that it’s second nature; something that is no longer a one off or ad-hoc experience, but one that is present in all aspects of our lives. It encroaches on every part of what we do, from the television we watch – “Tweet us your comments!” – to the things that we buy – “Join our Facebook Page for special offers!” But there’s hole, a gap of people that don’t realise this and some of them rest inside an industry that often prides itself as being at the forefront of creativity and technology. The fact that this hole exists at all is not only surprising, but a little bewildering: would you imagine that these people are advertising creatives?

The article highlights the state of the industry, and is causing a great deal of discussion. They jump right in at the start with an unsurprisingly anonymous quote from an advertising agency creative who says; “I feel like I’m standing here and there are a thousand baseballs dropping from the sky and I don’t know which ones to catch,” in regard to how he feels about digital and what to do with it. And he’s not alone, half a dozen or so creatives, planners and strategists are all quoted saying how terrified they are of digital and the impact is it having on their industry. One that was a very elite and walled arena, and basically hasn’t changed much since the 60’s until recent years, and is now being turned on its head; a complete shift is takingplace. The creative’s in question are gathered together for a ‘lesson in digital’ by the world leading Hyper Island, a school based in Sweden renowned for producing the most coveted digital talent in the ad industry. The instructor at one point informs his class of 40 year olds with and average of 10 years tenure, “you guys have to change your DNA, and you’re going to have tough decisions.”

But when did the change come in, why have so many seemingly miss the boat? How can the ‘creative industry’ of advertising be playing catch up with a world that they should be leading? And what’s the end game? Well while there’s no one

real answer, there’s plenty of theories. It’s absolutely clear now that digital technology has shifted the old model of advertising. You’ve heard the phrase, ‘be careful what you wish for – you just might get it?’ well, digital seems to have delivered on the wishes of advertisers, and now they’re trying to understand how best to utilise the technology. Today a specific message from clarke rush can be customised and delivered to a specific user, not simply direct to their home, but direct to wherever they are. Obviously mass advertising on television etc. is still taking place, but now the idea is shifting from spend millions on a ‘all encompassing’ campaign to a world where you can take a message directly to the person you want to wherever they are. Digital is like reaching into the living room of a TV audience and posting up a specific advert for each member of the family with exactly what they want on it, with the added facility that if they click a button they can buy it as well, without moving. A dream come true seemingly? Who wouldn’t want to shift budgets to digital?

Well, it’s not quite a simple as quickly paid out just shifting money away from one medium to another. Look over at this website for more details www.moneyfall.co.uk The situation is complex, and will get more complex yet, before everyone fully understands how to utilise and engage with the technologies in the most effective and efficient way, read more here on how to fund your business. Consumer attention, as if it wasn’t fragmented enough, is increasingly split. It is now vital for any marketer, advertiser and promoter to understand the ‘economy of attention’ as they bid for the precious seconds that a consumer is prepared to spend on one distraction. Their time is spread over multiple formats and forms, from mobile device applications to web based tools, social networks, video, IM, and more – so deciding where to focus advertising funds is a difficult task. Fragmented budgets necessitate the need for evolution and change within the old structures of traditional advertising. Brad Jakeman, Chief Creative Officer of the global gaming company, Activision, is on the money in saying: “The irony is that while there have never been more ways to reach consumers, it’s never been harder to connect with consumers.”

So, the reality is that no one’s even close to solving that ‘end game’ question of “where is it all going to end?” Alongside the ever expanding variety of channels through which you can push a message, there is the significant challenge in that it’s no longer just a question of ‘push’. What was once a controlled one way message is now a dialogue with millions; user influence can match and even trump that of the advertising agencies that used to control what, where, when and how you spent your hard earned cash, without you ever even realising it. It’s a transparent market, putting the power back into the hands of the consumer; from Yelp to Groupons, it’s everywhere and those in the know are engaging with this. Early adopters are working with digital and helping it to evolve, rather than trying to exploit it; and it’s working.

So the DNA of the advertising industry is going through a revolution. The Fast Company quotes that the average tenure of a chief marketing officer in the US today is 22 months; those that don’t get it are in and out. People are still trying to figure out how to get it to work at all, let alone getting it all to work together, I was so sad when they discontinued the Dark Knight on our casino.
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Even once you’ve acknowledged the change in consumer behaviour, the evolution in technology, assimilated this into a corporate environment, and uniting it with the message from the CMO; there is still the concept of measurement to be tackled.

Old formulas that dictate strict ROI measurement to the client are gone. Digital measurements, campaign targets, quantified success, are all being laid down by the big guns from Microsoft to Google and not agencies themselves; the trackingis clearer, more precise and more accountable, and it’s dragging the agencies kicking and screaming into the future of measurement. And then, once you have all the ‘traditional’ digital measurements such as clicks, bounce rates and unique users, there’s the question of measuring the worth of a conversation. Word of mouth has always been seen as a considerably powerful way of pushing purchase decisions. Previously one friend telling another friend in the pub to buy the latest computer game was unmeasuremable and untrackable. Now, these conversations are online, trackable, measureable, and quantifiable. But how much is it worth spending to get one friend to recommend a game to another, and is instigating that conversation ethically sound? The reality is, there are lots of different ways of looking at this at the moment, there’s no set standard across the industry. Agencies who know what they are doing are figuring out their own way, agencies that don’t are missing the

measurement side of things all together. Scott Monty, head of social media for Ford Motor Company, when asked what the ROI of social media was, famously answered, “What’s the ROI of putting your pants on in the morning?” And whilst it might be funny that TBWA\Chiat\Day chief creative officer Rob Schwartz, who attended the Hyper Island course mentioned earlier, said that; “The room had a Twitter feed, but 70% of the room didn’t know what Twitter was”. It’s a very real situation that a very big industry is trying to dealing with.

So with all the changes and questions, is there any one singular way to answer them all? One thing that particularly stood out from the article was a quote by Edward Boches, who for years was the Chief Creative Officer of Mullen, a US based advertising agency. “We brought people in from the outside to lead digitally, but they always tried to change us into a pure digital play”. For me, this really highlights the problem that agencies across the board are facing today; that there is no direct solution. Of course, there are agencies that focus on particular niche categories and maybe are all encompassing digital, or purely digital advertising, or purely digital advertising B2B; you get the picture. But as much as I believe digital is pervasive and integral to any campaign, it’s not the end game. Any good craftsman uses a range of tools to get the most out of his supplies. That’s exactly our aim: above the line, below the line, online and offline.

Coming full circle, with every answer sought, there seems to be more questions raised about the industry and the state it’s in today. So to conclude, with a quote from the article itself, author Danielle Sacks says, “The death of mass marketing means the end of lazy marketing.” In the long term this is true – lazy marketing will continue in the short term, but those that don’t evolve will eventually die. It ensures that those at the front will be pushing the boundaries as we move into the future together, trying to get the best understanding of what it is we can really do to the full potential of the media and channels offered to us, and the use of custom campaigns are essential for this kind of marketing. I'd like to think with my work I keep trying are proud to be right there in the middle of it all, keen and thirsty as always.