High Hopes for 2017

By Brian Jacobs The Cog Blog Archives

Hello again and a belated Happy New Year! This is the season when we should all be full of hope for the future, so rather than making firm predictions (that can duly be proved wrong in time) this -- the first Cog Blog of 2017 -- will focus on hopes for the coming year.

I hope that facts become fashionable again. Whatever one's political persuasion, we can all agree that both the EU referendum in the U.K. and the U.S. Presidential election were full of exaggerations, mis-speaks and untruths. Fact-checkers have never had so much fun. Those whose profession is at the very least loosely based on facts (including quality press journalists) found that their ability to influence events was rather less than they had thought. They lost. Opinion pollsters, whose predictions are often presented as facts, lost too. Those who care little for objectivity and who generally prefer noise over discussion won.

When any group suffers a shock there tends to be a reaction. We all need a free press, representing all shades of opinion. We need journalists. We need facts. In 2017 these needs will hopefully translate into action. I'm hoping for rises in the circulations/viewerships of those newspapers and magazines that deal in fact-based opinions as we come to realize their importance.

Audience researchers deal in unbiased, measured data. Some digital platforms (ironically) prefer to control what they release to the market. I hope there will be a closer collaboration between those charged with measuring audiences, whether inside or outside the industry bodies. The principle of objective measurement is too important to let go.

Post their horrible 2016, 2017 will see media agencies continuing the rebalancing of planning and trading. The pendulum has swung too far towards the traders and away from the planners, too many of whom are starting to resemble academics with little influence over final outcomes.  Agencies need to rebuild trust with their clients. They can best do this by focussing more on their undoubted planning skills and less on the "never mind the quality, feel the price" argument.

The raging 2016 controversy over transparent trading will with any luck continue. This is too important an issue to allow those implicated to bury it. I hope the remit of the ongoing DoJ investigation in the U.S. is expanded to cover media trading practices.

Collaboration will become a key byword in agencies. The world is too complicated for any one side of the business to think it can do everything. This sense of collaboration will impact the digital industry too, as it grows up. Hopefully we're emerging from the phase where everything was presented as if in some stupid competition for the biggest meaningless numbers. All media forms have their place, all have their strengths and weaknesses. It should be (and is) perfectly possible for the likes of YouTube to win without using dodgy data to denigrate TV.

I'm hoping for less hype, less exaggeration, and less of a focus on the biggest gross numbers.  Rather, I hope for more of a focus on verification, on effectiveness and on the facts beating out the exaggerated promises of the second-hand car dealer to drive media actions.

A final hope:  May this year be a boring one. After all the excitement, challenges and changes of 2016 we could all do with a year of drawing breath, of simply getting on with getting on.

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