Welcome to 2016 and the season for predictions. As usual, our industry hasn't disappointed, scattering predictions around with all the confidence of people knowing that nobody will ever hold them to account in 12 months' time.
It's a mugs game, predicting anything. So rather than risk being made a fool of by someone organized enough to remind me of how wrong I've been, here are some hopes and thoughts going into 2016. Right or wrong.
- The media agency business will reboot its business model. Gone will be the focus on making money unofficially; rather, agencies will justify being paid properly by their clients for those services that bring them a recognizable and measurable benefit.
Bluntly, the agencies have been given a shock and they will change behaviors. There's too much at stake for their holding company masters for them not to do so.
- Agencies will embrace technology to reduce the hours spent on executional buying. Rather, they will invest more time on planning and measurement ("recognizable and measurable …").
- Agencies will look to make up any shortfall in revenues by adding new services for which they can charge, particularly in the content and measurement spaces.
- There will be a rebirth in client servicing. Agencies will stop being obsessed with beating media owners up over deals. (There will be fewer headlines of the "Agency X withdraws from Channel Y" variety.)
- The ANA investigation will come to some firm conclusions. I suspect the investigators will turn up some evidence of dodgy practices in the US but neither Omnicom nor WPP will be implicated (both are far too smart, have far too much to lose and both have far too many corporate lawyers to do anything foolish in the US). I'm not so sure about Publicis, Aegis and Havas. Expect some controversy around supplier deals and the concomitant lack of objectivity.
- The final reckoning on the pitch bonanza of 2015 will see WPP and Omnicom stretch their lead ahead of the rest.
- There will be a greater focus amongst the networks on network consistency -- even the largest holding companies accept that there are inconsistencies in how their offices operate around the world.
As advertisers start to focus on behaviors (as with the ANA investigation), so the agency networks will start to impose far more control from their centers.
It is simply (to take one example) too risky for MediaCom as a network to allow any office to behave as its Australians did in falsifying ratings. Large clients' requirements are too global for local misdemeanors not to have an impact elsewhere.
- As planning moves more center-stage expect more of a focus on global tools. These things will stop being the pitch window-dressing they have become and will start to be true differentiators, with their use linked to internal and external remuneration.
After all, Carat used to base a proportion of its local market CEOs' bonuses on their measured use of network tools.
- Independent agencies will flourish locally. Horizon made waves in the US last year winning Hyundai; the7stars here won Media Agency of the Year from two separate organizations. The past behaviors of the networks, even if some turn over a new leaf in 2016, will mean more losses to those who place transparency at the heart of their offer.
- Millions of words will be written on ad-blocking, adtech consolidation and the adoption of programmatic techniques -- and will bore us all rigid.
One last wish:
- I would love to see a resurgence in our trade press with far less blind, unquestioning acceptance of what articulate, jargon-spouting media agency CEOs and NBDs say and far more holding of their agencies' behaviors to account. We are quite used to doing this in the creative field, so why not in media?
Doesn't have to be a forlorn hope, does it?
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