Michael Kassan: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

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Cover image for  article: Michael Kassan: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

How did you spend your summer vacation? Perhaps traveling somewhere wonderful? Spending quality time with your family? I was blessed to have a little of both. That being said, I have been in this industry for some time – and I can say with certainty that I have never seen a busier time. The reason for that is simple: Chaos! When you’re in the advisory business, chaos often breeds opportunity.

As we all know, upwards of $30 billion of media is in currently in play. Whether you call it Reviewmageddon or Review Palooza(depending on whether you’re pitching or catching) the stakes have never been higher.

Our world has continued to go wild with both formal pitches, as well as internal reviews. Brands are exercising this right to make sure they’re getting the most of their agency partners, and in some cases, to make sure they’re not “missing anything.” It’s not just about pricing as many would think – it’s about strategy, talent and technology.

Media agencies are scurrying to defend their own accounts, and in some cases, besieging those in play at other shops. Clients, when asked about it, seem to be saying more or less the same thing: We are struggling with unprecedented uncertainty, constant technological change and hard questions about the stewardship of our budgets, and we have a responsibility to do something about it.

One of the most interesting things to come out of the summer though is that it’s not just the agencies feeling the pain: Media companies themselves have had a rocky time in the stock market, as legacy brands struggled with long-term strategic challenges like cord-cutting and other digitally-induced changes.

For example, what are agencies (and clients) to make of content marketing? Do they acquire the capability, partner with existing companies, or develop their own capabilities? What is their appropriate role -- or their business opportunity -- in helping brands figure out how to use these new digital tools to enhance their impact of their advertising? The answer is very much up for debate.

We’ll be doing a deep dive into the latter subject with an All-Star panel during Advertising Week on September 30th called “Pardon the Interruption: Advertising Is Back” at the TimesCenter, opening with a fireside chat between Sir Martin Sorrell (CEO of WPP) and myself, immediately followed by a panel of industry experts. Later that same day, we’ll host a second panel exploring lessons to be learned from increasingly innovative sports marketers in a session entitled “#FortheWin,” which will open with a fireside chat featuring Mark Tatum (Deputy Commissioner and COO of the NBA) and myself, followed by another strong panel of sports-focused experts. Both are sure to be interesting, and more importantly, informative discussions.

Ever since the first dotcom, pundits have predicted the death of advertising and the end of agencies. That never happened and it won’t now. Agencies will continue to play a critical role. However, in the next 24 months, that role may be dramatically transformed.

My money is on shops becoming more like advisors. Advertising professionals -- creative and media alike --  know more about branding and how people respond to brands than anybody, and that still matters … a lot!

Thanks to technology, media shops, with their vast and growing insight into consumer behavior and media usage, already fill this role to a significant degree. There are other opportunities that might encourage an evolution of shops, media and creative alike, into brand consiglieres.

For example, for those who can counsel clients on how to harness the revolutionary power of technology to expand and enhance creative, the rewards will be enormous. Finding talent that understands technology and can use it to activate great creative -- the so-called unicorn candidates -- is another opportunity for agencies. Indeed, we are already fielding requests for unicorn talent on a regular basis.

We might not know exactly what’s around the corner. Then again, I don’t think we ever do. For better or worse (I prefer the former because I’m an optimist), our industry is at an important inflection point. Those who are willing to accept entirely new ways of thinking and doing business will find that the future can be as bright and beautiful as the start of fall.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers.

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