For more than 40 years, I’ve been in the media advertising agency business. Although I left the corporate world a few years ago I’m still in the business, conducting agency reviews, compensation analysis and, in some cases, working with media companies as they transition into digital assets. Over the years I’ve seen unimaginable change. Not only inconceivable technological advances but changes in agency, advertiser and media company capabilities, structure and, just as important, relationships.
Let me begin with technology. There’s no need to outline here all of the changes that the digital world has wrought on the advertising business. We all know how new devices and software have made both content and advertising virtually inextricable today. Programming across TV screens, computers and mobile devices distributed or streamed, with advertising linked directly to the context of the environment. Interactivity that defines virtually all cross media communication. Measurements that track and report in real time and processes that automate the transaction. And, perhaps most significantly, “Big Data” access and development that digs deeper than ever into media habits, purchase behavior and observable social activity that can more accurately anticipate marketing results. Agencies and media companies must continue to pursue the development of new assets that can bring greater insights, ideas and applications to client businesses and deliver real value for increasing return on investment.
Agencies have had to enhance their capabilities substantially in all things digital. Not only media planning and buying activities but with significant research tools as well. These capabilities also have to include all aspects of digital creative concepts that can deliver effective communication within the search, social, video and mobile consumer driven world. Consumers now decide what, where and how they want their content. So creative messages must consider the consumer as an active participant in the communication process. Media is no longer viewed as a one-way trail in any form. Every marketer must now continuously have their fingers firmly on the pulse of the consumers they serve and how, when and where they choose to receive and respond to messages.
The agency structure has also had to redefine itself. Integrated communication leads the challenge. Advertising placed across multiple devises must incorporate both above and below the line marketing strategies holistically. That means people as well as processes and agency financial considerations also have to be re-evaluated to form a cohesive, integrated, operating structure. Media companies, both traditional and digital, that provide content as a pathway to consumers in most cases, have now become an integral part of the marketing business. And, oddly enough, among the agency and media communities, companies that formally considered themselves only fierce rivals, are now, when necessary, cooperating. Agencies, media companies and advertisers are, more than ever, the three legged stool. But while they have become more dependent upon one another, the consumer as well has emerged as an equal partner and a chief component in how marketing and communication works, creating their own content and deciding how it is to be communicated.
We live in a dizzying, complex media world today. And there are many unanswered questions about how to deal with this fast paced, ever changing environment. I’m not sure our answers will always keep pace with the questions, as they so rapidly accelerate. But I do know this: We’ve got very smart people in our business with abilities that have transcended many changes before. So as long as we can continue to attract the talent and put the necessary resources behind the challenges we face, our industry will stay ahead of the curve.
What I worry most about, however, is the relationship between advertisers and agencies which has continued to decline, most recently lasting an average of less than four years. Financial considerations seem to override most decisions on all sides. Advertisers want more for less and agencies are getting squeezed to invest in more capabilities. We can no longer take anything for granted. All parties must work to engender the mutual trust and transparency necessary to build and sustain an honest and genuinely enduring partnership. I certainly hope we make it an important priority. Because, that’s where we need to go from here.
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 Media Village management or associated bloggers.