We talk a lot about how communication has changed from the Mad Men era until today’s digitally driven consumer interaction. But what’s next for this industry that many of us love (and a lot of us love to hate)? I was recently asked to write a few slides on where our industry is headed, so I thought I’d turn it into a nice Buzzfeed, ahem, Business Insider, ahem, Campaign Asia-Pacific article.
Most of these trends are happening as we speak, so you may find that you already knew all of this—or maybe not. Anyway, here goes: My thoughts on the changes we will see in advertising, technology, marketing and everything in-between in the next few years. And please remember, as Don Draper said: “Change isn’t good or bad. It just is.”
1. The convergence continues
The industry convergence will continue, as brands will be demanding a truly integrated approach to everything they do. We will no longer be discussing advertising versus digital versus event versus PR. Everything will become one arena, where we utilise all the tools in the box, in order to reach, interact with and sway consumers.
This will require agencies to hire different kind of people: People with hybrid backgrounds, people who see the full colour palette where others see black and white. It will also require agencies to find collaboration models that incentivise what’s best for the client and the client’s brand, not the agency silos.
2. The expansion of creativity
Creative teams will no longer be just a duo, but a wide variety of constellations of creative people: writers, art directors, visual artists, designers, developers, architects, musicians and others, who will co-create in new collaborative ways. As an extension of that, people who traditionally have been seen as 'non-creative', especially strategists, media consultants, branding specialists and data and analytics people, will have a greater impact on the creative output.
This will, counterintuitively, make the process more creative, not less. In fact, we will soon stop categorising a small part of the industry as 'the creatives'. To work in this industry, you will have to be creative, or you are finished.
3. The death of digital as stand-alone discipline
Digital will be (and already is) part of everything. In a few years, there will be no specialised digital creative agencies. They will either be fully integrated, or make a living as tech providers for other agencies. This is not just a prediction, this is already happening. Agencies who are embracing every opportunity for their clients are already winning the business.
4. Verticals will drive the new specialist agencies
Smaller agencies will still exist, but they will focus on industry verticals, like FMCG, fashion, automotive, and so on, rather than disciplines. The need for industry-specific competency will increase, but this trend will live side-by-side with more generalist strategic and creatively driven shops. This provides great opportunity for small agencies, where they can remain a real threat to the larger networks. Clients will have to decide what is more important: industry expertise or broader marketing knowledge. And more choice is good.
5. New technology will continue to perplex the industry
Agencies have never been the first to utilise technology. Technology comes from tech companies and the people. Creating digital transformative strategies that are media-neutral and technology-agnostic is the only way to be prepared for whatever comes, and it will all be integrated into one lead strategy. This includes mobile, wearables and the Internet of things. Agencies will have to keep increasing their tech competency and hire more hybrid talent—not buy more digital agencies.
6. Relationship marketing will go mainstream
The principles behind relationship building will finally make it into mainstream communication. Mass communication will go from mono-directional to bi-directional and multi-directional. Big data will be integrated with “small data”, or individual customer records, if you will. This will allow us to communicate in a more personal way to more people at a time. Think Tom Cruise in Minority Report.
7. Entertain me, be useful or go home
In exchange for marketing communications, audiences will start demanding quid pro quo. The two most efficient ways to provide that will continue to be entertainment and utility. If you help people, being useful in their lives, you will create a unique relationship with them. The same if you are consistently entertaining them. They will respect you for it, and they will want to associate themselves with your brand. Just make sure the role you choose is relevant for the consumer—and for the brand. And just for the record, message pushing will have no part in this exchange.
8. Social currency will play an even bigger part in people’s lives
Social currency is the biggest driver in the sharing economy. What you offer in the social space will be evaluated, analysed and judged to be valuable or a nuisance. Consumers will therefore continue to measure their peers on their contribution to the conversations. People who are destructive, offer irrelevant information or otherwise annoy their friends will have a reduced role in the conversation (less social currency), and those who offer value will have more. The same goes for brands. (And the same rule applies in the offline world, by the way).
9. The curated web will see a counterculture
The curated web has been a blessing for a lot of people; as they have been provided filtered content by their peers, content providers and brands. It makes it easier for people to snack on information, enjoy it (or hate it) and share it (or not). However, we will soon see an uprising against this, as consumers are increasingly sick of seeing the same clickbait stories from their friends, from Buzzfeed/Business Insider and from brands over and over again. They will search for fresh and valuable content, using their own (or tailored) predictive search algorithms, rather than relying on the “wisdom of crowds”.
10. Data and analytics will rise to power
Listening to the consumer will take on a whole new meaning, as we will know more, understand more and utilise more data than ever before. Predictive modelling will be more and more accurate and thus more useful. We will be able to listen, create and execute in an instant, and by that, become more relevant to the consumer. This will power the new relationship-marketing revolution and the social currency evolution.
11. The Internet of things will not turn out to be a hype
We will see a revolution in connected devices, appliances, vehicles, instruments, wearables and things we can’t even imagine yet. Many of these will provide opportunities for marketers that will bridge service design, marketing and utilities in relevant and interesting ways. The opportunities will be so many and so diverse that a brand can quite literally find an IoT technology that is both relevant and unique for their brand.
12. From marketing as a service to service as marketing
Utility marketing and service marketing will grow exponentially as the communication clutter continues. As already seen in services like WeChat, we will be able to create fully integrated marketing solutions within an environment the consumer already uses and loves. Taking advantage of these platforms will allow cost efficient digital ideas to lead the way. It’s not digital first. Not even mobile first. It’s people first.
13. Timesheets will die
Ok, this is just wishful thinking on my part…
So there you have it. These are my predictions and my opinions, but I’d love to hear yours. If you want to discuss, have your say in the comments section below and/or hit me up on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR (and don’t forget to add @CampaignAsia to the discussion).
Erik Ingvoldstad is the Managing Director of Acoustic, a digital-centric integrated agency based in Singapore and part of The North Alliance.