Apart from the rather obvious stuff—more money will be spent in new media, we will all need to collaborate more, procurement departments will become even more pernicious, etc.—I've always felt it's rather dangerous to try and predict the future. As they say in Hollywood about forecasting a film's chances: "No one knows anything, really."
So instead, I give you my 10-point plan for outstanding success in 2014. Note: I do not say 'solid' or 'reasonable' success here—you can achieve that by following the rules, getting consensus agreement on everything you do and actually listening to Link test results. No, what we are talking about here is outstanding, reputation-building, legacy-leaving success.
1. Have a point of view. About your work and your brand. It has been repeatedly shown that consumers warm to leadership brands. Ones with a point of view about what their mission in life—beyond just making money—actually is. One of the reasons that most advertising is more similar than it is different is that rather than look into their own brand's DNA companies simply ask consumers what they think they should be—and then try and be it. The equivalent of asking the people around you what your character should be.
2. Accept that the world is emotional, not rational. It's on the news everyday in the often deranged actions of people and states. And it absolutely applies to how people buy things and process information. Our rational minds simply post-rationalise what we have intuitively already decided. Yet we continue with pre-testing techniques that have rational message recall as their foundation. It's time to move on.
3. Don't buy a dog and then go around barking. If you are a client, let your agencies get on with their game. Indeed put intense pressure on them to deliver only the very best in their areas of specialism. Do not suggest the strapline to them. If you are an agency, stop being so presumptuous as to believe that you know your client's business or category anywhere near as well they do. You really don't.
4. Do a few big things well (actually make that brilliantly) not lots of small things reasonably. Just because we have more channels available to us than ever before doesn't mean we need to fill them all. And haven't we moved past carpet-bombing the consumer...engagement being better than interruption and all that?
5. Be entertaining or useful or get out of the kitchen. There is a dangerous assumption doing the rounds that in the normal run of things consumers crave a two-way conversation with brands. In the main (unless they want to complain about something) they do not. Unless, of course, you have done something brilliantly entertaining or marvelously useful. Which is why you need to.
6. Speed up. Yes, I know it feels like you are already going flat out, but speed up. This is easily achieved by slashing both the amount of pre-testing research you do (don't cut back on the investigative phase, though) and the numbers of people involved in the process. You will likely get better work, cheaper. (And if you are a multinational you may be able to stay ahead of your faster-moving local competitors too.) As General Colin Powell said: "Make decisions when you have between 40 and 70 per cent of the required information. Any earlier and you will not know enough. Any later and it will be too late."
7. Remember your culture may not be your audience's. We are a global mishmash of people now in our business in Asia. In many senses this is a very good thing in terms of cross-fertilisation of ideas. In another we have to watch out for the assumption that the whole world thinks like we do. As Geert Hofstede said: "We all look at the world through our own cultural lenses. We just don't know we are wearing them".
8. Tell the truth. As a brand you will both end up with far stronger advertising if you do—and you won't be caught trying to hoodwink consumers with overly 'stretching' product claims. Which in the modern day and age you will be.
9. Repeat every day: 'Digital is not a strategy'. We must stop confusing channels with strategy. The easiest way to do that is to always start with the idea and see what media best serve it rather than the other way round. Technology is made for man, not vice versa.
10. Be lucky. An enormously important but much underrated factor.
All the best for 2014, everyone.
Charles Wigley is chairman at BBH Asia