John Zeigler
Feb 6, 2014

2014 outlook: Let's take a walk back to the future

Amidst social and economic uncertainty, agencies and clients should make 2014 a simple year of going back to the basics.

John Zeigler
John Zeigler

I think the best way for us to start 2014 is on the edge of our seats. 

A growth year roaring forward? Possibly. A collapse of our industry as we know it? Also possible. A year of quiet change and challenges? Most definitely.

As the world’s financial and business markets are turning a corner, Asia attractiveness is levelling out while Europe becomes upbeat and strength continues in the domestic US market. Overall, looking at the numbers we’re saying it looks as though the world—as a whole—turning a corner. But is it?

Lurking underneath the numbers, social issues are rising. France wrestles through whether it has a first lady. The US wrestles with an 'Obamacare' president who is challenged to execute his social agenda. Egypt goes again to the polls; and, yet another riot and political uprising in Thailand.

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And in our own industry—as we work through the digital versus traditional questions and issues—we’re saying we’re on the edge of positive turnaround. But are we kidding ourselves?

I have said many times over the last five years, it's all about digital, and we’ve finally got here. Now, everyone’s talking about big data and I see this opportunity more like a ‘what if’ as opposed to a ‘what is’. Don’t get me wrong, big data will definitely happen, but it may just take 20 years or more to deliver on its promise. 

So, with all this in mind, I think 2014 should be a simple year of going back to basics.

Get the basics in play and start, once again, to add real value to our clients’ business by continuing to do what we do best: produce creative work that moves people to change their behaviour.

Clients—more than ever—are challenged to build their business with little (if any) differentiation. Who then, is best placed to build market share for them? Creative agencies. Yet procurement continues to make cuts to creative services, reducing business’ potential. No one can achieve competitive gains by reducing its costs and focusing on efficiency alone. After all it is effectiveness that delivers real growth results.

Brands are the key to a great 2014 and beyond, and brands are now all about connectivity. Not connectivity at a tactical level, but more customer connection at an emotional level.

Our success does not lie in following the rules, nor in the latest fad terminology, they take too long to become a reality (integration is a nearly 30-year-old concept still being wrestled through!).

In conclusion, I hope 2014 will be a walk back to the future! A refocus on how to extract real value from the agency-client engagement; a chance to set small data metrics that will drive better effectiveness results; and a change back to collaborative creativity, where client and agency work together to face and solve business challenges. We need to move away from the trend of doing ads to meet media-based schedules. It’s just absurd.

John Zeigler is chairman and CEO, DDB Group Asia Pacific, India and Japan


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