I went along to the IPA's 44 Club this evening to hear a talk on A Glimpse Into Advertising in 2020. The write up sounded fascinating:
• What will agencies look like in 2020? Consolidated, function or category specialised, and how many agencies should a client need to hire etc
• What will the average ad-mans day consist of? In home vs in office. Science vs Magic?
• How will social trends affect the way we work in 2020? Will there be older people, more women or greater flexibility in the industry?
• What role for the 30” ad? Is traditional TV doomed?
• Who will be the most influential man in the room?
• Where should we be focused on now if we want to make ourselves indispensable in 2020? Essential skills vs core disciplines
Maybe my expectations were too high, but the IPA is so often the platform for really smart debate and inspirational speakers. I was looking for sparks, controversy, a challenge. I wanted to be inspired and scared and excited, in the way that I felt after reading Danielle Sack's brilliant Fast Company article "Mayhem on Madison Avenue." But instead I came away feeling rather flat and a bit depressed.
Tom Morton the new Chief Strategy Officer at Publicis (who I work with on the IPA Strategy Group) did a great job at trying to articulate and frame the debate and as well as talking about one of my favourite books (Jane Jacob's The Death and Life of Great American Cities), coined a memorable moniker for building change and innovation into agencies - HELP. Hack, Experiment, Learn, Punt. Graham Fink said that nothing had really changed in advertising apart from the fact that there was a lot more fear in agencies and that all we need is a table to sit around in order to talk to each other. Not sure if I totally agree but I get his point about the power of ideas to connect and tap into basic, un-changing human emotions. And I get his point about the table (although it's 2011 and I can't really believe that we are still talking about moving "digital" up from the agency basement to sit together with the rest of agency) Tina Fegent talked about procurement and how agencies needed to think more creatively about their approach to procurement. Again which I totally understand and agree with.
So why did I come away feeling depressed? I think that I felt that the really big issues weren't properly addressed. It felt a bit like we werre all fiddling around the edges while missing some of the massive issues staring us all in the face. I agree with Tom that there's little point in trying to predict the future as you only end up looking like a bit of tit when you're proved wrong. So from that starting point, here are some questions that I am starting to think about at VCCP:
As channels proliferate and skill-sets deepen and diverge, it is going to be impossible for an agency to effectively "own" all the skills that they need to service clients. Given that, how do we start to build a loose network of partners, developers and producers who can work along side the core agency hub? I am increasingly thinking of it as an "...and Friends" model, based on the insight that you choose your friends and not your family (I hate the expression Sister Agency, so many sisters I know seem to hate each other - but that's an aside)
As real-time truly kicks in we need to find new and smarter ways of charging for time and ideas. Yes, payment by results but the truly integrated campaigns are so tightly intertwined and aligned, how will we be able to tell which part of the campaign truly accounted for what % revenue growth. How do we charge and how do we staff continuous participative conversation-driven campaigns?
How do we ensure that the art of story-telling is not lost? It's all well and good to know your Quora from your Qwiki but how do we combine technology and narrative in a way that truly connects on an emotional level? Have we lost the skill of wrapping a story around an idea?
Thinking about always-on campaigns, how do we work together better with the likes of sciptwriters and games developers and political campaign agencies? I can see what's in it for us, what's in it for them?
Where does crowdsourcing fit? Does it fit?
It seems to be that its a question of innovation - harnessing the power of adaptability. Evolve or die.
It's going to take enormous energy to try and attempt to find new and looser ways of working. It's a new business model that no-one has really cracked yet.
I think that the future of advertising is about these 5 things:
- Smaller units
- Madder people
- People who don't know (or dare I say, care) about Snow Plough or Saatchi & Saatchi in the 80s
- People who can find stories in numbers
- People who don't work in the office
I wish that we could have debated some of those areas.
Any thoughts on "the future of advertising" happy to hear them!