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Being Positive About the Future of Advertising

Does advertising have a bright future?  If we’re talking about doing things the way they have always been done without changes, then yes, the future is bleak. And where change isn’t happening fast, that’s because the agency still makes enough money doing things in the same old way.

If however we’re talking about ‘back to the future’ on some level, where agencies focus more on investing in talent and culture, things are a little less transactional and about hiring and firing at will, things can be good.

There are some agencies that have found more balance between short term profit and creating a great place to work. These are also places that have crossed the rubicon and evolved a new way to make money, one typically either more integrated in the focus of the outputs or have a brand experience focus in mind, typically the same thing.

So what degree of confidence should you have in your current role?

Some of the questions that will clarify this for you. What are the outputs of your agency? What does it offer and how well does it deliver on the promise? And, how committed it is to a short-term P&L versus investing in the medium and longer term? Is it an agency more focused on relationships and partnerships than making the next quarters’ numbers? Of course whatever the place you work, how positive you can be does depend hugely on the value you provide.

The Market

Companies/In-House Agencies – There are some solid examples where in-house  works but in many more cases it hasn’t in large part because the move to developing in-house agencies has been driven by procurement. The reason why most companies work with agencies is because they are seeking creative thinking borne of creative cultures. Simply bringing creative talent client-side does not in itself make for a create environment and so agencies will still be needed.

Consultancies – Perceived as a short-term threat to agencies, they have compelled the agency business to become more business focused. Even without consultancies, the emergence of digital channels created the transparency and immediacy of results for clients which called for a transformation of the agency business.

Agency Leadership/Quality of Thinking – The reason why the agency business hasn’t innovated is not because there isn’t the strategic thinking to know what needs to be done; It’s not due to a lack of strategic or business savvy. It’s actually because the agency business still makes a lot of money, particularly the holding companies, that don’t want still very profitably run agencies to change, even if their focus is one or a few channels. (This hasn’t been without huge impact on employee salaries and job security). The good news is, the business does have the quality of people needed to successfully navigate the business forward. It’s the business model that’s the problem.

Creativity Rules – There will continue to be huge uncertainty over the next few years as agencies adjust. That said, there is a greater need than ever to find creative ways to get people engaged with products/services. New integrated marketing agencies will and are appearing. Ones that are as much about targeting algorithms as they are at impacting consumer actions. But above all else creative thinking will remain key.

Why I’m Optimistic?

Consumers – Are not going away. People still wish to be made aware of new products and services; There will always be a need for storytelling, the essence of great communications; And creative engagement, whatever the channel (pre/at/post sale) is as much about the future as it is mobile.

How Well Positioned Are You Where You Currently Work?

Your Organization – If it’s an integrated agency, you are much better positioned than if it’s not. Conversely if there is a focus on one or more channels, pick a leader in the field.

Your Expertise – If you are an effective strategist or creative, great at understanding consumers, great at building business, you should be good.

Timeframe – In the short term, whatever you do there will be uncertainty as even if you do a great job, and even if you are part of an integrated organization, it in turn is part of an industry and culture experiencing seismic change.

Personal Growth – If you are someone that welcomes variety, constant learning and new challenges, you are more likely to successfully navigate forward. If you don’t know what skills you should develop/what makes you most marketable, contact me and I will try and help.