Three opportunities for agency business in the future
When talking to ad agency CEO’s and MD’s it becomes clear that basically everyone is aware of the challenges in today’s evolving digital world. However only a few seem to have a strategy on how to get their operation into shape for the future. This does not surprise. Among all the new gadgets, new tec stuff, new buzz everywhere and everyday you easily miss the forest for the trees. So in order to develop a solid strategy it might be helpful to gain a better understanding of what determines the communications ecosystem within the digital infrastructure. By realising the overlaying patterns we can spot the opportunities laying in digital service design, conversations management and insights intelligence.
Let's think of the digital world as a connection of billions of IP addresses, forming a kind of a digital infrastructure. An infrastructure we are surrounded by at anytime and where pretty much everything that can be put into 1 and 0 will be able to be sent and received. In former times the sliproad to that data highway was our desktop only. Today the access is almost ubiquitous. Mobile devices, tablets, watches, glasses, terminals, telematics, house technology (i.e. LG Homechat), wearables, fuel bands, tennis rackets, not to mention tooth brushes and pillboxes. More and more devices connect us with this invisible digital infrastructure as it is no longer just communications that can be delivered via this highway.
Digital Service Design
Coherently products and thus brands become channels. Here I love the example of the digital electric meter connected to your digital devices. It helps consumers to be in control of their power consumption and at the same time it helps electricity suppliers offering individual conditions the moment competitors are about to launch their latest ‘price dumping’ campaign. Adding value by such contextual digital services is not a privilege of brands with tangible products. Also insurances, banks etc. can design a rewarding integrated customer experience. While in the good old times of advertising everyone was running for the big creative communication idea, today it is no longer the creative art directors who are boss but a new species called creative technical director. Accordingly digital service design has become the new alchemy. Look at international agencies like Fjord or small but smart ones like FTWK or Think Moto and you`ll see, what’s around the corner.
What seems to be a low brainer yet hasn’t fully made its way into the minds of agency’s CEOs. With the help of digital we can communicate not only 1:1 but almost instantaneously. So there is no need anymore for cutting messages down to 15” or 30” seconds, keeping them short and simple for the sake of raising unaided brand recognition. We are back to the Mom’n Pop Shops, where retailer and consumer had been talking and chatting as human beings (and with respect to the cluetrain manifesto: in a human voice). Today digital communications means conversations. And basically you don’t want to have a conversation about things you are absolutely not interested in, don’t you? And this is why content marketing or native advertising or call it whatever you want will be the playing-ground in the future and a proper management of these conversations will be key. So this one goes out to all those producers, publishers, editors and journalists: “Prepare ye the way! The last will be the first!”
Having said that all conversation will be in real-time, analysis will shift from long or mid to short and very short term ending up in something we respectfully call big data. However it’s not the amount of data that makes marketers sizzle but the time pressure behind it. So the third focus should be on ‘quick’ data or big insights. Of all the chances this field is one of the most promising. Firstly because it is yet very much unexplored or as a CMO put it: “Big Data is a lot like sex in high school. Everybody talks about it, but nobody does it –or if they do it, they do it very badly.” Secondly I am sure advertising will soon turn into a dark market meaning advertising (or “commercial conversation”) will be banned by consumers from their Epson or Google or whatever glasses for the simple reason that otherwise they’d be blown off by too much information. At least because consumers will wear these glasses all day long thus redefining the meaning of ‘always on’. Another reason for the ban of ‘cookie’-based or behavioural advertising may derive from a severe legal intervention, safeguarding people’s individual data which otherwise would be flailing around the internet completely out of (self-) control. If you think that’s nonsense just remember what governments did when too many fatal car accidents happened. To fasten your vehicles’ seatbelts became mandatory.
So that's why knowing about individual consumer needs in combination with the ability to manage relevant conversations and provide a rewarding integrated customer experience will make the competitive edge for brands. And hence for agencies if they deliver on either on or even better on all three of these future business opportunities.
Same opinion? Different one? Let me know your thoughts! I am happy to discuss.