Admen: are you resistant to change?

It had been widely reported that while delivering the opening keynote session at ad:tech New York on Nov 4, Sir Martin Sorrell claimed “The people who run agencies tend to be of an older vintage – to put it politely,” and that “They tend to be resistant to change…”  ( 04-Nov-09)

I remember back in 1998, when I was Executive Creative Director of an agency, I did a house ad about the changing landscape of the business. The ad featured a new born baby with the headline “When I grow up, I don’t want to be in advertising.” Back then I already realised the many changes in what advertising is and will be. Today, the thinking is no longer just a theory. With the tremendous impact of technology in the advertising business, what’s becoming more and more evident in the past year is that the “advertising business” has changed dramatically, both physically (downsizing, restructuring or emerging new models) and philosophically (the notion of consumers and engagement in particularly).

Here are some of the changes currently happening and ‘evolving’…

You don’t create ‘campaign’ anymore, you construct ‘platforms’. A talk by Bob Greenburg and Barry Wacksman of R/GA had elaborated this idea that a platform is built to last and can facilitate ongoing activities. It also lead me to think that it’s passé to talk about ‘campaign burst’ now since the advertising activities are spreading and being sustained strategically throughout the year.

Media ‘buying’ is now more about ‘connections’ suggesting nowadays brands connects to the ‘always on’ multichannel audience through a mix of paid-for and free mediums. On a practical level, this of course impact on managing remuneration – commission base vs. fee base.

The ‘always on’ multichannel audience also means ‘prime time’ is no longer applicable. Some also advocates that the term ‘target audience’ is misleading since it seems to imply that they are ‘an enemy’ (may be we should start calling them ‘friends’).

Forrester’s new report entitled ‘Adaptive Brand Marketing: Rethinking Your Approach to Branding in the Digital Age’ which calls for a change in the function and role of the brand manager, they propose renaming the function to ‘brand advocate’ who thinks ‘collectively’ in order to cope with the increasingly media fragmentation and consumer power.

A lot of these ideas of course are not new. We talked about creative platforms in the 80’s when integrated marketing and campaign was the hot topic with the infiltration of direct marketing and sales promotion activities. But the overt change of vocabulary often can help to shift mindset in a totally refreshing way. The change should not be just symbolically in the way we call it – but fundamentally how we approach it and it has to be relevant to each brand.

Back to Sir Sorrell’s remark, I think it is slightly unfair to say the agencies leaders are ‘an older vintage’, there are many respectable and equally open-minded ‘old vintage’ out there.  Experience often brings about the unbeatable insight that cannot be under-estimated. Technology is crucial in the advertising business but it’s the idea behind it that often truly makes the difference.