Over the past few years, because of a combination of Internet disintermediation, recession, and corporate blindness, the [advertising] assembly line has been obliterated -- economically, organizationally, and culturally. In the ad business, the relatively good life of 2007 is as remote as the whiskey highs of 1962.
I wasn't surprised by Fast Company's doom and gloom. The article was just a retread of all the Big Scary Death of Advertising stories we've been reading for a few years now. But being boring doesn't make you wrong. The world of 2011 looks nothing like the one in which many of us learned our craft.
In a 2008 interview I did with Scott Goodson on FutureLab, I said the greatest challenge for the marcomm industry was this:
Defining for new clients how we will approach their business problems.
I still think that's true. But while the pitch process remains a bit of a jumble, the agency business model has changed. In 2011, your ad agency will be faster and more innovative than ever before. Here are five reasons why.
1. Collaboration: Today, culture is made with mash-ups. It's about Kid Cudi mixing Christian Bale with LCD Soundsystem. About ideas that build on each other. That's how agencies will be working in 2011. Small teams of people coming together to add fresh thinking to existing work.
2. Content: Social media is great. But brands shouldn't jump into other folks' conversations uninvited. They should start by creating content worthy of conversation. And then listen, engage and refine.
3. Play: Ty Montague. Kevin Roddy. Alex Bogusky. Those are three of the biggest names in advertising and in 2010 they all quit their fabulous network jobs to explore the great unknown. Experimentation, play and the freedom to fail. Those are the seeds of creativity and the path to the biggest ideas.
4. Flexibility: To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. And to an agency with a bunch of specialists with billable hours to fill, every problem looks like it requires the attention of a bunch of specialists with billable hours to fill. To combat this agencies will hire people who have flexible skill sets and similar visions.
5. Platforms: There are fun individual executions. There are powerful integrated campaigns. And then there are flexible, infinite platforms. For instance, Karsh\Hagan's 100 Honest Answers campaign for American Crew has run its course. But the Ask American Crew platform we built underneath it will always be there if they want to use it again. Your agency should be thinking about the long, long run.
If the brief I'd gotten had asked for a sixth opportunity, I would add happiness to this list, and define it as "a blissful childlike state resulting from the act of creation." Because I think ad agencies are much less tied to the 30-second spot than the media would have you believe. There is so much cool stuff yet to be made. And as long as we're making it, we'll be so, so happy. Suck on that, Fast Company.
[Ed. - This post was written by Karsh\Hagan's Matt Ingwalson and cross-posted on his blog and Karsh Connect. It's also posted on The Denver Egotist.]