As I’ve said offline to many people, it’s an exciting time to be involved in marketing. And it’s not just exciting for folks like myself who were never particularly wedded to the traditional advertising. All around the industry, there seems to be a critical mass of brands and agencies that understand that what we’re witnessing is the end of the hegemony of the :30 spot. Yes, consumers are in charge, and a lot of marketers have had to grudgingly acknowledge that fact. But, having acknowledged it, what will they do to adjust to this new reality? To the many lists of things to expect in 2005, here are three more things you should be on the lookout for in the year ahead:
1. Changes by the brands will force changes by the agencies. Even if most brands haven’t made huge structural changes, they’ve begun to understand that they need more holistic solutions—not just advertising solutions, direct mail solutions, promotions solutions or online solution—marketing communications solutions that enable them to address the business challenges they face in the 21st century. Until very recently, the problem was that most of a client’s strategy was done by the advertising agency. And, particularly in the larger shops, there was a lot of indulgent, inwardly-focused navel gazing. This was a byproduct of people and organizations that believed they could solve a brand’s business challenges in thirty seconds. But the big aircraft carriers of the industry are trying to turn. CEOs such as Andrew Robertson at BBDO and Ann Fudge at Young & Rubicam Brands understand that soon there won’t be a distinction between “above-the-line” and “below-the-line”. It’s just going to be “marketing.”
2. But the really exciting stuff is happening at the smaller shops. Anomaly. StrawberryFrog. Mother. Amalgamated. Anomaly’s recommendations and output for Dasani will not just be about the marketing, but will also include identity, packaging and working with the brand’s retail channels. Both StrawberryFrog and Mother offer fundamental challenges to the stifling bureaucracies and agency networks in both their organizational structures and their approaches to client businesses. In both cases, they look at client businesses and design media agnostic solutions. See SF’s work on Hoegaarden and Sprint and Mother’s holiday campaign for Target, which included a sweepstakes and wake-up calls from celebrities. With a partner that includes a heavyweight from the world of academia, Amalgamated’s approach (cultural branding) provides a research-backed framework for building iconic brands, which tend to be developed accidentally, at best. Overall, expect more shops to take an entrepreneurial approach to building their own business and that of their clients.
3. "Multicultural" will mean a lot of things, but it may not mean African-American. There is a move afoot within the halls of many brand marketers where “multicultural” means Hispanic and many of the CPG companies are laser-focused on the this market. Fortunately—or unfortuanately for the black agencies—African-American celebrities (rappers, athletes, actors, etc.) are mainstream heroes and drive popular culture. Leon Wynter, former Wall Street Journal “Business and Race” columnist and author of “American Skin” , has written extensively about this and says “the new school is about black talent being their black selves for any and everybody who tunes in.” No longer part of a small community, but rather they are now known and understood in the context of the general market, the fact of which further erodes the need for a specialized agency to deal with them. One bright spot, I think, is that growth may be with agencies that focus on youth—African-American, Hispanic, Asian—and dimensioning the ever-changing “urban mindset,” that highly coveted psychographic space that links young people across ethnicities and geographies.