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From gloomy times springs thriving innovation

From gloomy times springs thriving innovation Melissa Wong
Building on the huge momentum of social networking and other new media, the opportunities for brands to engage audiences in exciting, new and targeted ways are energising the industry. However, the next 12 months will also pose a challenging time for the industry. As we climb out of economic recession (apparently), will adland continue to evolve at the pace required in these digitally-driven times?
In an age of dialogue, brands are finally taking part in the conversation
From web savvy kids to silver surfers, consumers across demographics are now engaging with brands on a more personal and interactive level than ever before. Long gone are the days when the big budget campaign is king. Now it is the consumer who wears the crown and is not afraid to let you know what s/he does and doesn't like. While this trend has left some brands feeling vulnerable and reluctant to relinquish control of their brand message, others have taken the opportunity to capture the imagination of the consumer and enhance brand image.
Some would argue that brand leader 'Simple' have attempted this with their website dedicated to engaging consumers. 'The 'SimplyCity' campaign at the start of the year took word-of-mouth marketing to a new level', asserts Paul Marsden, buzz marketing specialist from the London School of Economics. By providing a portal where people passionate about skincare can discuss and contribute to the brand message, they have given a voice to their consumers.
Digital truly in the driving seat of marketing integration
Different agencies might have different definitions for the term 'integration', however, the resounding majority would claim to hold it as a high priority in their business. The term has been around since the full service model claimed to be all things to all clients, but lo and behold clients are still voicing frustration that true integration, or indeed collaboration is still missing from the client agency dynamic.
2010 will also see the industry realise digital is no longer a speciality and far more of a core capability that clients will always expect their agency teams to deliver. It will become an 'essential' skill for all staff to have some degree of digital fluency -- something Maurice Levy aspired to across his Publicis network some time ago.
With more demanding clients and a more complex media mix clients, agencies are under more pressure than ever before to deliver a truly integrated service. Even as long ago as December 2007 (during Marketing Week's New Agency Models conference), Carolyn Managh, Brand Director at eBay.co.uk described being truly integrated as 'having the ability to jump from medium to medium and mix things up if need be'. She, along with other brands, are demanding that it should be the big idea leading a seamless campaign rather than a one size fits all approach to different media.
Also under scrutiny next year will be the way that brands and agencies interact, both in regards to the mechanisms of the relationship as well as the creative output. According to a recent IPA report, 87 per cent of brands are now working with multiple agencies, which could go some way to explain why Caroline Johnson, head of consulting at Results believes brand executives are expressing 'a lack of trust and dissatisfaction with processes' in their dealings with agencies. So could it be that the changing and expanding role of brand management is affecting the ability to build meaningful relationships between client and agency?
So what's next?
For those who wish to flourish in economically challenging times, fresh thinking, collaboration and innovative delivery models will be critical. Many would disagree that this can be achieved in practice, but perhaps 2010 will provide the impetus that is necessary to prove the sceptics wrong as we push through the recession and into more prosperous times.
Melissa Wong is content manager at iMedia U.K.

Melissa is a graduate of the University of Warwick where she studied Comparative American Studies. After graduating, she joined one of the world's leading conference companies, IQPC, as a producer. She then moved to Centaur Publishing where she...

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