Following more than a year's worth of conversations about recession, budget cuts, and having to do more with less, I'm afraid we may have lost sight of something very important: It's a great time to be in marketing.
I know this may be considered a bold statement, but before you dismiss it out of hand, let's just review the facts. Yes, our work in recent memory has been notably difficult; protecting the status quo took precedence over adapting to new realities. But the recession is ebbing, and the sky has not fallen. It's past time to poke our heads out, take a look around, and face the future re-energized about the prospect of what's to come.
Our industry has become about constant change -- this is the new reality. There's a new medium developed every day, for which we are required to become instant experts in the way consumers use it. The era of three-network simplicity has been gone for some time, and it's not coming back. A new era -- one that includes digital channels, mobile media, and social networks -- is upon us and will continue to expand exponentially. We can meet this era with trepidation, or we can meet it with a New Optimism. I choose the latter, and I urge you to make the same choice.
It's true the media world has become more complicated; more intricate. It's true that we are being held to much higher accountability standards than in the past. And it's true that we're inundated with more data and insights than have ever been available, and we fear they'll get in the way of our creativity. But rather than viewing these realities as challenges that make us less vital, a New Optimism presents them as opportunities to prove just how important and indispensible we are. Let's look at them a bit more closely:
The media world has become too complex
It's true: The media world was much simpler a generation ago. But that simplicity paved the way for rapid commoditization, where anyone with a basic understanding of numbers and negotiation could place an ad on television. In our less simple world, where cookie-cutter approaches are no longer effective, we are called upon to think and behave more creatively. We're no longer brokers -- we're experts, and every new medium grants us the ability to showcase our expertise and prove our value to our clients by making this world simpler to both them and consumers. Our ability to navigate these media is limited only by our creativity; our expertise is problem-solving; and our mandate is simplicity. With that perspective, complexity is actually something we can have fun with, if you are willing to roll with the occasional punch.
We have to do more with less
Yep, we do. That is the new reality, and the new era. But luckily, we also have new tools and technology that enable us to do exactly that, all while proving that what we're doing matters. With all of our new data, research, and targeted media -- measured against true human understanding -- we are now able to show actual meaningful results. We can show exactly how the work we're doing for clients makes a difference to their businesses. We can quantifiably demonstrate how the more creative solutions -- aimed at targeted audiences through specific media -- deliver the best results. Clients should no longer wonder if they're wasting half of the marketing budgets. We can show them that they're not.
Does data proliferation truly limit our creativity?
It's time to put this argument to rest. Too often, we've heard that we can't do something because there's not enough historical data to support it. But the truly creative solutions, the ones that have never been tried before, will never have historical data to support them.
In our new era, with a New Optimism, we have something better than historical data: real-time data that accurately expresses the consumer's human voice with real-time results. We can use this data to justify our creativity, while leaving the crutch of history to those unwilling to change. With these new data sources, we are no longer merely a message delivery system for our clients. Instead, we have become cutting-edge experts in human behavior and motivation, able to move as quickly as the rate of change in our industry demands. Or, at least we can choose to be.
Granted, none of this is easy. Adapting to change -- any change, good or bad -- is difficult. But we can adapt to this new era if we change along with it. That means we break down the silos that have separated parts of our agencies from each other, and we eliminate labels such as "traditional," "non-traditional," and "creative" that limit the contributions and input from others. We need to become more open source, actively pulling from all areas within our agencies and from all areas outside of them, to solve clients' problems. We need to become more entrepreneurial, identifying good ideas quickly and running with them.
This is a business begging for entrepreneurs, heroes, mavericks. If you're in the agency business, and you've ever aspired towards those labels, you're in the right place.
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