After spending some time at Advertising Week at the end of September, it seems that everyone in the marketing industry is focused on the future. Between forecasts for media spending and strategies for new consumer-facing technology, it's clear that everyone (once again) wants to be ahead of the curve.
Yet rarely do forward-looking conversations focus on the day-to-day work of the marketer. We talk about emerging platforms and technologies that will be used, but the challenge is often about understanding how everything fits into the 9 to 5 and how the workspace will change to accommodate progress. There's a growing need for 24-7 marketing awareness to align with the always-on consumer, but how does that manifest itself in the brand marketer's office? We've likely already seen a preview in the form of the "war room," an all-hands marketing gathering geared around a tent pole event like the Super Bowl or Oscars.
The problem is that war rooms as they exist today are episodic -- a few agency folks embedded with the brand for one night, working overtime to ensure they don't miss an opportunity for the next "dunk in the dark" moment. Why is this only for one night? The future of advertising relies on building permanent marketing command centers that put data, visualization, and control of all of a brand's campaigns at the marketer's fingertips.
Permanent setups do exist -- I've seen several when visiting brands. The issue is that so few marketers actually use these setups on an ongoing basis. You hesitate to call them "war rooms" when they lack any sense of urgency. In fact, some of the material on display isn't even useful. Some simply have video monitors showing trending hashtags and random sentiments. Others have charts and graphs on display because they look pretty. What is a marketer supposed to do with that information? What does it even mean?
The always-on marketing command center should give marketers the power to look at their actual campaigns, and to adjust their media spend and campaign tactics as needed. The marketing industry is now heavily reliant on technology, but to many, technology simply means that a computer spits out information. That means information is only going one way, and is hardly interactive. Marketers need the ability to interact with the data and images they're seeing to determine the best course of action, making changes both big and small.
One of the best examples of this I've seen belongs to Wendy's, where the team has access to the digital menus and signage at every Wendy's location. In other words, Wendy's HQ can see what consumers are seeing in any store in any state at that moment on their monitors. This allows them to push menu changes, content, and animations through to their locations instantly.
Wendy's is a great example of a brand constantly tweaking to deliver the best experience to the consumer. The goal of using technology like this is not to have a 50-person gathering every four to six months, but to oversee the media buying and messaging and make light touches periodically.
There's no reason other brands of all sizes and business types can't develop something similar internally. Agencies have a clear need for this in both managing and presenting creative work to clients. Implementing systems like this may seem daunting, but the cost of hardware is plummeting -- 65-inch monitors are available for as little as $500. Investing in the technology to run a system like this is arguably as important as investing in technology to buy and serve the advertising itself.
The future of marketing isn't about episodic messaging, but about accessing the actual campaign and seeing it live, in the office, at all times. It's about knowing what's going on with every piece of a cross-channel marketing effort, as well as competitors' campaigns that are hitting consumers' feeds. The social media war-room of today is a tiny window into the future. Marketers can use that model, exchanging the single-day, all-in mentality for a long-lasting permanent look across their campaigns. Suddenly, they'll find themselves in the future, complete with a useful tool for day-to-day marketing execution.
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