Moderator John Durham, CEO and managing partner at Catalyst S+F, opened up the iMedia Agency Summit keynote by explaining that there are 108 shades of gray. Further, it is the only color in the Pantone system that is spelled two different ways. It's the color of ambiguity and, thus, the shade of the digital world right now. Defined roles in digital are disappearing as agencies become publishers, publishers become exchanges, and brands become content curators.
Adam Lavelle, the chief strategy officer at iCrossing, opened up the panel by stating that the world of gray is a moot point: It's here, so there's no point in worrying about it. Instead, it's an opportunity to say, "I'm going to do something." Lavelle said that while targeting is very important, it's just as important to think about content. "If you're in the digital space, everything is powered by content," he said. New competitive forces will only make the industry better and spark innovation.
Following this thought, panelist Eric J. Grilly, the EVP and chief digital officer of Comcast Sports Group, noted that, a few years ago, Comcast Sports Group was asking itself, "How do we build a digital presence in the marketing space that allows us to become a significant player?" The company was 15 years late to the game in trying to compete in the digital world. Grilly explained that Comcast's unique set of assets -- and participation in distribution, technology, and content creation -- proved to be the answer to the question. Essentially, the company is an excellent example of the kind of deviation from clear-cut roles happening in the industry right now.
Next up, panelist Shane Ankeney, EVP and managing director of Initiative U.S., employed a quote from the Monkees' song "Shades of Gray" to illustrate why being in the gray is a good thing. "Now, we're having much more interesting conversations," Ankeney explained. "We're talking more about content and experiences than about impressions and target rating points." The so-called "world of gray" is a place in which the medium actually drives the message -- where people get paid for the business they drive for clients as opposed to simply the media they buy.
Jack Myers, media economist and chairman at the Media Advisory Group, rejected the idea of a gray world. "There are bright rainbows all around us," he said. Transformations -- for example, from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age -- typically take 30 years. The first 15 years are the "innovation and invention" stage, and the remaining time is the "application, implication, and monetization" phase.
"The transformation period we're in began in 1993 with the mosaic browser," Myers said. "That means we're 17 years into the transformation period, and two years into the second phase." He also pointed out that our success will depend on the integration of digital and legacy media, the latter of which dominates 98 percent of the marketing spend right now.
With this challenge in mind, our industry is in a time when it is seeing the beginning of this bright rainbow light. Right now, we have more clarity and vision of the future than we've had for decades.
Lucia Davis is associate editor at iMedia Connection.
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