Three seasoned marketers give their opinions on the new media ecosystem, and who will survive the revolution.
The Agency Summit in Phoenix, Ariz., began with a triple bang: Terence Kawaja, president and CEO of LUMA Partners, joined forces with Cadreon's CEO, Brendan Moorcroft, and Cathleen Ryan, the chief results officer at MEA Digital, for the opening keynote on today's digital advertising ecosystem.
Kawaja, creator of the pervasive Display Advertising Technology Landscape chart, took the stage first, citing the infamous Bermuda Triangle as the perfect analogy for the state of digital advertising: "It's mysterious, and it's deadly," he said. "It is not, however, mythical: The media Bermuda Triangle is very, very real."
Explaining that we are now in an age that he dubbed "the science-ified era" -- an epoch of personalized media for consumers led by the four horsemen of social, mobile, local, and real-time -- he posited the question everyone in the room was wondering: "How does the agency survive in this world?"
The answer, according to Kawaja, is with science -- or, more specifically, the scientific knowledge to figure out how this crowded new space operates. Further, agencies need to use that skill set to earn their seat with a client. In this accelerated world of meritocracy, you can't rely on past relationships with clients. Most importantly, don't get left behind: "Make errors of commission, not omission. This is no longer a time to sit on the sidelines."
Moorcroft and Ryan took the podium next, going head-to-head to present different sides of the argument. The first discussion point was, "Is this new ecosystem the land of opportunity or chaos?" Moorcroft began by aligning himself with the latter view, adding: "We tend to make things significantly more complex in the digital space. The burden of proof on digital agencies has been significantly greater than on our traditional counterparts."
Ryan, opposing that view, argued that the chart indicated a huge amount of opportunity for agencies in particular. "This gives all of us a chance to differentiate ourselves. It's not about strength or scale, it's about how smart you are, and what you can do for your brands that no one else can." Ryan suggested that agencies look at the chart and ask, "What is my value proposition?"
The keynote became interactive at this point, when the audience members were given 10 minutes to discuss the question among themselves and bring their thoughts to the table. Paul Santello from Evolve Media stated that many of the agency people his table knew were too busy dealing with the "trials and tribulations of agency life" to take a step back and understand what Kawaja's chart was telling them.
Moorcraft conceded that one of the elements not emphasized enough on the chart are the key pieces needed to enable the organization to work, while Ryan answered that agencies must learn to be more fluid, relearning their approach to enable them to bring analytics into their planning.
The second talking point was an overview of the top skills that are required to thrive in this ecosystem from an agency perspective. Ryan insisted that in this time of "science-ification," art is actually more important and critical than even understanding the science part of it. Employing the psychology term "fluid intelligence" -- the capacity to think logically and solve problems in novel situations independent of prior knowledge -- Ryan explained that what we learn today might not be applicable in a year. She cited fluid intelligence combined with risk acceptance as the two most important characteristics in an agency survivor.
Brendon took a different angle, breaking down his essential skill set into three components: "You have to be a strategic consultant, a systems innovator, and a portfolio manager. You have to show that, without a doubt, the decisions you have made can be seen in the results."
Kawaja closed the keynote with his answer: "It doesn't matter if we're talking about art or science, creative works. Any ad format, any media channel, good creative is going to deliver good results. It's necessary but not sufficient." Agencies need the skill set to understand the dynamics of the new ecosystem, and the technologies at play within.
If there was one thing that all three experts agreed on, it's that things are changing, and they're changing quickly. Agencies should suit up -- it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Lucia Davis is associate editor for iMedia Connection.
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