Society of Digital Agencies has just released their 2012 report. As always, a lot of great data, new ideas and examples of breakthrough creative work.
My article, You Need to Build a Spaceship, page 42.
Digital Manifest Destiny dictates a fundamental change in your organization. It also presents a competitive advantage for those willing to start now.
digital manifest destiny (n): consumption of everything is digitally served, connected, integrated, recorded and measured publicly or privately: TV, magazines, newspapers, billboards, photos, videos, books, music, purchases, opinions, observations, friends, relationships, daily events, needs and wants, consumption of anything and everything.
You won’t find this definition in Merriam-Webster today, but we are close. Importantly for marketers, it is inevitable.
Current structures, processes, methodologies, and relationships were built on a predigital foundation. Many marketers have made a lot of positive changes; however, fundamentally this is still true. And the reality is that this foundation won’t sustain a Digital Manifest Destiny. A new foundation must be put into place for this inevitability.
I am neither endorsing this future, nor am I making a moral statement about how this affects society. It is simply the path we are on. And now is the time to make sure you are truly prepared.
So what? You may already agree. You are already spending the majority of your budget on search and mobile and social programs and the like—and those programs are integrated. You are creating, publishing, and distributing branded content. You are a part of the conversation and consider earned media to be just as important as paid media. You believe there are so many opportunities to build strong, intimate, meaningful relationships between people and brands it’s hard to fall asleep at night. You are excited to be a marketer in this digital age. You have pushed the envelope experiencing both success and failure. To you all, I am truly inspired and in awe.
Three sobering thoughts, however, to bring you pioneers back to reality. First, you are unfortunately still in the minority. Second, you need to buckle up because this is just the tip of the iceberg. Third, to be truly prepared for whatever Titanic-worthy mass comes your way, now is the time to look both inward and outward.
Build new roads and bridges, lay new train tracks, and hire the engineers, entrepreneurs, and trailblazers now. You’ll help better equip those currently on the digital path for success, as well as pave the way for future success when those finally joining don’t have any alternative path because everything they do or consume is digitally served, connected, integrated, recorded, and measured publicly or privately.
RETHINK AND REBUILD: A FEW NATURAL PLACES TO START
1. Culture and Organizational Structure
a. Pepsi provides a great example of an organization driving cultural change; some highlights are shared in this recent MediaPost article.
b. In their book Empowered, Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler share a vision for how companies have embraced digital and have thrived by empowering their employees and leveraging opportunities provided by the digital revolution.
c. Other pieces that need to be reconsidered: i. Skill sets as well as talent acquisition, management, training, and retention. ii. Integration and collaboration versus silos of responsibility. iii. Command and control structures allowing for proactive, faster decisions (empower vs. control). iv. IT and marketing as collaborators with mutual goals and incentives.
2. Partner Relationships and Compensation Structures.
Compensation is one of the hardest pieces to change, yet it must be addressed and changed. Agencies like Victors & Spoils and co: are breaking out of the margin-squeeze game by establishing new models for creating and scaling. Marketers need to get actively involved in establishing a new service and compensation paradigm.
3. A New Approach to Process and Operations
a. Definitions and briefs.
b. Steps and milestones.
c. Meetings and decision making.
d. Outcomes and reporting.
e. Integration and collaboration.
4. Content, Content, Content & Data, Data, Data
Strategy, development, architecture, publishing, analysis, visualization, reporting, management…across multiple screens and formats.
Of course, this isn’t anywhere close to a comprehensive list. It aims only to serve as a thought starter for analyzing and building the new marketing infrastructure that will be required for future success.
The changes we have all seen and experienced over the past five years are miraculous. I expect nothing less for the next five years. Success or failure will always require a mix of maximizing current opportunity while planning and positioning for future opportunity. The pervasive and transformational power of digital is both the current and future opportunity.
(originally published in the 2011 Society of Digital Agencies Digital Marketing Outlook; some revisions made for this post)
I am very proud to serve as chair for this year’s report. It’s a distinct honor to work with such an amazing collection of agencies and people.
The editorial team along with contributions from the global SoDA membership, AnswerLab, our advisory board and sponsors produced a powerful collection of insights, ideas, case studies and survey data about the recent past, present and future of digital marketing. Additionally, please find my closing article, Digital Manifest Destiny: The Time for Building a New Marketing Infrastructure is Here (p. 193-194).
These are true digital marketing pioneers driving significant value and higher returns for their clients.
There is no question, digital media has changed every aspect of content production. Non linear editing, quick recall of footage clips, multiple tracks of high fidelity audio, and compression codecs have all shaped the stories and how we told them. 2000 – 2010 was a powerful decade full of opportunities and lessons to creative professionals, content creators, and content holders. Here is one that we will take with us into 2011.
When YouTube launched in Fall of 2005, the concept that all of us would be recording and uploading as much media as we do today seemed real only in science fiction movies. So it comes with surprise and wonderment through the words of Eric Schmidt…
Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003
Seriously Eric, that is allot of information, roughly 5 Exabytes of content. How much of the 5 million gigabytes of content did you contribute? Keeping in mind that quote was published light years ago August, 4th 2010 via TechCrunch, it becomes all the more astonishing when we take a deeper look at his statement and what it means to you, me, and the billions of other people who call civilization home.
Assuming this rate of growth just stays the same and does not increase, since August 4th, 2010 to Feb 1st, 2011 we created an additional 442,500,000 Gigs of content in only 177 days. This growth is staggering and it will only get bigger this year. You can also look at it this way.
According to the first organic google search result for “Dawn of Civilization” we learn that the civilization began on B.C. 5867. Its been exactly 2,873,962 days or 410,566 Weeks since the we started creating all of this information. In this amount of time we created roughly 5 exabytes of content.
If Digital did not exist and analog content was still made a small handful of civilization like CBS, Paramount, and Warner, we would have had to wait for another 254,345,637 days to have as much information as we do today.
So the point is not just that collectively we are generating allot of content or that civilization is going to develop faster than culture may be able to keep pace with. Instead, the point that fascinates me is that the amount and presence of new, existing, and historic content is shaping our creative process and thus also the content we are making. How and where the content is watched is becoming part of the story itself. I am not sure if this is the birth of quantum media, perhaps that will be left to explore in a follow up post.
We know with all of this certain change, content will continue to accelerate and shift into new patterns of orbit. Yet no matter which way it goes, if we maintain a strong gravitational attraction through best practices, interoperability, and integrated design we will be able to benefit many times over from any angle of its inevitable rotation so we can launch new objects of media into the consumer solar system.
Do marketers need a third option when it comes to agencies? Are “traditional” (as they’ve come to be known) agencies able to continue leading in the new digital world? Are digital agencies able to build on their experience and expertise in the digital world to become the leaders that marketers need today? Or, is there an opportunity for a new model to emerge that builds on the strengths of both models in order to pave the way for marketers to take full advantage of the opportunities ahead?
For a while now in the digital space, we’ve been dealing with the cycle of “what we know today changes tomorrow.” We catch up only to fall behind – which leads many to ask if we can ever catch up? Fundamentally, I’d suggest that if we’re constantly trying to find new ways of making the old models work, the answer is no. We truly live in a brave new marketing world. The last five years of digital provide only a glimpse of the change required. Witness the social revolution, gaming revolution, the continued evolution of retail (in-store and ecommerce) as well as the ongoing mobile revolution, and you quickly realize that we are only beginning to unlock the potential of digital for the next ten years. When you also consider that these enormous advances are all integrated (or soon will become so), you start to scratch your head at the vastness and pace of change – if not beat it against the wall.
Recently, I was a little bit frightened and a lot intrigued by the picture painted by Carnegie Mellon Assistant Professor of entertainment and technology, Jesse Schell, of a future where behavioral tracking devices and gaming have taken over our lives (Post by Stephen Totilo). Frightened because after the explosion of change within this space lately, his rather disturbing future doesn’t seem that far away or entirely unrealistic. But also intrigued because I believe his commentary further reinforces the fact that digital is at the center of everything we do today and that the pace of change, adaptation and innovation cries out for someone to lead us forward. The interesting question is who?
Sidenote: For the purposes of this post, I’m using “digital” in its broadest meaning to marketing including all of its permutations that connect people wherever and whenever they may be to other people, companies, information, utilities and marketing content and messages… and vice versa.
Keen observers know that a leadership debate has been raging within this increasingly digital world for a few years now – which type of agency should lead: traditional or digital? The pace of technological change and digital marketing innovation is such that the answer seems to change as quickly as the question can be asked. But one thing is increasingly clear: both sides need to adapt their structures to deliver what marketers truly need in this perpetually new landscape.
There have been many excellent opinions voiced on this topic from the agency and analyst community recently. Edward Boches, Chief Creative Officer for Mullen, wrote a great post on his blog (creativity_unbound) combining the views of Forrester analyst, Sean Corcoran, with his own excellent commentary about the future of advertising agencies. As Mr. Boches points out, adaptation is required quickly. The key question again, can we adapt enough and in the time required based on the current traditional or digital agency model? One of the comments Mr. Boches received to his post reveals one of the primary pressures today’s agencies are facing due to the digital revolution: Ed Flynn, “We are going from a low labor and high media cost model to high labor and low media cost model.”
Over the past 75 years marketing budgets along with what agencies do and how they are structured has directly followed consumer behavior albeit with more lag time than the data may dictate: Print to TV to Digital today (an oversimplification leaving out direct mail, OOH, radio, etc). While I’m sure there are some stragglers, I believe many have accepted the fact that the primary communication vehicle or connection point for marketers is or soon will become digital. Digital will be the driver and command the bulk of marketing budgets in the not too distant future.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that all other media (TV, print, OOH, direct mail, etc) other than those considered to be digital are irrelevant today; although, they are all becoming digital. Only reinforcing that today’s consumers (that’s you and me) spend more time consuming digital communication than any other. More supporting data emerges everyday like this piece of research by the Pew Internet & Life Project reported by Cecillia Kang, Washington Post (Washington Post Article), showing the “internet surpasses newspaper, radio for news.”
So, where do we go from here?
If the debate focuses on the ensuing struggle between digital and traditional agencies for leadership, then I think we’ve missed an opportunity. We are in the midst of more technologically driven revolution. Social and mobile separately, but certainly more powerfully together, are changing the game for digital agencies let alone traditional. I believe these two elements added to the previous revolution of the past five or so years challenge all of our preconceived ideas about control, brand strategy, communication planning and agency structure. It is this latest revolution that may force real, dramatic innovation that turns the current agency paradigm on its head.
There are a lot of great traditional and digital agencies out there. With a lot of smart, talented, creative people, they are working to position and plan to be the leaders marketers will require. Both sides have inherent strengths and the best of the best agencies (traditional or digital) produce amazing work and results.
With strength and experience in brand planning, “owning the big idea,” holistic marketing planning and deep pockets in addition to acquired, homegrown or outsourced digital expertise traditional agencies are formidable. Can they reorganize while accounting for the new financial realities and marketing needs created by the digital revolution? Perhaps, but it seems like a long, uphill struggle. It is possible that the talent migration from traditional to digital is having a profound effect that will make adaptation for traditional agencies even harder. It may also be possible that traditional agencies have lost the firm grasp they once commanded on the brand and product marketing basics making it easier for digital agencies and other new agency breeds to assume the leadership position.
Digital marketers need to pick up this ball and take control of the conversation as they forge a path for the future. Brands do have meaning and value. Uncovering and discovering consumer truths and insights must be at the core of what we do. Providing consumers with reasons to believe a product or service has unique value and benefit can’t be overlooked. All of these things contribute to building a relevant, differentiated brand. Plus, there are a lot of great ideas out there about the new era of brands and brand building. Forrester presented an interesting thesis around Adaptive Branding that everyone should consider. However, I don’t believe all of the fundamental marketing and brand building blocks will or should change.
Additionally, digital agencies need to become holistic business partners with their clients understanding all elements that are a part of a marketer’s day: sales, distribution, ROI, sales channels, sales support, supply chain, merchandising, portfolio management, research, pricing, category management, promotions, packaging, etc. And traditional agencies need to truly understand digital is already leading with consumers before recommending the next muliti-million dollar broadcast media buy and production.
Can traditional agencies adapt to the extent and with the speed required to be the leaders that marketers will need and demand? Are digital agencies able to emerge from their unfortunate, predominantly subjugated role as the second in command or digital production shop? Or, is there a third option?
— I originally posted this on 3/10/10. I believe this is still true today and founded Gravity Federation to address this Third Option need for marketers.