Which Direction for Ad Agency Evolution?

This story about the mayhem in ad-land really energized me and a number of folks i work with. It probably caused some ulcer pains to the agency leaders who read it, too. There's a revolution happening right in front of our eyes, and they have to move. They can't stay still (revenues are slipping) and they know they need to evolve (because its obvious). But, it's still hard to make a decision and go forward into the future.  Here's a couple ideas for agencies that are looking to win in the future.

Find the Idea, not Create the Idea
Most agencies i've worked with pride themselves (justifiably) on being the best creative and idea shops. The big ones invest incredible sums to get the best creative talent, because in the old days, great creative talent was hard to find. Agencies could build long, long relationships with clients because of the stable of talent they had in house. And, good talent would attract more talent and cultivate the skills of the junior folks. All those things are still true,  but with tools like Poptent, Tongal, Zoopa, GeniusRocket and dozens of others, getting in touch with creatives has never been easier.

So, instead of investing future profits in tomorrow's creative talent, agencies looking to really advance would couple the talent they have in house, with a new skill that will be critical in the future: Managing the search for the best creative idea. That is, finding the idea, not creating the idea. The new value agencies can bring to clients is facilitating these global searches, managing them for quality, being good advocates for the brand, and guideing clients through this new way of getting to their campaign creative.

We're seeing test cases from the future in Victors and Spoils, Co Collective and, here in MPLS, Magnet360.  These folks are out on the edge, creating new value and getting clients to pay them for their new expertise, not just their abilities to make ads. Traditional agencies can provide the best of both worlds but they'll have to cannibalize themselves in a lot of ways to do it.

Here's two more:

  • Live in the Data, Not the Ad – There's so much data coming out of the social stream and all the digital media big brands are buying, that the analytics and insight work is getting underserved. Traditional agencies could be investing in the skills/people who could power a new service offering for their clients: advanced social media and digital media analytics.
  • Get Great at Content planning & creation – All of us brands are publishers now. When you look at great brands like Red Bull, they create as much original programming content as most mid-sized media properties. As brands need more and more content to support the relationships they are building with fans, followers, likers, etc. they'll need the skills that most custom publishers have: Planning, developing, creating and delivering small to large piece of content. A smart move from traditional agencies would be to integrate these skills into their overall mix

If you think about it, those three skills work really well to supercharge the traditional ad business:

  1. The analytics skills lead to better insights, which makes the rest of all the creative that much better
  2. The ability to navigate through the crowds to find the best creative idea makes it easier to realize the better creative that will flow from the insights.
  3. Content planning extends those great ideas out through the stream, from friend to friend, and across the web. 

 In the end, though, "traditional" agencies will probably make their digital evolution investments based on where the short term money is: Digital creative and digital production. They'll add expensive digital creatives, and hire programmers, designers and producers that will enable in-house production. That will only bring them to parity, and won't really drive any real, meaningful differentiation between them and the agency next door.

Searching for the Future of Television – Technology Review

Google had good reason to sweat the details. Since the mid-1990s, several costly efforts to bring the Web to the TV have fallen flat. Hybrids such as WebTV Networks, which disappeared into Microsoft in the late 1990s, suffered from myriad problems, including poky network connections, underpowered hardware, and clunky user interfaces. But even if they had worked better, these earlier endeavors would still have suffered from a bigger problem: their developers seemed to forget that most people hadn't bought their televisions to browse the Web. They just wanted to watch TV.

They still do. But now new technologies and an increase in TV-friendly Web content are swelling the variety of programming choices well beyond what's available through their coaxial cable, satellite dish, or DVD player. As the Internet makes inroads into the last great mass medium, millions of people are starting to program their own niche television experiences. For as little as $60, new devices and software from TV makers, startups such as Roku and Boxee, and giants such as Apple have made it a snap to deliver online content to any set. In addition to what's available online at no charge, programming can be streamed to TV sets from Netflix for $8 a month or from Amazon Video on Demand starting at $1 per episode.

via www.technologyreview.com

A little holiday weekend reading for you!

MediaPost Publications: Poptent Hits $1 Million in Video Ad Payouts 12/20/2010

But Poptent isn't always leaving agencies out of the loop — about 20% of its work comes from agencies rather than directly from brands. Chicago-based marketing firm Robinson Maites, for example, which works with FedEx, handled the ad buys via Poptent for the shipping giant. And Poptent worked with OMD on campaign strategy related to the GE "Tag Your Green" assignment. Boutique creative shops may also be among those submitting prospective ads.

via www.mediapost.com

This is a new, important role for agencies: Finding the idea, vs. creating the idea. More on this soon…

Amazon.com: Drink This: Wine Made Simple (9780345511652): Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl: Books

*Starred Review* It’s all about the grape, stupid! No, that’s not an entirely appropriate tone to set in identifying the basic premise of this welcome and enjoyable book. Indeed, as James Beard Award–winning wine writer and restaurant critic Grumdahl avers and asserts throughout her knowledgeable and buoyant text, wine is all about how and where grapes are grown. But never in this perfectly accessible course in wine appreciation is the author’s attitude toward the reader anything but supportive, considerate, and sympathetic to the intimidations inherent in being conversant in the language of wine. She admits she found understanding wine overwhelming at the outset of her career, and this admission underscores her careful explanations of how to negotiate wine lists in restaurants, build your own wine collections, how and with what to serve various wines, and how to comprehend the layouts of wine shops. Competence is what she seeks to instill in her readers, and her own is obvious from the first page. Her “teaching” method is based on her belief that “what you like is the only thing that matters. It’s your taste.” The book’s format is attractive and comfortable, adding to its appeal. For all active cookery collections. –Brad Hooper

via www.amazon.com

Really been enjoying this book!

Nerd Alert: Native Apps or Cross Platform

We have all seen many platforms on top of hosts that don’t feel right and don’t look good. That doesn’t mean that cross platform can’t work. Flash is an example that is very much cross platform and that community very much went the “every app will have its own UI”…. probably TOO far in the other direction ;)

via almaer.com

Fodder for my ongoing project re: mobile strategy development & approach.