There is no doubt in my mind that we are on the edge of a huge shift in media that few understand. I'd say it's in the hundreds of people worldwide. I'm not kidding - that's how clueless I think media is today. Most are looking at their shoes - especially during the global economic slide - when they should be considering what's in store 5 years from now. But, I get it, too - traditional companies are in hunker-down, survival mode, and so too are many agencies, web publishers, ad networks - even some ad technology companies.
After attending ad:tech Chicago and listening to participating agencies, to say there is a lot of work ahead for agencies is an understatement.
ad:tech's Drew Ianni, former Atmosphere chief, thinks the unbundled, holding company model isn't working. During a panel led by OMG Digital's CEO Matt Spiegel, executive marketers from OfficeMax and Mazda agreed that having creative and media apart was inefficent. (Makes sense. Efficiency!) But the Sears CMO said he liked auction of ideas among his roster of creatives. (Makes sense. Transparent auction!)
Here's another wrench for brand marketers to consider: media agencies are creative. I think some marketers understand this.. more don't.
The agency model is definitely going to explode in my opinion, with more math and less shmoozing. Large media agencies will fragment - they'll have to. Perhaps media agencies become holding companies for smaller media agencies or media trading companies?
Yes, scale is nice, but better tech and the ability to use it and improve it - similar to Palantir's partnerships with young analysts - effectively on a per account basis will trump scale. Differentiation will occur due to varying degrees of improved or proprietary algorithms (tech) and saavy analysts/media traders (services).
A critical part of what I'd call "the soft stuff" will remain the agency's intellectual property - relationship building - which agencies will absolutely need in order to stay relevant in media. Relationships will add value for the end client through listening, education and execution that drives toward a digital world. Shmoozing will not cut it. I mean, I love a cocktail now and again, but put the glass down for godsakes and get your butts in gear.
Executive-level, direct marketers seem like they're in an even more difficult bind as they are dealing with the C-suite in a recession, and don't have time to get there arms around a digital shift. Here's where agencies come in, but they're having trouble, too. Oh man... What in the world is going on here! Will ad networks save the day? No. They're all about to morph into media traders or ad tech companies. For the most part, ad nets will not turn into agency competitors unless they can provide a cross-channel (traditional and digital), digital, or an easy, plug-and-play agency solution for the online world within the marketers "digital" roster which includes digital TV, radio, out-of-home, etc.
By the way (not that you asked but), I think there will be more ad networks not less. And, they may also become the math/analyst back end, or media traders, to the agency/relationship front end. Nobody is more prepared than ad networks for the media trading world.
I think I've heard enough panels on "too many ad networks." Give it a rest, you've made your point.
Technology and geeks are here to stay - and exploding the media trade. If you're hanging on to your traditional thinking and don't change, before you know it, the geeks are going to be your Mommy or Daddy.
Have a nice weekend.