Last month, Fast Company published a brilliant article by Danielle Sacks about “The Future of Advertising.” I can’t imagine anyone in our industry not recognizing the chaos she describes. And if you’ve been in the business more than five years, for sure you found your blood running cold with the shock of recognition.
She describes a world (ours) in which the old models — of media, of agencies, of client relationships — have been smashed, to be replaced by, well, as of now, chaos. Of course, she talks to lots of people who have done lots of different things in the new environment, most of them leaving big agencies and starting renegade business of some sort, some of them successful. All agree things will never be the same, that the digital revolution will sweep away the old guard. Listen closely, the sound you hear is the clicking of Madame Defarge‘s knitting needles.
But while technology has forever altered the advertising business, just as it has altered the music, radio, newspaper, television and retail businesses (to name but a few), clients’ top level needs have not really changed. Clients still need to find ways to build brands and drive sales, just like they did in Mad Men days. Just because the answer to these needs is no longer “run some TV spots and see what happens” doesn’t mean they don’t need help from teams of smart people with special knowledge and skills.
Of course, technical skills, such as programming and multimedia development will be in demand. And while commercial TV as we know it is evolving, I doubt the thing we know as the TV spot is going away anytime soon; someone will have to make them. But here are a few communications professionals that should be in high demand in post revolutionary Brandland.
Branders Who Get It. Brands aren’t losing importance. In fact, if anything, in a world where price is increasingly transparent, brands take on increased importance, simply because brands simplify choice. They’re the x factor beyond price. But whereas brands used to be highly controlled and viewed through the peephole of traditional advertising and packaging, brands are now in a fishbowl. A brand essence statement and simple Brand ID Guide doesn’t cut it. The people who craft brands need to consider not only how they look, but how they sound, smell, taste, sing, laugh, converse, not to mention how to maintain some sort of internal consistency across every conceivable encounter with customers. Understanding your brand on the most fundamental level, so you can live it within the maelstrom of media and competition has become essential. Branders who understand this and can help organizations navigate the new landscape will be needed and I suspect will take over much of the strategic work ad agencies have traditionally handled, because it’s no really just a prelude to doing traditional advertising. Brand building is an ongoing activity that may or may not involve what we now call “advertising.”
Real Writers. Once upon a time, advertising was the province of great writers such as Hopkins, Caples and Ogilvy. With the coming of TV and better printing— art directors became the stars. In the new world of Brandvertising, with its insatiable appetite for content, writers are once again in demand. But this time, it’s not just to write advertising copy. Blogs, eBooks, videos, they all require writing. And who knows what else will pop up. It’s good news for all the journalism school graduates looking at a world of dying newspapers.
Connectivistas. We now have “Social Media Gurus” (or “Evangelists,” or whatever else you call them) on one side, traditional media types on the other. But in the end, they’re all responsible for the same thing: creating pipelines that connect brands with people, and vice versa. In the new world, as the distinctions blur, we need people who understand how to integrate them. I suppose you could call them Media Professionals, but Connectivistas, or something like that, is probably more accurate, because the responsibility could extend to areas beyond what we think of as “media.” A Connectivista should be able to develop a full-out connection strategy that includes digital media, social media, traditional media, SEO, PR, point of purchase, events,… you name it. It’s an Integrated Marketing Communications professional squared.
I’m certain the list above is just the beginning. Brandvertising is, after all, a new world. But once you get over the culture shock, it sounds kinda interesting, no?