(The following are my notes from the opening presentation at OMMA Global in San Francisco today. I hope you like them)
“This is an exciting time. There’s a lot of excitement. There is the potential of a renaissance going on in the ways that marketers speak to consumers.”
I recently uncovered an article that I write in February of 2002 that said the exact same thing.
You’ve probably been to a conference of two over the last 10 years where you heard someone on stage start by saying that same exact sentence.
Is it because we’re stuck, or is it because we simply don’t know what else to say?
The topic for today is “The Great Race: Catching Up With Consumers” and the description is all about disruption. Sometimes when things are radically disrupted, your brain goes into shock and you can’t think straight. Maybe we’re just so shell-shocked, that we can’t come up with anything new to talk about?
Just for the record, I don’t that that’s the case.
There are two revised themes I would offer up. First off this is actually an Amazing Race; to quote a popular TV show. The pace of which we run, and innovate, is mind boggling to the outside world.
Secondly, I want to focus on the running theme of disruption, because I read through the description of today, and the content we have for all of you, that is what resonates again with me.
Disruption is defined as the interruption of normal work or progress. I don’t know about you, but every day of my career has some component of disruption in it.
To disrupt is to throw into confusion or disorder, but I actually like disruption so I guess I must like confusion and disorder because it offers the chance for solving a problem. That kind of disruption is what has kept me in this business for so long.
Disruption is also defined, according to Wikipedia (and I believe everything I read on Wikipedia) as a method of execution whereby all four of your limbs are pulled off simultaneously with animals or machines. I don’t think that is what Mediapost had in mind – I can’t be sure though.
Depending on whom you talk to, the Internet ad business is now 17 years old. When you turn 17, you typically go off to college, you evaluate whom you’ve been, and you reinvent yourself. You find yourself. You try to determine who you’re going to be when you grow up, and you begin to lay the foundation for your life as an adult.
I think we’re at a significant crossroads for the business where there may be a little more disruption, but it will be followed by some relative calm. Think of this as the storm before the calm (the reverse of the old cliché). I think the next 3-5 years will still feel crazy and even more disruptive than things were in 1994, or again in 2001, but by 2015 we should see things slow down while consumers and companies get used to the implications of this period. I think what we are seeing right now is the laying of the foundation for the next 10-15 years. People are catching up to the technology, and technology is catching up to the people. In some recent research I have been doing I’ve uncovered that what we are seeing now with the advent of social media is actually just the fulfillment of the promise of the web. Now that the web is fulfilling on that promise, and consumers are taking advantage of it, the rate of disruption should begin to slow down, to normalize and allow for growth.
I’ve been embarking on conversations with people over the last 3 months on this topic for a book, because I think our business is at that pivotal stage of its life cycle. We’re fulfilling on our initial promise and it’s our “college stage” where we can reinvent ourselves. For example, this business began by laying the foundation for its ad models on a print model, but as video is becoming more pervasive, maybe we can begin to go to toe-toe- with TV? Social media changes the rules, but now we’re starting to write those rules and see how to use the medium going forward. That’s our college stage – the chance to evaluate and redefine ourselves. Thankfully, unlike college, I think we already had our drunken partying days of excess – those days are behind us – I like to call them 1998 and 1999. This is our time to prepare for growth and maturity and to even potentially overtake TV as the single most important place to engage with customers through advertising and marketing. And I think we will be.
There is truly no better period for disruption than right now. Now we’re prepared for it. It’s the Money Ball era of marketing, where we have the data and we know how to use it.
We can disrupt the business itself by making sure we grab hold of what works, apply it to what’s new and plan for where we want to go. The data is there and it doesn’t lie.
Consumers are disrupting the business by latching on to mobile platforms and social media and taking the lead on when, where and how they interact with content and brands. When they react positively to something we do, it’s great. When they react negatively, we respond.
There’s disruption in the world of advertising as more advertisers are truly learning to become marketers, and the people in this business are learning new skills.
The model is disrupting as brands realize they cannot just broadcast a message, they have to have a conversation. We’re all realizing that brands are becoming publishers and publishers are becoming brands, but consumers are the ones in control.
Not much of this is new, but it is all sinking in, and its all becoming more widespread than it used to be.
What is also interesting about this disruption is that some people were more prepared for it than others.
If you are going to be successful during this period, I have some advice.
- Do an audit of your systems – see if you have the right process in place to react to what is going on.
- Do an audit of your team – is your team the right one? Do they have the skills? Are they flexible enough to learn?
- Do an audit of your competition – what are they doing that you are not?
- Do an audit of yourself – are you up to the task? If not, who can you bring in to help? What do you need to succeed?
Over the last 3 months of conversations that I’ve been having I’ve heard some themes. The single most important theme that has arisen is that people, not technology, drive this business.
Those outside the business think we’re all about technology, but we’re really about people. People and relationships.
People respond and use technology.
People create the relationships and share the ideas that drive this business.
And people are very resilient.
The people who drive this business are passionate, and they actually ENJOY disruption.
All of you in this room are the people driving this business and you ENJOY disruption, and if you didn’t you wouldn’t be in this room. That being said, you may not be ready for it! That’s why I gave the advice I just gave – part of being a strong manager, entrepreneur, employee is knowing when you know what you don’t know. You might have to go learn something new, and if you are not up to it that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. It just means you need to surround yourself with people who can!
As we enter into the next stage of the business – our early adult years – we are being forced to create new infrastructures and new processes to respond to the disruption facing our business. Agencies are looking for the way. Publishers are looking for the way, and we are going to get there together.
What I recommend is this; to succeed in the next few years, create a plan. Map out a strategy. That gives you a framework, or a context, from which to evaluate ideas and tactics. Your plan doesn’t need to be bullet proof; it just needs to be a plan. Integrate social, search, mobile, video, display, etc. – think about how media opps work together. Think about owned, paid and earned. Think about broadcast and conversation. Think about TV, radio and print with online. Think about the tactics you have, organize a strategy and work from there.
By attending this conference today, you are showing an interest in finding a solution to your day-to-day challenges, so use the time wisely. Engage the people you will see on stage, and the people you run into on the floor. Ask smart questions, take down key advice and process the information presented so you can be successful. That’s why you’re here, and I would personally expect nothing less.
In the meantime, I’ll try my best as emcee for the event to come up with fresh things to say; more fresh than “This is an exciting time. There’s a lot of excitement. There is the potential of a renaissance going on in the ways that marketers speak to consumers.”