By Cary Hatch, MDB Communications

An exploding ecosystem of touchpoints, devices, platforms and methodologies continue to accelerate and shape change in our industry, our businesses and our people.

Here are eight observations, anecdotes and musings for 2018:

  1. Ideas First and Always. We should collectively acknowledge that while the marketing communications world has changed dramatically in the last two decades, digital doesn’t replace everything. This is a guiding principle advanced by Miles Young, Chairman/CEO of Ogilvy & Mather and author of the recently released “Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age”. Addressing this notion, he underscores that there is a disturbing trend to put technique above the idea, a notion first postured by David Ogilvy himself.

Young continues, “It’s about distinguishing between what’s interesting and innovative and what’s really scalable, and useful in the longer term.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s still about engaging your audience with the right message, in their channel of choice, at the right time. Theirs.

  1. Be a 360-Degree Resource. The now storied path of agency disruption has really translated, for most of us, into being more of a business consultancy, design studio, interactive agency and brand innovators for regional, national and international brands. Less about media “spots and dots”, these days agencies are helping clients grow through integrated communications strategies and teams that are well-balanced in digital fluency and
  1. Remain Curious. This as a key business principle remains constant and crucial to survival now and into the coming years. One cannot afford to be complacent or comfortable, for as it’s often said, “comfort is the enemy of achievement”. Keeping up (or ahead of) change is mandatory. Why would a client hire an agency who is not thinking about the long game? There is a constant and ever-evolving push for more data, addressable advertising, mobile penetration, video and video sharing, and innovation – all with increasing speed; the speed of NOW.
  1. Consumers Reign Powerful; evermore so now and into the foreseeable future. As far as customers are concerned, “transparency is the new black”. Consumers expect more information from the brands they use and expect brands to “do good”. Accordingly, brands must make the emotional and rational case to win over customers. Who they are and what they stand for matters and customers reward companies that reflect their values, which accrues to the corporate bottom line.

With the recent movement of Corporate Social Responsibility from a defensive public affairs function to one that drives sales and loyalty, CSR will become an even greater competitive advantage in the war of customer acquisition and the talent retention.

  1. The Role of Agencies as Connectors is now the providence of most lead agencies. In our practice, strong relationships play a significant role in maximizing every client dollar by identifying strategic partnerships as part of the account planning function. The ability to forge partnerships crafted from enlightened (brand) self-interest, just makes sense – and the alignment of marketing budgets helps to further fuel mutual campaign success.

Great agencies will see themselves as borderless innovation providers – less of hourly generators of marketing deliverables.

  1. Measuring Success—Metrics are still all over the place and scattered by channel. The race for consolidation of meaningful KPIs is the Holy Grail. Surely this will evolve soon.
  1. Talent; there are several challenges to face and fix now. The race for agency talent against business consultancies (Bain, Deloitte, Accenture, and IBM) continues. Universities must better prepare young professionals for the agency world as it is, not as it was and industry associations must develop programs that advance not just marketing acumen but business understanding. The ANA’s Pathways 2020 initiative is a solid step toward this. Aligning current practitioners with those who teach can only help to foster the next generation of astute leaders.
  1. Riding the Data Wave: There’s never been a better time to reap the benefits (and efficiencies) of consumer data. Leaning into new technology, platforms, trading desks and analytics to make each client investment deliver a more fruitful and engaging relationship with audiences is imperative. Partnering with subject matter specialists and investing in each of these can exponentially elevate one’s stature in the eyes of the CMO and in the boardroom.

With optimism, forethought and tenacity, marketers can successfully navigate the travails of the coming years – after all, it’s that same kind of audacity we proudly displayed by diving into the industry in the first place. We make things happen— no matter the current state of play.

Cary Hatch is CEO, Brand Advocate, MDB Communications, a Capitol Communicator sponsor.

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