As 2018 draws to a close, those who have been preaching the end of advertising probably have more than a little justification for a victory dance. With the merger of JWT, an industry giant that once represented the best of what our industry talent can achieve, into Wunderman and Y&R’s dissolution into VML, some of our most revered brands have slid beneath the surface of restructuring. Watching the giants consume each other, it could be easy for commentators to draw the conclusion that advertising’s glory days are over. However, this is a lazy conclusion.
The rise of the small
There will be a wave of new, more entrepreneurial creative businesses built out of the talent that is uncomfortable surviving in the complex corporate structures emerging in the new hybrid agencies.
Uncommon represents one of the strongest ever first years for an agency startup. James Murphy and David Golding promise a new hands-on creative agency after their exit from Adam & Eve. And of course, Jonathan Mildenhall’s 21st Century Brand, aiming to play a positive cultural role and build a legacy that serves humanity for good, all point toward a new energy challenging the dominance of the corporate networks.
While the networks focus on giving clients everything under one roof, the new crop of smaller businesses will see the owner-managers get their hands back into the work and begin to lead the way through creativity.
Technology brings honesty
Impressive new technology has a habit of siphoning off huge marketing budgets even when it has zero relevance to marketing. Agencies have a habit of following this money, but what if we looked at how technology could improve our business? A prediction around the growth of blockchain and its use across any industry is a safe bet; Gartner believes it will create a $3 trillion business by 2030.
For advertising, it could create honesty. Imagine a media agency where all transactions are transparent and based on undisputable trackable performance stored in the blockchain. Agency remuneration reflecting actual work against a blockchain enabled contract. The world’s biggest awards festivals could legitimize work against scam entries, authenticity guaranteed at every step.
Our mistake with new technology is often to look at the marketing first to be had. If we put blockchain to our service in creating transparency and doing our administration, leaving us to do what we do best, it could give us space for more creativity while bringing our credibility back.
At your service
How do we access this kind of technology if we don’t have the specialist skills? This upcoming year will be the year that platforming really takes off. Everyone is familiar with software as a service, but we’ll start to see blockchain and VR as a service. The barrier to entry for these services will drop and open up interesting uses of these technologies to more people. The big partnerships that could only be negotiated through the Goliath agencies can now be accessed by the smaller David creative businesses.
The tech team is not an endangered species as yet, but you may begin to see them turning into robots. Gartner believes that by 2022 40 percent of application development will involve AI co-developers.
Renewed focus on environment
There is a much bigger focus on the fate of the planet and how that affects us as humans. The tsunami of exposure on single-use plastic has started to change consumer behavior. From the ubiquity of the keep-me-cup to “plogging” groups (jogging while picking up litter) are popping up everywhere.
While there is a truth that purpose of all kinds has been used and misused, the concern for what we’re doing to our host planet, its resources and respect for our fellow humans is no longer the domain of the activist. How we run our businesses, recruit talent and help brands grow in more sustainable ways will be brought into question more than ever.
Gross national happiness
The link between wealth, employment and production is a 19th-century legacy that’s breaking down, especially as technology advances and reduces the need for human resource.
How we define wealth will start to change. Wealth will be liberated from pure economic metrics. Our health and happiness as individuals and as a race will gain more importance as part of what makes us feel wealthy, even at the sacrifice of income and production.
New ways of working that allow us to find a new wealth by combining our economic status with our health and happiness will manifest. It’s already begun in our industry with networked creative groups and distributed agencies that allow talented people to come together on more flexible terms. Far from being a collection of advertising drop-outs who are struggling for work, the most talented among us are opting into this approach.
If we take the rise of the smaller, more independent creative business. The assistance and honesty that technology can bring. The time yielded by the platforming of once specialist services. The growing ecological crises raising the question of why we need to keep producing more. We’ll see that an alternative way of producing wealth is less a choice and more an absolute imperative.