The steady decline of mass market 'push' advertising is well documented. There's been a massive amount of talk from experts the world over that interruptive advertising is going the way of the dodo bird. A scan of the world's marketing media will tell you that in an instant.
The knock-on effect, obviously, is the race between advertising agencies (and PR and marketing consultancies, for that matter) to reinvent themselves so they're well positioned for the 'new' marketing landscape. Of course, this reinvention is more to do with dollars and retaining 'brand custodian' status than really giving a toss about communicating more effectively with consumers.
Let's face it, most ad agencies would love nothing more than to return to the pre-internet days where the 30 second TVC ruled. Some agencies over the years have rebelled against that school of thought and genuinely believed there was a better way of doing things, but you'd have to say these 'new model' agencies were few and far between.
So, in light of overwhelming evidence the world really has changed and that clients have taken notice and are starting to do things differently in terms of communicating with the marketplace, it will be interesting to see which ad agencies can effectively reposition themselves for the bumpy marketing road ahead.
Of course, we will see plenty of spin, hype and lip service paid to 'new' marketing by the advertising industry. This is a given. But I hope to also see some genuine evangelists who have the guts to embrace new and different marketing methods, as well as including in the mix a broader spread of communications disciplines such as public relations and strategic word-of-mouth marketing.
Until that happens, ad agencies will simply be ad agencies. They won't die out, and nor should they, because there is still a great need for mainstream advertising, as there is for traditional media. But, as advertising's influence declines, the inverse should (and hopefully) will happen and other disciplines will come to the fore. As to who will be in the 'driver's seat', well that's the $64,000 question.
According to Brand Republic, consumer relationships are the key to future agency success.
Brand Republic reports that agencies will have to evolve from pushing advertising campaigns to nurturing communities of consumers and matchmaking them with brands.
Citing a new research report from Forrester Research, it says industry relationships may even change to the extent that instead of pitching for a brand's business, agencies may 'sell' access to groups of consumers in whose interests they learn to act.
The report was co-authored by Mary Beth Kemp, who has worked for both clients and agencies during a 20-year career in marketing, and Pete Kim. It was based on conversations with marketers from Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and HSBC and with agency bosses from WPP Group, Publicis Groupe and Omnicom.
Speaking to Brand Republic ahead of its publication, Kemp said she could not cite any current examples of agencies working the way the report predicts they will.
However, emerging trends such as social networking, word of mouth marketing and agencies harnessing user-generated content are leading down the road to the new-look agency-consumer-brand relationship.
Meanwhile, Peter Imbres’ excellent Point-Oh blog points out that CMOs are getting smarter and that "it’s much easier for a CMO to start a few new specialty areas than it is for an agency to tell their creative department to completely change the way they think".
Interesting times ahead!