The world turns and we get a moment, like the two-faced Roman god Janus, to look at the past and to the future, and consider: what did we do that we want to do more of? What do we want less of? Individually, as an agency, and in the industry?
The turn of a new year is an opportunity to consider the year behind and the year ahead, focusing on what was fun, interesting and profitable, and what inspired us. We can then set some objectives, some aspirations, and think about how we will structure our year around these areas of focus.
Looking at the big predictions for 2016, there are familiar buzzwords that we have certainly read about many times before – terms such as integration, collaboration, personalisation, convergence, mobile, content, agility, utility.
Too often have we cried revolution when it turned out to just be another turn around the sun. Rather than a violent uprising, we need peaceful resolutions to the everwidening cracks in the industry. So here are my thoughts on these terms, and how we should embrace them in 2016.
1. Be integrative, not integrated
Integration has been a top client concern for years, because culture, and the industry, fragmented. It is a symptom of the problem, sticking disparate pieces back together. Let's be strategically and creatively integrative from the outset.
2. Let's not get too personal
Minority Report was a dystopia, a hellish vision of the future. Products and services suit being personalised to my needs. Publishers should tailor their content based on what consumers have watched and clicked on before, but advertising that exhorts you by name as you commute feels too intrusive. Advertising is about cultural and mental availability, about social values and salience. Personalised advertising is direct marketing.
3. Convergence is about modalities more than media
All media are digital, and ads want to track you from websites to TV and back again. We don't want our cell phones listening to television ads in the background and then continuing the story, thanks. We need to celebrate new media producers and consumers as partners, which is increasingly important due to another convergence, as agencies of all kinds increasingly offer similar services and fight for the same budgets.
4. Mobile is media
When I got the new biggest-size mega iPhone phablet S, I was troubled by how big it was. In less than a day, I couldn't imagine going back. This is the screen, the only screen, everything else is peripheral, literally. Let's take what we learned from the digital divergence and not make the same mistakes again. In 2016, let's focus on compelling ideas that people won't want to block and digital display that respects the end user.
5. Don't be content with content
It has been the winter of our much-dissed content. As ad blocking rose, agencies and brands churned out an endless stream of 'content' to fill the social streams. Content is not enough, as nearly everyone can (and does) make content. Brands should leverage their scale advantage to do things people can't dream of: do things, tell people. Making content consistently successful is impossibly hard (ask any record label or movie studio), so make sure content is only one piece of the puzzle.
6. Utility needs to be useful
Having an app doesn't mean you have achieved, or rather provided, brand utility. It seems as though every brand is pushing an app, many of which seem to benefit the brand more than the individual. I really don't want these single-serve apps any more unless they actually make things easier, and even then, having an app for every airline and bank account is increasingly onerous.
7. Agility is not a strategy
Big companies and agencies with start-up envy keep trying to act like small companies, with skunkworks and abs instead of trying to understand how to better manage and leverage the scale they have as a legacy of the analogue age.
8. Collaboration means sharing the credit (and the budget)
If we want departments and agencies to collaborate, we must be willing to share the credit across the entire team. Planner, producer, PR, and profit, spreading bonuses and award credit across the roster. The people at the other agencies are just people: grab a drink, get to know them, and treat them as partners instead of the competition. After all, it's only advertising.