Clients of the future will face a host of problems that we are not currently aware of, argues SDL’s Simon Moore. Thinking globally and adaptably in order to prepare for the future will become imperative.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them,” said Albert Einstein.
This piece of wisdom from a genius has just taken on a new relevance to the advertising industry. Sir Martin Sorrell’s claim, in his recent resignation statement, that “nobody, either direct competitors or newly-minted ones, can beat the WPP team” was an understandable exhibition of pride as he looked back on his achievements. It could also be read as symptomatic of the increasingly strained belief that pervades certain quarters of the advertising industry. Yet time and tide wait for no man. Even SMS.
Sorrell’s not alone in believing that his (former) company always knows best. Publicis continues in its unswerving commitment to “The Power of One”, while the world’s largest advertiser, Procter & Gamble, recently imposed its “People First” approach (whilst trialling with not one, not two, but three different new agency operating models) on the large ad groups with which it works.
We should celebrate diversity, flexibility and that P&G’s philosophy won’t work for all advertisers but Marc Pritchard, its chief marketing officer, is right about one thing: it’s time to talk about the client of the future. Modern marketers are faced with more channels requiring more content, more production, and dramatically different audience behaviour, with customers demanding engaging micro-personalised content. With seemingly no more money to deliver that. Something has to give. Hopefully not (further) commoditisation of the creative product. A brave new world and breed of independent creative agencies and evolved agency operating models is now available to clients. But they have to evolve their internal structures and content operating models to be able to enjoy the benefits these afford.
Of course, they’re constantly offered help to address this. Everybody seems to have a definitive solution – appoint a holding company to do everything, go with an independent micro-network, do it all in-house alongside one of the new wave of content production companies, and hire a management consultancy to make sense of it all.
But the structural point is this - the solution doesn’t matter, marketers from companies large or small can take their work in-house or work alongside the best creative agency in the world, while also bringing in the strongest management consultant to advise on strategy. But unless they’re ready for shifts in consumer behaviour, and the complexity of the associated content supply chain that goes alongside this, it’s irrelevant. This includes developing an awareness of the changing customer journey – how to create, adapt and deliver the right content to the right channels and touchpoints - and managing and reacting to this shift.
Embracing change is a multi-year process, and part of the broader transformation in which many companies are already invested. And progress can only be achieved by technology alongside human behavioural understanding that leverages intelligent connected content workflows, deploying Artificial Intelligence and data security as part of one consistent, operation.
Today’s marketer acknowledges that content is becoming more adaptable and has the agility to cross all kinds of borders, both geographic and in terms of audience. She or he will also consider the idea that the future of content creation and organisation will be accelerated by AI, and that marketing content will need to be structured and formatted so that it is machine ready. As a result, forward-thinking companies must look to adopt a global content operating model that includes authoring tools and machine translation to create and deliver engaging personalized content at scale and speed.
The clients and brands that succeed will develop well-established global content operations that are able to deal with big changes and challenges much more easily. That preparation, along with a flexible approach to content and audiences, is the hallmark of the future client.