Next big thingness

In our September issue, strategy invited industry execs with different perspectives to share their POV on what’s most important now.

Agencies and marketing departments like to keep up on the shiny new theories, tech and toys that sweep through the biz. Pound for pound, there’s a much higher trend quotient to sort through than most industries. Some blow right past, some glean lingering buzz, while a rare few seriously reshape how things get done. The million dollar question is: what do I need to take seriously?
The list of things the industry has been all atwitter over can be seen on past Cannes agendas, as that’s where all the latest theories debut, such as this year’s 6.5 Seconds That Matter session by Draftfcb. Back when Draft and FCB merged, Jonathan Harries, vice chair and global CCO, said they started realizing the benefits of applying analytics to creativity. One thing they discovered along the way is that consumers give you 6.5 seconds to get to engagement, so focus the brief on one thing. Harries explained that as we move from communication to conversation, media becomes a reaction time element and planning becomes more critical.
When asked to predict the next big thing set to change the biz, Harries said a common pitfall is to look at technology as the element that makes something creative. “It’s still the idea,” he said. “We get so entrenched in technology changing the world – it’s not a channel, we just expect everything online and if it’s not online in two seconds we’re annoyed.” He concluded that in the realm of divining the way forward, “everyone has an answer – I don’t think anyone has the question.”
Amid all the latest ad theories being trotted out in Cannes, Andrew Robertson, BBDO worldwide president/CEO, said he was always a little frightened by positing on the next big thing. “In 2004 we were talking about MySpace, nobody knew Facebook would happen.”
Robertson’s non-techy focus is to “rediscover the magic of TV”; second up is “learn to dream in digital,” as he explains “it’s not a medium or a platform, it’s a language,” and, finally, “to segment audiences as little as you have to, not as much as you can.” As per Robertson, “as long as you focus on the things that don’t change, you can be flexible enough to do what needs doing.” He also added, “It’s not about systems, it’s about people. Everything else varies from year to year.”
Many of our pundits this issue agree – from Sid Lee’s Eva Van Den Bulcke in the Next Big Things feature, to our Forum columnist Aldo Cundari, who along with Sharon MacLeod, describes talent as a key attribute of the agency of the future.
Campbell’s Mark Childs believes addressing diversity is a next big thing, while Summerhill’s Ian Morton sees a greener future for marketing. Deep human insight was at the core of many Next Big Things, along with our cover theme — digital blurring the boundaries between brand and consumer — which Virgin’s Nathan Rosenberg describes as “the complete shift from marketing to people to marketing with people.”
Many Next Big Things, at their core, hark back to nuggets one might find in Ogilvy on Advertising. We like the odds on those ones.
Ogilvy introduced his famous tome by saying that back in 1949 when he set up shop, he expected advertising to undergo several major changes before he retired, but only really saw one – TV. He went on to say the other changes were “exaggerated by pundits in search of trendy labels” and that many were not really new. As per Ogilvy, “Consumers still buy products whose advertising promises them value for money, beauty, nutrition, relief from suffering, social status and so on on. All over the world. In saying this, I run the risk of being denounced by the idiots who hold that any advertising technique which has been in use for more than two years is ipso facto obsolete.”
So we entered this space with trepidation, but believe that our pundits have identified ideas and issues that are worth your attention. Some are immediate concerns, others have longer ramifications. We’d like to thank all our contributors for rolling up their sleeves and thinking deep original thoughts for the industry’s benefit (and avoiding as much buzz and jargon as humanly possible in advertising), and hope you find some nuggets to chew on.

Cheers, mm
Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy, Media in Canada and stimulant