Last night, I was sitting on a panel of digital advertising experts and it
got me to thinking. This industry is in a state of chaos. Mayhem. Good
old-fashioned anarchy. And I love it.
But first an analogy of the tortured music industry. Wired magazine calls it
the "MP3 effect." Any audiophile can tell you vinyl records have the best
sound quality. Then CDs were born, which sounded mediocre, but quickly
dominated the market because they were easier to play, more portable and
cheaper. Then MP3s came along and they really sounded like shit, but most
music purchased today is in the MP3 format. The lesson: We will quickly
sacrifice quality for more functional things like speed, price, shareability
Welcome to the lo-fi, high-tech revolution. Where fast, cheap and out of
control is the new way to do business. And we as marketers better get used
to it. Anyone in our business knows that time lines are shorter, money is
tighter and expectations are higher than ever. It's a time for renegade
productions. Where smart, fast and fearless is winning over slow, safe and
methodical. Where videos done for free with a Webcam or mobile phone can be
seen by millions of people worldwide with zero media dollars. It's a time
unlike any other. And it's fun as hell.
Why fast? Because speed kills in this market. The rise of digital has
amplified the speed of business exponentially. We're no longer reporting
things that happened, we're reporting things as they are happening. Since we
now get all our news in real time -- online, mobile, texts, tweets -- rapid
response time for marketers is now at a serious premium. And things aren't
slowing down anytime soon. The ability to think, move and execute at
lightning speed is what clients and consumers expect.
Why cheap? The cost of execution these days is low. Blame it on the Flip
camera. Blame it on YouTube. Blame it on the kids, for God's sake. But how
we view has fundamentally altered what we view. Most screens we're watching
these days are about 6 inches wide, so high production values are lost. We
want to watch on any screen, anywhere and be able to send it to our friends
anytime. It's the MP3 effect, in video.
Why out of control? Virals, blogs, chat rooms, parody videos and
consumer-generated content are a start. Suffice it to say we have less
control over our brands than we ever have. The best we can be is proud
parents and the brand is like our own little baby boy. We can raise him,
dress him, teach him right from wrong and prepare him for the real world.
But eventually he has to leave home. And then people are either going to be
his friend, or kick his ass. Our brands face the same brutal reality once
put in the hands of the digital world. Out there, your brand will be
praised, punked, glorified and vilified. So make sure you raise it well. And
like any good parent, be ready to jump in on a moment's notice and help it
navigate the stormy waters. Because in this wild media landscape, brands
need our guidance more than ever.
The future of advertising is fast, cheap and out of control. And I wouldn't
want it any other way. We're living in a time when quality of content,
rather than quality of picture or special effect, reigns supreme. People are
seeking out amazing stories over amazing production values. Shorter lead
time means less focus groups and less overthink. Faster, cheaper productions
mean more experimenting and more chances to shine. We live in a time when
everybody has the means to shoot, upload and spread their message. And if
it's great, the world will listen. They don't need an agency, or a
production company, or a media buy. They are renegades, marketing their
ideas with new tools and new rules. And we can learn a lot from them.